ComSoc Sister Society: The Forum for European ICT & Media Professionals (FITCE) Explores the Challenges Posed by Digital Transformation

By Edward Smith - UK representative on the FITCE Board

FITCE (the Forum for European ICT & Media Professionals) is a federation of national associations in each of its 10 member countries and is a Sister Society of the IEEE Communication Society (ComSoc), with which it signed cooperation and publication side agreements in 2015. It allows its members to keep in touch with leading ICT developments and aspires to build strong cultural and business ties between Eurpean ICT (Information and Communications Technology) professionals. This is achieved by encouraging members to benefit from the experience acquired by other members in all ICT fields, and in particular provide support to young professionals as they develop their careers.

FITCE organizes an annual congress for improving information and knowledge exchange, communication, networking and relationships among members. This year’s conference was held in Madrid and is described below, together with an overview of the activties of the national organizations. For more details please link to the FITCE web site at

The FITCE Conference

The 56th annual FITCE congress, with the theme “The Digital Transformation: A challenge for ICT Engineers,” was held in Madrid on 14–16 September 2017. This rich two and a half day technical program presented the latest thinking in ICT developments across Europe, as well as interesting views on the challenges faced by ICT engineers. About 230 delegates attended the conference, which featured 50 speakers and was supported by the IEEE.

José María Lassalle, the Secretary of State for Information Society and Digital Agenda, Andy Valdar, President of FITCE, and Eugenio Fontán, Dean-President COIT and President of AEIT (the Spanish national association) gave keynote speeches.

Jonathan Spruytte, University of Ghent, talks about utility planning as George Agapiou and Felix Herrera look on

The technical sessions began with a stimulating presentation on the present and future challenges of the European Space program, particularly relevant since the Cassini probe was due to crash into Saturn the following day. This was followed by sessions covering the Internet of Things and the value of engineers in the digitalization of companies and society, 5G and its impact, and the development of Industry 4.0. A set of papers was presented considering new networks of communication for digital transformation, covering broadcast convergence, testbeds for Gigabit PON, the design of antennas for 5G backhaul, and design modelling for FTTH deployments.

A round table discussion examined the profession of the ICT engineer in Europe, covering a range of perspectives and issues. After this, a series of papers covering technologies and systems for the digital transformation of society were presented, including: business cases for new propositions; engineering training; testing as a service; the distribution of CPE functionality into the cloud; and the business drivers of the digital transformation. The day concluded by looking at SMART Technologies, including multi-operator synergistic utility planning and its real-life implications and an examination of the requirements for Smart Cities and Smart Regions.

The second day opened with a description of network virtualization and its impact on data center design, followed by a review of the business potential for 5G. The value of professional organisations was described in some detail, including an examination of the role of IEEE as a professional organization. There then followed a round table debate covering the importance of cybersecurity, which included debates on the impact of security breaches and the training and retention of cyber security professionals. There then were three talks covering the training and career structure for ICT engineers in Spain. These considered the professional role of engineers in commercial companies in the 21st century, the present and future role of engineers’ professional associations, and training and qualifications of the ICT engineer in Spain.

The major conclusions of the conference were that satellite communications remain an important medium and will supplement 5G. The low latency features of 5G are needed to support advanced applications such as driverless cars. Network operators need support from regulators and mobile operators to accelerate the rollout. Security remains an important aspect of the industry, both as an independent service and as a key design consideration for infrastructures and products.

The Internet of Things is with us now and can build on the experience gained from other robotics and factory automation systems. Sensor networks that form the basis of many IoT implementations are becoming better understood.

The demands of broadcasters will have a significant impact on network providers. ICT applications will have a major role in automating testing, supporting design decisions, and scheduling implementation activity. Virtualization of infrastructures, both IT and communications, remains important. New business models are needed within the industry, as new OTT models appear to replicate and mutate.

While the outlook for ICT engineers in Spain is good, there is a great deal of debate on the best way to train them and develop them as their career advances. Professional organizations remain highly relevant and beneficial to the community in general and to engineers in particular.

Around Europe

The Austrian Association holds monthly meetings, covering cultural and technical topics such as “shopping in 2020” and Block Chain and a conference on automatic driving, and other automotive issues is planned for October. Polish membership is increasing and the Polish Association provides paid technical consultancy to a number of organizations. It also arranges and contributes to conferences, actively documents the history of telecommunications in Poland, and sponsors academic prizes.

The Belgium Association has carried out consultations to examine how it will meet member needs in the future. Eighty people attended FITCE Belgium’s conference, examining the status and future of Fiber to the Home in Belgium. Their future plans include sessions on: smart listening–indoor acoustic sensor networks, the (r)evolution of the payment industry and the Gigabit Society (5G, millimetre wave radio). They have added participation from young people through workshops and provided support for IEEE through a workshop in Leuven.

Italy has held meetings to discuss photonics and driverless and connected cars. They are hosting an international congress on energy savings in 5G and are planning a seminar on Artificial Intelligence in Milan. The Spanish association provides about 50 lectures per year and maintains strong links with the industry. In Greece, events have been planned to consider 5G, satellite and fibre technology.