Bundled solutions, commonly known as “triple play,” must leverage the capabilities of next-generation networks. In fact, triple play has evolved into “quadruple play” with the addition of wireless services. This enables service providers to introduce blended services such as video phone, multimedia chat, and gaming to a variety of devices. Subscribers also want to consolidate their growing list of phone numbers, subscriptions, passwords, buddy lists, email addresses, etc., making this information accessible through multiple devices. In summary, subscribers are demanding to get the services they want, whenever they want them, regardless of location."Convergence” is one of the telecom industry’s most important trends right now, and as competition continues to intensify, service providers are working to establish bundled services (on one bill) that include voice, data and multimedia applications within a single solution.
The common technology enabling quadruple play is the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) (News - Alert), a powerful extension to the existing network infrastructure that allows service providers to build next-generation communication services. IMS specifications and elements are network independent, thus enabling the quadruple play services to be network and device agnostic. Moreover, it can integrate voice, data and multimedia services in a single session.
IMS is an integral part of a service provider’s network, providing a control plane for SIP-based services. However, IMS is only part of the story. A complete next-generation network architecture must include the network layer, which constitutes the entirety of the IP network, the control layer (of which IMS is a part), and the service layer that sits on top.
Part of the opportunity for rolling out quadruple play services is for service providers to offer a compelling end-user experience through the composition and orchestration of new offerings at the service layer of their next-generation network. Composite services leverage the functionality that already exists within the service provider network by combining the existing functionality of discreet functions to create higher value. An example of this is an integrated communications and entertainment experience delivered over any device, any location and any network.
To deliver true quadruple play, service providers must be able to create these composite services across multiple service platforms, technologies and protocols across both fixed and mobile networks. As a result, service providers must look at the control layer (i.e., IMS) to deliver, among other things, network integration, session control and subscriber management while looking beyond IMS to the session layer to provide the capability to compose these new services — allowing reuse of all assets, integrating legacy systems and linking to back office business processes such as rating, billing and provisioning.
To create composite services, applications must have the ability to communicate with each other. Within the IMS context, the Service Capability Interaction Manager (SCIM) provides this functionality. Beyond the SCIM, Web Services are a set of protocols that enable interaction and synchronization between applications at a higher level. Web Services enable interaction at the service layer between service platforms and multiple protocols, including Internet-based and enterprise-based applications. Using Web Services, providers can enable workflows across applications to provide new services to customers and streamline internal IT-based tasks.
At the same time, the service provider must still capitalize on the strengths of IMS to implement a majority of the required control layer functionality including session control, single-user identify, presence, state management and service enabler capabilities to deliver these composite services to the end user across any network and device.
Overall, service providers have long attempted to respond to competitive pressures by introducing these new services. This has left them with a complex build-up of control architectures and service development platforms that are making it difficult to continue to innovate and provide new composite services. The IMS standard is leading the way to solve these problems by simplifying the deployment and management of services and providing common service enablers to assist with operational processes. Web Services and service orchestration further enable composite services and operational processes to be created from a wide range of diverse services.
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.