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IMS Publisher's Outlook

Rich Tehrani - IMSTelecom Utopia

By Rich Tehrani

IMS Magazine

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I have joked when I’ve keynoted various conferences that the last time so many people agreed on something so rapidly was OS/2. Surprisingly, as I am one of the few who have made potentially negative public comments on IMS, I have also decided to launch the first IMS publication in the world. Why?

Never before in my history in the telecom space have so many agreed on something so quickly. IMS is supposed to take over the world. It will unify wireless, wireline, and all other communications like never before. It will allow small developers to deploy applications to networks with millions of subscribers overnight. It will allow companies to make their workers more productive, give central control of telephony, and allow communications to be based on contacting a person, not an army of disparate devices and phone numbers. The reason is that IMS holds tremendous promise for service providers and customers. It unifies what is now disparate. It ties together what is now uncoupled. It has the potential to solve many telecom problems and increase flexibility and connectivity.

These goals are utopian, but technologies like VoIP and SIP have allowed us to have a platform on which we can make the leap to IMS. Telecom utopia is what we, as an industry, should strive for. Of course, customers are willing to pay for utopia... We have a bright future as a telecom industry; we will have customers spending more to get more.

But how do we get our customers in larger numbers? How do we get new customers to convert to your IMS systems? And what solutions should you be purchasing and deploying?

These questions are what you will find answered in each issue of IMS Magazine. This publication will be the world’s resource on how service providers will make the next billion dollars plus. As the industry publication, we are the cheerleaders of IMS as well as the evangelists. At the same time, we promise to detail the drawbacks and pitfalls that need to be solved, allowing this new telecom opportunity to take off and generate happier customers and tremendous amounts of new sales.

As we embark on this new and exciting adventure, I thought a good place to start would be with some of the people that are most involved with IMS — and, therefore, should also have a good sense of its direction. Here is what those eight industry insiders had to say about IMS, its potential benefits, and its impact. This is only the beginning.

Please describe IMS

Grant Henderson, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Convedia — (news - alerts) IMS is the most recent refinement of an IP-based enhanced services architecture. The 3GPP, by embracing proven technologies from early wireline VoIP service architectures, and then adding important IP-based mobility service features, have defined an enhanced services architecture with universal industry relevance and appeal.

Paul Longhenry, VP Business Development, Sonim Technologies — (news - alerts) IMS is a standardized application delivery framework designed to provide a common switching element that wireless, wireline, and cable carriers can use to rapidly deploy, integrate, and manage all SIP-based services.

Kevin McCracken, Director of Product Management, NewStep Networks — (news - alerts) IMS is a core network framework that is intended to enable the development and delivery of new services that can be delivered across any type of access network to any type of device. IMS capitalizes on IP and SIP to break free of proprietary, vertically integrated, core network platforms that restricted what services could be deployed, and how. IMS invites innovation by providing open interfaces to application servers that can leverage common capabilities, like session management, presence, and subscriber profiles.

Mike Hluchyj, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Sonus Networks — (news - alerts) IMS is an architecture based on distributed intelligence principles and protocols that will enable network operators to deliver converged services over a single network infrastructure. These common applications deliver a consistent subscriber experience, regardless of whether the network is accessed via wireless or wireline technology.

Eric Burger, VP, Chief Technology Officer, Excel Switching (news - alerts) and Brooktrout Technology — (news - alerts) The key technology behind IMS is SIP, which serves as the control protocol for IMS network elements. The IMS reference architecture provides a layered approach with defined service, control, and transport planes to create a flexible and scalable application development and deployment environment.

Scott Erickson, President, IMS Service Delivery Solutions, Telcordia — (news - alerts) IMS is an emerging set of standards that enables any service over any network to any device. The development of IMS is an inflection point for the most fundamental transformation that the communications industry has undertaken for the creation and delivery of interactive, compelling multimedia services. IMS moves the true value of the network away from the infrastructure and to the service layer where the applications reside, enabling carriers to quickly deploy and offer more revenue generating services.

John Marinho, Corporate Strategic Marketing Vice President, Lucent Technologies — (quote - news - alerts) IMS is a next generation service delivery architecture that enables carriers to offer end users personalized services that meet their lifestyles and can be used anytime, anywhere, regardless of access device or network. IMS brings the IT and telecom worlds together by enabling the inter-working and delivery of voice, video, data, and multimedia applications across previous barriers.

Gary Gray, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, Ubiquity Software — (news - alerts) IMS represents a revolution in the communications industry, providing a common architecture for wireline and wireless networks. It is a technology that enables a new generation of multimedia services for a rich user experience with applications such as instant messaging (IM), push-to-talk, conferencing, presence, and multimedia content sharing.

How would you describe its potential?

Henderson — IMS, with its universal appeal to both wireline and wireless carriers, will form the basis for achieving the ultimate goal of telecommunication carrier operations: a single enhanced services architecture for delivering any service, using any media, to reach any customer, regardless of how they connect to the network.

Longhenry — It is very likely that IMS will be deployed, in some fashion, by most major carriers over the next five years. It is the only standards-based method of addressing the fundamental challenge with which carriers struggle when considering application roadmaps. Which is, how to minimize the cost of new application deployments so that they can profitably address the opportunities available in micro-segments of their subscriber base.

