It’s true, wireline carriers are under massive competitive pressure. They are experiencing increased revenue threats from non-traditional broadband access operators and mobile operators who, unfettered by high overhead and expensive legacy equipment issues, are able to win customers with lower rates and better QoS. But wireline carriers are not daunted, as they have the customer base, revenue stream, and ability to take advantage of recent technology changes that will let them leap beyond the non-traditional entrants. In conjunction with the roll-out to much faster broadband access technologies, the wireline carriers are moving to an
IP-based network architecture for voice, multimedia services, and content delivery in order to surpass the mobile and broadband players. The wireline carriers will open up new revenue streams through IP multimedia capable networks.
When Mark Twain quipped, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he could have been speaking for the wireline industry. A few years ago, some in the industry began sounding a death knell for these traditional players. It seemed just too dated, too inflexible, and too wired to keep up with the booming demand for untethered mobile
and broadband access to enhanced telephony, bandwidth-rich information, and multimedia services. The reality is far different.
Wireline carriers have recently announced their intentions to aggressively roll out high-speed broadband access, such as Fiber to the Home, DSL2+, and VDSL products. This broadband deployment will allow them to expand into entirely new service areas. Over these broadband networks, they will be able to offer a rich palette of video (IPTV) (News - Alert)
, voice plus, and interactive content services that will completely change the industry’s perception of communications and entertainment.
IMS is the key to the success of this strategy. IMS gives operators a framework for: integrating services and features across multiple access technologies; efficient, innovative, multimedia service delivery; and better QoS. It provides a clear path for wireline carriers to move forward. In short, IMS opens the door to the new services and revenue streams supported by the wireline carrier’s new broadband networks.
IMS Gives Wireline Operators the Tools to Evolve
Although demand for traditional PSTN services will likely continue for many years, there is little disputing that IP-based telephony services are the future. Deployment of IP voice services and solutions is already underway. IP networks now offer telecom grade performance, rather than best-effort performance. Further, it is clear that, despite technical challenges, a growing proportion of telephony traffic will be carried over IP. As a result, the evolving network of today must by necessity combine the characteristics of the traditional PSTN with services typically associated with broadband to navigate the changing telecommunications market and compete. IMS is the optimal platform for controlling IP services, integrating legacy networks and services, and managing this transition for a number of reasons.
First, IMS provides the promise of global reach. It gives operators the ability to provide consumers access to reliable Internet services no matter where they may be. Additionally, because it is an open systems environment, the operator isn’t locked into any one application vendor’s limited product or service line. Rather, operators can integrate best-in-class solutions from various vendors and service providers to offer consumers the best possible user experience.
Second, IMS solutions offer a wide range of SIP-based multimedia services capabilities that give operators the opportunity to get a quicker return on their broadband investments. It enables standardized service delivery and provides a future-proof architecture. It also simplifies and speeds up the service creation and provisioning process.
Third, IMS enables legacy network integration and interoperability. This is a significant advantage for established operators who have made major investments in their networks and customer bases. These operators must be able to deliver the full panoply of telephony services over an IP network. A telephony softswitch solution, utilizing IMS, allows them to do so and to upgrade and modernize their networks at a reduced cost.
Telephony softswitch solutions achieve substantial cost reductions in the PSTN — whether in local, transit, or international gateway applications. The CAPEX required is lower than for traditional circuit-switched equipment because the distributed switching architecture enables efficient node consolidation. In fact, a significant amount of legacy equipment can be reused, especially in the access network. So, when the telephony softswitch solution is introduced, access equipment can be repurposed and gradually moved from the circuit-switched nodes to the media gateways. Further, ongoing operating OPEX of a telephony softswitch solution is lower due to a simplified network structure. These factors amount to substantial cost savings for carriers.
Moreover, operators can simultaneously modernize their PSTN networks to reduce costs and introduce new IP multimedia services to earn new revenues. This is where IMS solutions play a particularly important role. Beyond voice services, IP-based networks open up opportunities for integrated voice applications and services — such as video telephony and presence aware telephony — that would be impossible (or prohibitively expensive) using traditional time-division multiplexed (TDM) technology. Through IMS, carriers can combine the characteristics of modern IP-based networks and the traditional PSTN to support services associated with each. Thus, IMS mitigates any stranded investment concerns.
IMS Benefits Other Operators As Well
Wireline carriers are not the only beneficiaries of IMS technology. As the industry moves toward a converged network, IMS allows operators of all types to use a common architecture for both fixed and mobile services to deliver telephony, data, and multimedia services. IMS enables operators’ evolution to a modern telephony network, capable of delivering IP multimedia services utilizing a converged architecture that also handles PSTN services. Thus, IMS supports a sustainable business model for the future.
Although wireline operators are expected to be the first to move to an all IP voice, voice plus, and content services network, mobile telephony operators will likely not be far behind. IMS-enabled IP services will permit mobile telephone operators to offer enhanced voice services, such as voice plus video streaming and location-based services. In addition, IMS facilitates migration to pure VoIP. Wireless operators will also rely on IMS to support circuit switched voice and packet data capabilities simultaneously. With the future deployment of HSPA and EVDO Rev A technologies, which deliver IP voice quality that matches today’s QoS, IMS will enable these operators to likewise migrate to all VoIP.
In sum, wireline carriers are not anywhere near dead. They are not even ailing. On the contrary, wireline carriers who deploy broadband networks with IMS today are well positioned for the evolution to an all IP network. Through IMS, wireline carriers are assured a smooth migration from traditional PSTN services to IP-based telephony. With this plan, perhaps wireline operators can finally end the speculation that their death is imminent and usher in the new era of communications and competition awaiting
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)