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Unified Communications
Featured Article
UC Mag
Richard "Zippy" Grigonis
Executive Editor,

IP Communication Group

Is IMS UC Friendly?

IMS (IP-based Multimedia Subsystem) is a concept for a common service architecture underlying both wireless and wireline networks. With IMS, telcos, mobile operators and other service providers will be able to rapidly develop many new applications and multimedia services and then deliver them quickly across next-generation packet-switched networks and traditional circuit-switched networks, including mobile networks (e.g., GSM, 3G) and the upcoming, fully-packetized 4G mobiles (WiMAX, LTE).




 

The great expectations for the IMS service architecture are that service providers, after making large infrastructure
investments, will enjoy the ability to rapidly develop and deploy new services and hence quickly reap new business opportunities and achieve lower operational costs without disturbing existing services.


Comverse, which furnishes software and systems enabling value-added messaging and content services, converged billing and active customer management, and IP communications, recently launched an end-to-end IMS solution with integrated voice, messaging and billing services. It consists of a Comverse Netcentrex IMS core infrastructure, pre-integrated telephony servers, a set of converged messaging and value-added services, and components that support convergent provisioning and billing. This solution is designed to accelerate the appearance and deployment of "rich communication services" including converged messaging, address book management, residential and business voice, presence, visual voicemail, video, and prepaid and postpaid billing services. Comverse's approach integrates next-gen apps with network components on top of an IMS core, simplifying network and service deployment, reducing service time to market, and providing device and platform interoperability.


Tier-1 service providers worldwide are piloting IMS-based services, including UC-like service bundles well-endowed with UC features as presence, integration and mobility. Both IMS and UC heavily rely on SIP, so at first glance it would appear that UC applications and services would have no problem meshing and/or running over IMS-based networks.


The ultimate concern may not be over whether IMS is "friendly" to SIP-based UC, but whether the final global IMS network infrastructure will be sufficiently robust in terms of capacity, security, stability, availability and overall reliability, to deal with high bandwidth UC (and other) applications running in both landline and mobile environments. Improved service availability for VoIP and UC services are needed, involving new processes to maximize the uptime of additional and perhaps more exotic services such as video streaming from mobile to-and-from desktop (and perhaps set-top) devices. In addition to large interoperability plugfests for vendors, a new generation of testing and monitoring devices and software has arisen, such as Mu Dynamics Mu-4000 Analyzer that specializes in analyzing all sorts of VoIP deployments, enabling service providers to to test millions of unique scenarios and gain better visibility into issues that can affect service availability. For VoIP implementations, the Mu-4000 supports H.323/H225.0/H.245 call signaling, SIP (including IMS endpoint functionality), MGCP (including NCS profile), H.248/Megaco (IMS profile), RTP/RTCP, and several dozens other protocols that are necessary for VoIP.


And speaking of video streams, RADVISION, a leading provider of video network infrastructure and developer tools for unified visual communications over IP, 3G, and emerging next-generation IMS networks, has teamed up with Alcatel-Lucent to deliver multipoint video conferencing on top of the Alcatel-Lucent OmniTouch My Teamwork conferencing and collaboration application. Alcatel-Lucent's enterprise collaboration customers can now benefit from RADVISION's SCOPIA video conferencing platform. OmniTouch My Teamwork is part of Alcatel-Lucent's UC offering. It delivers conferencing and collaboration capabilities across any network, from any location within or outside the business to support a dynamic enterprise environment - enabling workers to stay in touch from wherever they are at any time from any device.


As for the SCOPIA video conferencing platform, it's a multipoint, high-quality video communications solution that allows mixed conferences of HD (High Definition) video systems, standard definition end points, and video from desktops in the same call while preserving their native resolution and without requiring all participants to downgrade to their common capabilities. The SCOPIA conferencing platform also supports connectivity to H.323, SIP, ISDN, and 3G video conferencing systems, providing support for existing and future conferencing investments.