McCracken — The potential for IMS is one of simplification for the service provider and end customer. For the service provider, simplification comes from the fact that IMS will establish a horizontal set of capabilities that can be applied to all the networks they run and to all the services they want to deploy. For well established service providers, reaching this potential will not happen overnight, because it may not make business sense to migrate existing services to IMS. But IMS will help new services tremendously. Customers will enjoy a simplified communications experience because they will have a single profile to manage and they will enjoy the same services across any network and device, so they can focus on the task at hand, as opposed to figuring out the technology.

Hluchyj — The potential for IMS is enormous, as it fundamentally changes the communications paradigm. Voice, data, and video can all be converged in an IMS landscape. From a service provider perspective, the delivery model is far more efficient and dynamic. From a subscriber perspective, they have access to an experience that is simply not available with today’s legacy technology.

Burger — IP will continue to be a disruptive technology to traditional telecom operators for years to come and help to transform operator business models from voice-driven to service-driven businesses. Operators require more applications to meet competitive threats and will need a better environment for creating and deploying high value multimedia services. IMS addresses this need.

Scott Erickson, President, IMS Service Delivery Solutions, Telcordia — IMS has the potential to change communications as we know it. Carriers now have the opportunity to cast themselves free of the costly underlying network hardware and exert direct and flexible control over their services through software. IP-based communications provide carriers with the flexibility and openness to quickly offer new revenue generating services, while enabling them to lower their total cost of doing business, increase their revenue potential, realize higher productivity and reduce churn. 

Marinho — Lucent’s primary market research indicated a pent up demand for the type of blended lifestyle services that IMS can enable. For example, U.S. service providers have a potential market for converged services worth an estimated $10 billon dollars, with that figure being potentially reached five years after such services are introduced to the consumer and enterprise markets.

Gray —IMS will have significant potential because of the enhanced services it will enable. It has potential to enrich the personal lives of consumers and potential to enrich the productivity of business and enterprise users, changing the world of communications as we know it. This change has the potential to drive new economic growth in our industry.

What are some potential “killer apps” that IMS might enable?

Henderson — IMS will facilitate new multimedia services, accelerate the migration of legacy TDM services to IP, and make any telecom service more seamless and ubiquitous using any type of access device. Services involving multimedia, presence, and follow-me features will no longer have the technical barriers between access networks that previously existed.

Longhenry — There are no true “killer apps” for IMS, as any application that can be delivered over IMS can also be delivered via a stand alone proprietary application server. Rather, the “killer ROI case” is that IMS can enable carriers to deploy ten applications from a common standardized (i.e., cost competitive) platform, instead of from ten distinct platforms requiring ten separate integration efforts.

McCracken — Some of the most compelling applications will be ones that capitalize on the ability of IMS networks to bring voice, video, and data streams together to deliver so called “rich media services” across multiple access networks and devices. These services will bring these traditionally separate capabilities together and enable more compelling person-to-person communications than were ever possible on separate networks. IMS provides a common framework that can be leveraged across all the access methods and devices that people want to use for their personal and business communications. It breaks down the proprietary “service silos” that have existed for years.

Hluchyj — It doesn’t really matter what the next “killer app” is — that is something that is always going to change. What’s great about IMS is that it employs a distributed model where application creation mirrors Web application development. In the old telecom world, introducing new services was expensive and risky. In an IMS world, the cost of experimentation is driven down considerably. When the cost of experimentation is lowered, the opportunity for innovation expands exponentially. The next killer app will always be right around the corner. 

Burger — IMS is all about SIP-based applications. Potential applications include audio and video conferencing, video messaging, hosted services, multi-player gaming, and ubiquitous services/personalized content. By providing a standard communications infrastructure based on IP, IMS allows multimedia application convergence

Scott Erickson, President, IMS Service Delivery Solutions, Telcordia — For carriers, the real ‘killer app’ is the ability to provide a myriad of exciting IP-enabled next generation services quickly, such as push-to-video, mobile TV, multi-party gaming, presence and location-based services, TV Caller ID, and converged VPNs. IMS provides carriers with the agility, flexibility, and speed-to-delivery that is critical for them to drive increased revenue from these new offers and secure their future growth and viability.

Marinho — The search for the “killer app” may not be applicable to a broad market, as we traditionally might think. The key is identifying the “right” combination of services that addresses demand in specific market segments. IMS-based services, for example, can enable friends to plan a night out in real-time, including discussing the possibilities, viewing a movie trailer and purchasing tickets, picking a restaurant and making the reservation, and receiving custom directions to the restaurant.

Gray — IMS not only enables the killer app, but it enables the “Killer Capability,” meaning that multiple applications or blended applications are enabled by IMS. We expect “Instant Multimedia Sharing” applications, such as music, video, and voice, being widely adopted.

Who stands to benefit the most from IMS? Carriers? Equipment manufacturers? End users?

