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IMS: Why Talk Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

By Mikael Stromquist

IMS Magazine

Listen to critics and you might believe IMS remains in the embryonic stage or at least that IMS is far from generating the kind of revenue that will justify the capital investment. Certainly, the mere creation of this magazine dedicated to covering the evolution of IMS is proof that momentum is building for commercial development and maturity. This level of attention and a growing commitment by industry players represents proof that IMS is moving from “slideware” and lab trial deployments into a phase of commercial deployment.

Few initiatives in the telecommunications industry today offer more potential and opportunity than IP multimedia subsystem (IMS). Yet, while the global telecom market is poised for a transformation over the next year, there still remains a lack of clarity and agreement among vendors and operators as to the timing and degree of impact that IMS will make. IMS is being embraced by suppliers, wireline, cable/cable labs and mobile operators worldwide as the baseline, standard architecture that promises to help these carriers capture incremental revenue from new value-added services across any type of access technology. With SIP (define - news - alerts) and IP serving as the basis for all services, there is the ability to launch a host of new applications and services, such as simultaneous voice and data, voice and video, multimedia conferencing, Cellular/WiFi dual mode handsets that can deliver seamless mobility, multi-player gaming, and presence, capable of offering an active phonebook/buddy list.

A Groundswell for IMS

Major technology shifts in access are fueling IMS to become the communications vehicle of the future, especially since it is agnostic of access, protocol, and devices, thus enabling true convergence.

Today, fixed telecom operators are taking advantage of traditional fiber facilities and the Quality of Service (QoS) enabled DSL2+ with high-definition video, while cable operators are moving rapidly to shift to IMS for primary line VoIP and then for multimedia enhancements. Voice over IP (VoIP) over fixed broadband is already commercially deployed for consumers and enterprise applications in Europe and Asia, but the main focus in North America is moving to IMS-based VoIP, extending broadband VoIP to the mobile space and with new must have capabilities such as video content delivery, location-based services, among others in 2006.

Mobile variants of EV-DO and HSDPA methods are now gathering steam in mass markets as mobile operators move beyond voice. Mobile operators will take advantage of IMS capabilities to offer extensions of mobile services into the fixed broadband arena, as well as add enhanced video content delivery, video sharing, push to talk, push to watch, and other applications to their current offerings.

Going Beyond Talk

Beyond the market’s progress with IMS over the last year, talk alone won’t propel IMS to the next stage. Slide presentations in a conference room charting the future and standards are important, but IMS is ready for prime time. Change will come about if the industry focuses on collaboration and exploring new applications and services that users can use.

To truly drive IMS forward, more concentration is required to uncover the value for enterprise and consumer end users with new emerging multimedia services that we all know will come. 2006 is the year in which operators will launch targeted applications into the fixed broadband markets, based on IMS. The use of IMS will also enable these services to work on a wide variety of fixed and mobile devices, from multiple vendors and with multiple clients.

IMS in 2006

The next phase of IMS is already underway, and 2006 will mark a transition from the strategic trial phase of limited revenue-generating services to commercial deployment of tested services that subscribers will truly demand. It is doubtful that operators will generate significant revenue from these initial commercial IMS deployments this year. However, if the industry can achieve a multi-vendor, multi-operator initiative, the industry can begin to focus on driving volume of IMS-based services next year.

Each month, this “converged view” will continue to explore the progress being made in IMS and will navigate the hype to provide perspective. The intent of this column is to evaluate these advancements, provide insight and go beyond talk to interpret the realities of IMS today.

Mikael Stromquist is executive vice president, Strategy, for Ericsson North America. For more information, please visit the company online at www.ericsson.com. (quote - news - alerts)

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