Almost all service providers have indicated that they wish to use their IMS platform to offer voice, video, presence, and location-based applications. Examples of new, innovative IMS services most often considered by services providers are described below.
Push-to-talk-over-cellular, or PoC, is a service designed to enable traditional walkie-talkie services to be possible over mobile networks using mobile handsets. Unlike traditional phone calls, PoC calls are initiated when one user pushes down the call button, speaks into their mobile device, and releases the call button when finished speaking. The listening user can respond by pressing their call button. Whereas traditional mobile phone calls are full-duplex, meaning both parties can hear and speak to each other at the same time, PoC calls are half duplex, which means only one party can speak at a time, while the other party, or parties, must listen. PoC is a sticky application due to the immediacy factor of PoC communications. Instead of being conversational, PoC calls tend to be instructional, directional, with immediacy of connection without the delays of call set-up and dialing.With voice revenues trending downward, service providers are counting on data and multimedia applications to increase
their revenue and improve margins. Industry consensus indicates that the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) will provide the means to deliver those applications. But what applications will be delivered on IMS and be able to deliver on the revenue generating solutions that are being promised?
IMS enables PoC services through presence, instant messaging, billing, single sign-on, and central OA&M processes. Operators with IMS networks can readily roll out PoC services by deploying the PoC application on top of an IMS-based SIP application server.
Many business users are familiar with voice teleconferencing services, as well as Web-based multimedia conferencing services, such as Webex. With the increasing proliferation of mobile devices with large color displays, faster processors, speakerphones, and Bluetooth, and coupled with increasing deployments of IMS networks that combine interactive multiparty communications with quality of service features, multimedia conferencing is a service that many end-users will now be able to enjoy. Typically, a dedicated, SIP-enabled conferencing server, which can be implemented on top of an IMS-based SIP application server, provides conference reservation and scheduling services. This includes the ability to have the conference be initiated via a dial-in bridge, or be auto-initiated by a presence-enabled conferencing server, whereby the presence status of the key conference participants is used to automatically set up the conference call at the appointed time once the key participants are detected to be online.
Streaming media — the IP transmission of on-demand rich media that gives the user the ability to listen to audio and view video and graphics animation files from the network without first downloading the content — is one of the services considered for information and entertainment. IPTV, for example, makes it possible to move beyond the capabilities of cable’s video-on-demand models so as to deliver true interactivity to broadcast audiences.
Voice-video messaging is a form of instant messaging, but instead of sending just text, the end-user has the ability to send audio and video files, and instead of just one-to-one, these voice-video messages can be sent one-to-many. This will require an application on the client to record the audio and video files. Voice-video messaging facilitates faster and spontaneous communications, since recording an audio/video message will be easier than typing in short messages using a small mobile phone
keypad. IMS enables voice-video messaging with its standardization on SIP, and the CSCF and MRF elements. IMS will lead to development of applications by third-party application server vendors and independent software vendors.
The Click-To-Dial service allows end-users to initiate a multimedia communication session with one or more parties, by clicking on a SIP-enabled link on a Web browser, Web-enabled desktop or enterprise applications, or an onscreen link on a mobile device. This will trigger the IMS network to automatically negotiate the necessary communication sessions with the designated parties, and establish the requested single-media or multimedia call session. Service providers can use click-to-dial services and capabilities to offer their end-users premium value-added services, whether they are consumers or business users. Combined with SIP/SIMPLE-based presence data, click-to-dial-enabled applications can allow end-users to know in advance whether their intended calling party is available for a conversation. CSPs have the potential to realize new revenue streams by offering click-to-dial-enabled services, thereby increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction, and thus reducing churn.
Applications running on large service provider networks today have largely been developed by traditional network equipment vendors. IMS will lead to much more development of applications, such as the ones described above, by third-party application server vendors, and independent software vendors, as well as from the service providers themselves. Over time, this will lead to a large supply of mainstream applications that are available to the end user, thus realizing the ultimate goal of IMS.
Mike McHugh is vice president and general manager, BEA WebLogic Communications Platform, at BEA Systems (news - alert). For more information, please visit the company online at www.bea.com.