Transitional Network Elements (TNEs)


Given the slow progress of IMS as its adoption takes place worldwide, any given UC or unified messaging platform must work equally well with not only IMS-architected networks, but also a service provider's existing infrastructure and business practice. Equipment and software capable of delivering revenue-generating services concurrently within both SS7/TDM AIN and SIP/IP IMS infrastructures are thus important Transitional Network Elements (TNEs) for service providers migrating their messaging applications to a next-gen network architecture.


One of these, the SC3100 Unified Communications Platform (UCP), is offered by SS8 Networks (formerly Centigram), a company that has for over 20 years deployed messaging systems found in both enterprise and carrier organizations, including some of the world's largest Tier-1 service providers. These wireline and wireless customers have deployed individual platforms supporting more than two million subscribers. Services delivered from these platforms range from plain old voicemail to complete unified messaging solutions with integrated, customized, portal components. Their flagship SC3100 UCP operates as a standalone unified messaging solution that can be immediately deployed in a network, while also conforming to the standardized requirements of an IMS-compliant infrastructure.


The SC3100 UCP helps operators by not just delivering plain old voicemail concurrently within both a classic TDM/AIN and IP/SIP (IMS and VoIP) environment, but it also houses a large suite of flexible applications that can deliver an integrated UC environment with a fully customizable browser-based interface. User access to, and manipulation of, stored messages and tailored auto-attendant options can now be uniquely personalized and branded by an individual service provider. The SC3100 UCP also provides carriers with a distinct competitive edge, facilitating the rapid introduction of advanced UC offerings such as dynamic speech user interfaces, text-to-speech conversion, videomail, a synchronized network-based address book/calendar, find-me/follow-me services, and cross-network message-waiting notification.


Time to FeedHenry


FeedHenry is a company you may never have heard of. It's a spin-off from the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group located in Ireland, which was founded in 1996 by Dr. Willie Donnelly. FeedHenry is one of the pioneers in the Telecoms 2.0 industry, in that it provides cutting-edge Web 2.0 and Mobile 2.0 solutions to network operators.


Recently, FeedHenry debuted two interesting IMS items that can also have an impact on UC: 1) The first IMS widget services platform that enables IMS capabilities to be delivered as widgets across the web, mobiles and desktops; 2) the first IMS widget engine for mobile handsets.


The idea is that, until now, telco Web Services layers have not provided a framework to deliver IMS services to subscribers over Web 2.0. They don't provide end users with the ability to virally share or distribute services to other platforms and to mobile, they don't give telcom companies analytics on how services are impacting business, and they don't give telcos a platform where developers can build new Web 2.0 apps that plug directly into a telco services development platform.
FeedHenry, however has devised a platform for telcos that sits on the telco Web Services layer and can be used by the telco to fully control and provide mash-up IMS services with the web and make it friendly for third-parties to build on it. It gives customers compelling new services they can easily find, personalize and distribute to iGoogle, Facebook pages or even to their mobile phone.


Thus, with FeedHenry, operators can leverage the IMS network's capabilities to create compelling new Web 2.0 services for their customers. FeedHenry delivers complex IMS capabilities such as voice, presence and location services on a Web 2.0 start page that telecom providers can use, out-of-the-box, to provide content and services to end-users in a format that is easily downloaded and customized for distribution across mobile, desktop, TV or locations such as Facebook or iGoogle.


As for the IMS widget engine for mobile handsets, it's similar in function to the iPhone application store; FeedHenry's IMS widget engine allows users to access widgets from a carrier start-page and distribute them to their mobile phone. The widget will continue to work even when users are not connected to the Internet.


A Matter of Convergence


Just as unified communications merges the capabilities of different forms of media and communications technologies, so too, in a larger sense, does IMS merge the capabilities of the Internet with wireline and wireless telephony. UC

 

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC's IP Communications Group.

 







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