Henderson — IMS is a positive for the entire telecommunications industry. Carriers and, eventually, enterprises, will benefit from unified service architecture. Equipment manufacturers will become more efficient, focusing resources on a single IMS product line, rather then different products for different markets. End users, particularly business users, will benefit from seamless services, regardless of access or device.

Longhenry — End users will ultimately benefit most from IMS, as they will gain access to exponentially more applications could be commercially viable in a non-IMS world. The best analogy is probably the user experience available from DoCoMo and iMode, as third party applications can be quickly developed, integrated, and delivered to a fad-oriented subscriber base. IMS enables this in a standardized fashion.

McCracken — The ones who will benefit most are the service providers and the end customers. Service providers will have a core network that finally separates session control from the bearer path and the services. This creates an architecture more suited to bringing new applications to market more quickly and reduces a lot of traditional duplication. End users will benefit because they will have simplified communications that will be personalized across any network and device. They will be able to enjoy a much richer multimedia communications experience that will no longer be dependent on a specified access method tied to a specific device. Equipment manufacturers will face greater competition as proprietary architectures are broken apart with IMS, opening up new opportunities for nimble companies to shine with innovative services.

Hluchyj — The benefits really extend across the industry. By standardizing the different network components, service providers can pick the pieces they want and manufacturers can focus on their core competency areas. The result is lower cost infrastructure and a much greater variety of services that can be rapidly deployed, which benefits the consumers.

Burger — If everyone can agree to standardize on IMS, then the whole industry benefits. Carriers will be able take advantage of all of the benefits of open systems equipment, such as improved ROI, faster time to deployment, and best of breed solutions. End users will benefit from new and innovative personalized services, accessible anytime and anywhere. Equipment manufacturers will benefit from supplying products that enable the deployment of new services

Scott Erickson, President, IMS Service Delivery Solutions, Telcordia — Carriers. Wireless carriers will speed new services to market. Wireline carriers will be able to increase customer satisfaction through bundled offers. MVNOs will launch themselves more rapidly into niche markets while simplifying service creation. MSOs will evolve by using IMS to compete with both wireline and wireless carriers. All will benefit from the added revenue from new services and increased customer satisfaction.

Marinho — End users benefit from an improved communications experience geared to their personal needs and requirements. Carriers benefit from the pent up demand, market opportunity, and “stickiness” of IMS services. Manufacturers benefit from the adoption of the technology and increased network capacity demand that is driven by IMS-based services.

Gray — Many stakeholders will benefit from IMS. First and foremost, end users will benefit by having new services, more services, and more choices. Moreover, end users will benefit by the personal and professional productivity provided by enhanced services. Once successful business models are established, the pull through effect will benefit carriers, equipment providers, and application developers.

What is the timeline for real commercial deployments of IMS?

Henderson — Carriers are already purchasing IMS-compatible components and systems, and realizing early benefits from IMS architecture principles in small pilot deployments and specific services. However, fully interoperating, standards-based, multi-vendor IMS solutions are probably still a few years out.

Longhenry — IMS deployments would be happening across the telecommunications environment today if IMS client architecture was on par with IMS server infrastructure. Unfortunately, the concept of an IMS client has not yet gained sufficient momentum in the standardization process and, therefore, advanced client-server IMS applications cannot yet be seamlessly delivered to subscribers. As this is addressed in the next 24 months, IMS deployments will rapidly accelerate.

McCracken — Technically, there are commercial deployments today for some initial IMS components, like a barebones CSCF (Call Session Control Function) in support of push-to-talk services, but these deployments are only starting to whet the appetite for what’s to come later in 2006 and into 2007. Once SIP-based session control is used for more than PTT, other elements, like a Home Subscriber Server (HSS), will start to show value. IMS will co-exist with today’s networks for many years to come and services will be migrated as the business evolves. Ironically, IMS may see quicker deployment by fixed service providers because they can leverage their broadband access networks and more powerful devices to deliver some of the multimedia capabilities sooner than wireless providers.

Hluchyj — Some solutions are IMS-ready today, and network operators are already laying the groundwork of their IMS deployments. That said, we anticipate that the delivery of enhanced applications built on IMS will be a 2007/2008 event. 

Burger — Early commercial deployments are actually happening now. Brooktrout/Excel worked with TMN, the largest provider in Portugal, to deliver one of the first live 3G video messaging services. The goal was to deliver real-time video services in time for the European soccer championships. For TMN, this was an opportunity for a new revenue-generating service, since voice is rapidly becoming a commodity.

Scott Erickson, President, IMS Service Delivery Solutions, Telcordia — IMS is already seeing significant global momentum.  Some carriers have already begun to make inroads in IMS-ready deployments. The beauty of IMS is that carriers can proceed at the pace that is right for them, their business, and their customers, based on their existing network investments and customers’ needs.

Marinho — We expect to see commercial services based on IMS solutions begin to roll out later this year, and the momentum will pick up in 2007.

Gray — Based on evaluations and lab trials, we would expect to see real deployments in the next 12 – 24 months. Ubiquity is involved now in helping carriers plan, develop and deploy new services, even pre-IMS, to realize revenues and services today that will be IMS-ready when IMS networks are deployed, regardless of the timeframe.

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