According to Market Research firm In-Stat (News - Alert), IMS "...will deliver the 'Holy Grail' of convergence of access to multimedia services/applications across any end-user device.ï¿½ There are a number of factors driving the industry to turn towards IMS, or IP Multimedia System, including that it reduces operational and capital expenses; it has the ability to implement and introduce new services faster; and it facilitates the convergence of different core and access networks, allowing the user the same services no matter the location.
The impact of IMS is profound. Analysts believe that the IP telephony carrier market is poised to grow from $1.6 billion in 2004, to about $4.7 billion by 2010 due to the emergence of IMS. It is expected to bring more competition for services, greater mobility, and more specialized services and content. As mobile devices and services evolve, operators and equipment vendors are standardizing on the IMS architecture in order to tap into the high-bandwidth of fixed and local-area wireless network resources.
Yet, as IMS continues to penetrate the telecommunications industry, operators are challenged to provide users a smooth migration into a new IMS environment, providing cross-network services that can work not only on IMS networks, but also on existing 2G/3G networks. Recognizing that the transition to an IMS-based network will take years to complete, it is very important to provide for a clear and smooth roadmap from these pre-IMS services towards a full IMS environment. Operators are looking for investments that will produce revenues for them today in a pre-IMS environment, as well as in the future, in a full IMS implemented industry.
For example, we will soon see global operators that will move their subsidiaries to IMS in phases, changing over subsidiary by subsidiary. Yet these operators would like to introduce to the market IMS services as soon as that first subsidiary is now fully integrated to the IMS network. So weï¿½ll see new services running on the IMS network in some subsidiaries, but on a non-IMS network in others. In an effort to prepare for that scenario, operators must now look at how to best provide new revenue generating services to users while utilizing existing network infrastructures.
Transforming a PC Into a Mobile Phone
A number of FMC service clusters are available to operators now, which work both on IMS networks as well as existing 2G/3G networks. The first is a cluster of PC applications, which can transform any PC into a mobile phone. Users would be able to keep all the same services offered to them on their mobile phone, and with one phone number, identity, and bill. Users are able make calls from between two PCs, and between a PC and a mobile or fixed phone. Services that can be made available to the user include simultaneous ringing on both the mobile phone and PC, video calls, SMS, MMS, as well as the ability to download content from the operatorï¿½s portal and synchronize contacts.
There are various ways computer telephony integration can be achieved, whether it be by a softphone downloaded from a Web portal, a preloaded softphone on a USB memory stick plugged into a PC, installation of software from a CD, or a 3G/HSDPA data card, which is a combination of a data card and softphone bundled together to offer a complete mobile experience.
Mobile Over Broadband
The second cluster of services operators could provide for now involves providing a mobile line over broadband, working with any fixed device, and providing all mobile services, including voicemail, VPN, ring-back tone, prepaid billing, etc., all adding up to, once again, one bill.
Many major mobile service providers have openly declared the strategy of using fixed/mobile substitution to increase indoor minutes. Fixed operators, however, are also looking for way to acquire and retain customers while promoting additional communications services, such as broadband IP connections. Users, on the other hand, are looking mainly for simplicity of use, freedom of device and access choice, and economic value in new services.
A mobile line over broadband service enables service providers to extend their mobile services to any fixed device, while providing a VoIP line over broadband, completely controlled by the mobile network. Subscribers benefit from using their mobile phone number and services with any fixed phone, while enjoying attractive tariffs.
Together with an existing fixed number, users can add their mobile number to their fixed phone. This enables subscribers to retain all their existing mobile services with the freedom to choose a fixed or mobile device.
Dual Mode Handset
Operators can also provide users with a dual mode handset, which enables users to have the same user experience using both WiFi (News - Alert) and GSM/CDMA access. Users would have one phone number and one device, but one that provides for a seamless handover between networks, when crossing over different coverage areas. By doing such, the handover guarantees continuous coverage without dropping the call and also provides coverage from the best network connectivity available. Additionally, the seamless handover allows users to gain IMS access in areas that only provide GSM/CDMA coverage. In a recent report, Instat predicted that, by 2010, shipments of cellular handsets with WiFi-based VoIP capabilities will exceed 132 million devices.
Whether at home, in the office, or in a WiFi enabled restaurant, a user can receive the best call routing. A dual mode handset service allows WiFi to be utilized as the access technology, while enabling mobile operators to provide more appealing rate plans to end users. Additionally, operators could offer their subscribers a wide range of services on the dual mode handset, including voicemail, SMS, multimedia, video, an address book, access to the Internet, and more.
The service of a dual mode handset enables operators to attract new subscribers and offer original go-to-market services, while generating customer loyalty and ensuring return on investment.
Centrex to Mobile
A final option for operators could be to provide a bridge between IP Centrex and the mobile network to enable advanced PBX (News - Alert) features on any mobile device. This type of service, integrated with an IP Centrex solution, offers operators a true enterprise-class value proposition. Service providers can integrate the service along with an IP Centrex solution with wireline services such as VPN.
Integrating this Centrex to mobile platform with an IP Centrex solution enables operators to offer their subscribers enhanced calling features to enterprise users with mobile devices. It merges the enhanced features of Hosted PBX with the mobility of wireless service. These features are available with no changes to the operatorï¿½s network.
Both mobile operators and non-mobile operators (fixed line, cable, DSL, WiFi, etc.), acting as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can offer enhanced PBX feature functionality to mobile devices by simply integrating with a Centrex to mobile solution.
Looking Towards the Future
Overall, operators have the ability, through a variety of converged services available, to provide users the same services on any type of device, and the same services over different networks, whether it be GSM, Cable, DSL, WiFi. Operators must realize that the end user doesnï¿½t care about the underlying technology, whether it is GSM, VoIP, WiFi, etc. ï¿½ but that he/she wants to have the same experience all the time, over any network. In some cases, the end user would like to have one phone for all services, both over the mobile network and WiFi network, depending on the best coverage and cost alternative. In other cases, the end user would like to have access to his services (e.g., video calling, voice mail, etc.) from different devices ï¿½ mobile phone, fixed phone, PC ï¿½ while maintaining a single identity of one number and paying one bill.
The key for operators, however, is to provide service continuity with the transition to the new IMS network, as well as introducing new IMS services over their existing network. This allows users to continue using their trusted and familiar services when changing to new IMS devices, while enabling vendors and operators to get a ï¿½head startï¿½ on launching IMS, extending the time in which new IMS services can be tested and proven mature enough for IMS users. IT
Zvika Moshkoviz is the Marketing Director at Outsmart, an Israel-based provider of network convergence, IMS, and IN (Intelligent Network) based solutions. For more information, please visit www.outsmarttelecom.com.
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