Hi Guys, I understand that IETF create RFCs and that the IEEE 802 developed the standard for Ethernet and Wifi.

What in your opinion is the difference between the two organisations? Is there a ‘line in the sand’ which separates their work or do they operate in each other’s areas?

Are these two the main organisations that we should be familiar with as network engineers?



Hello Gareth

IEEE is a standards organization that extends way beyond just networking and telecom. It includes anything from floating point arithmetic specifications to standards for fuzzy markup language. The primary standards that we as network engineers deal with are those whose code begins with 802. The 802 series standards primarily focus on Layers 1 and 2 of the OSI model.

IEEE is an organization with formal membership, that creates working groups to develop and advance particular network standards. If you’ve ever searched for an official IEEE specification, in most cases, you have to pay to download and read it.

IETF on the other hand has a more open format. There is no formal membership it is a totally open community, and its process is based on what they call “rough consensus” rather than committee approval. The IETF consists of many working groups and maintains its professionalism because it is managed by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and Internet Society (ISOC), to ensure credibility in the absence of other formal procedures. You’ll notice that all RFCs are openly available to the general public. The primary focus of IETF is developing protocols based upon IP networks.

Other important standards organizations include the International Telecommunications Union Telecom Standardization Sector (ITU-T) which standardizes protocols involved with cybersecurity such as X.509 (public certificates), machine learning, video compression protocols such as H.264, and G series VoIP codecs such as G.711. Other well known ITU-T standards include ISDN, xDSL, H.323, and X.25.

To a lesser extent, we also have the following bodies which develop standards related to networking:

  • European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) which is responsible for GSM, 3G, 4G, DECT and other related telecom standards
  • International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) which develops some standards for electrical power relating to telecom
  • International Standards Organization (ISO)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

I hope this has been helpful!