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Oct/Nov 2008 | Volume 3/Number 5
Converged Views

IMS MMTel – the Standardized Way Forward

By Eric Ericsson (News - Alert)
Decreasing revenues from their traditional fixed services and increasing competition from Internet players mean fixed and mobile telecom operators have one real option, and that is the new standardized service set called 3GPP/NGN MMTel, based on the IMS architecture.

Imagine this: Two friends on their way home from work start chatting on their mobile phones. They switch to a voice call. Another friend calls in, and is added to the conversation. All three switch to video mode (video conferencing). One participant leaves the conversation; the others exchange some photos and videos. During all this, one of the friends makes it home, seamlessly changes device from his phone to the TV, and continues the conversation from his couch.

This is an example of what MMTel — Multimedia Telephony — can do. MMTel is the first real step towards an end-to-end, real-time, all-IP solution for operators. At the end of 2008, it will be introduced commercially over wireline broadband access networks, and in mid-2009 rolled out in High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) mobile networks.

Using MMTel, two or more telecom users can communicate in real time — using real-time speech, real-time video (perhaps synchronized with speech) and real-time text. They don’t have to stop and restart when adding or removing different types of media during a session. A single session also has benefits for conferencing — in particular lip synchronization, a complex issue when the voice component is carried over a circuit-switched service and the video is packet-switched.

Standardization is Key in a Changing Telecom World

Operator revenues are leaking from fixed services to mobile services. And operators are losing revenues to Internet players such as Skype, Google (News - Alert) Talk and Microsoft’s Messenger. It is true that Internet players have not generally entered the mobile space so far, apart from providing some messaging solutions. However, their technologies are improving continuously, and they are set to move into mobile soon. To compete, operators need to launch a compelling, fixed-mobile, converged service offering. MMTel, based on IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert) (IMS), is the natural option here. It combines traditional telephony’s quality and reliability with the Internet community’s rich, flexible services.

It is important to note that the telecom industry has agreed on the IMS standard as the basis for its future evolution. IMS — the architecture for controlling and delivering multimedia services — is now paving the way for a gradual migration to all-IP networks and a mix of services.

But IMS is simply a standardized architecture. It makes this all-IP world possible. Unlike standards such as GSM and UMTS, it does not encompass standardized services. (In GSM, for example, the service set cannot be removed from the architecture.) To provide a comparable offering, IMS has to be combined with something else. And this is where MMTel comes into play.

MMTel is the next step, a standardized solution for offering multimedia services over a converged fixed-mobile, real-time IMS network, replacing current circuit-switched networks. The standard is a joint project by the telecom industry’s standardization body for 3G mobile systems, 3GPP, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s ( ETSI (News - Alert) ) working group for fixed access and next-generation networks, TISPAN. And the standard is backwards-compatible, meaning that MMTel services can work with current fixed and mobile standards. It also supports supplementary services such as call-forwarding, calleridentification and so on. All these well-known services create a familiar telephone-type experience for the end user.

There are some key factors to be considered if MMTel is to be made into a volume product or service for the mass market. First and foremost is the matter of interoperability, which is why two important components of MMTel are the Network-to-Network Interface (NNI) and the User-to-Network Interface (UNI). UNI ensures the development of a broader offering of devices. NNI will enable operators to interconnect with each other for all multimedia features, not just voice and textmessaging. In this way, an end user belonging to one operator can have multimedia communications with an end user from any other operator.

As a standard that industry players — from telecom providers to operators — have agreed upon, MMTel creates the potential for truly global, mass-market acceptance and profitability.

In summary, operators should deploy MMTel because:

• The fixed and mobile services are, for the first time, exactly the same. There is no difference in the services available, regardless of whether someone is using a mobile or fixed device, or even a TV.

• This solution can replace an operator’s current fixed and mobile solutions so it can consolidate its networks.

• Coming access technologies, such as Long-Term Evolution ( LTE (News - Alert) ) and WiMAX, will allow services to be delivered only over packetswitched networks.

Eric Ericsson is responsible for Ericsson’s fixed and mobile broadband IP telephony solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience from the IT and communications industry. He has been part of the team, from Ericsson, initiating the 3GPP work item for IMS multimedia telephony.He joined the Ericsson group in 1998. He has held a number of executive management positions, including head of Ericsson IP PBX (News - Alert) product management.

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