IMS: Are We There Yet?

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Rich Tehrani
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IMS: Are We There Yet?

Here is my unedited Publisher’s Outlook for IMS Magazine for February 2007.

I start this column thinking about the most recent TMC IMS Expo last week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The takeaway for me from this event is that the market is somewhat confused about IMS.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if history is repeating itself. After all when I launched Internet Telephony Magazine – the sister publication to IMS Magazine, many service providers did not take the technology seriously.
Service providers first universally dismissed VoIP and then started to experiment with it when carrying their backhaul traffic. One would imagine the cable companies would have jumped all over VoIP quickly but they just didn’t.
There was early euphoria for IP telephony in 1998-2000 but from 2001-2003 virtually all service providers dismissed VoIP as something just not viable or worth discussing. Vonage scared the industry and virtually all service providers came up with a VoIP strategy after the New Jersey-based upstart become successful.
Of course the jury is out on how successful Vonage will be but at 2 million subscribers they have made a major dent in ILEC revenue. In addition the cable companies have also been stealing major share. The ILECs are late to the game with their VoIP-based solutions like FiOS. The argument may be that in the end the ILECs will win the race but in the technology market (and isn’t telecom merging with tech and consumer electronics?) the first-mover advantage should not be underestimated.
How much money is being spent to take down Google and Apple for example? Is the billions of R&D dollars spent by Microsoft and Google alone to dethrone these companies having any effect? No.
So the question worth asking is when will IMS be ready for full implementation? It seems from the Expo held last week that it could take a number of years for full deployment. Some estimates say two years and others say more. Ironically while we thought VoIP would take hold in 2-3 years it turned out to be closer to seven years or so for the technology to become accepted as mandatory in service provider and enterprise networks.
As I peruse some of the IMS happenings in this issue I see there is serious IMS progress being made in the market. For example AT&T – formerly Cingular Wireless is using an IMS platform developed by Alcatel-Lucent to allow video calls via their video capture-capable mobile devices.
In addition in this issue there is an article about T-Mobile Germany upgrading their network using a stepping stone provided by Tekelec to allow them to take advantage of IMS. They are using Tekelec’s EAGLE 5 Integrated Signaling System (ISS) to support Sigtran and especially SS7oIP.
In addition this issue discusses a partnership between Siemens and Crossbeam focused on providing unified threat management or UTM for IMS networks. In addition Dialogic is in the IMS space offering a multimedia developer solution based on ATCA and AdvancedMC which combines the benefits of HMP and DSP technology. Dialogic’s Jim Machi who was a keynote at TMC’s recent ITEXPO/IMS Expo says the company’s carrier customers are looking for a path to higher density media solutions that will allow them to deliver their unique application services into a demanding carrier environment.
In addition, heavyweight Huawei announced in this issue that they will be introducing an IMS 3.0 solution which complies with both the 3GPP and TISPAN. The goal of this initiative is to provide carriers with the ability to migrate to FMC and IMS more quickly and of course deliver cutting edge services.
So I am seeing lots of activity in the IMS space and from some major companies and carriers.
But I wanted more and I had room for a few vendor opinions so I asked Eric Bezille, Nortel’s IMS product marketing manager for Europe and Asia for his opinions on the state of the IMS market. This is what he had to say.
There are many different forecasts on the IMS market revenues from a few billion USD over the next 5 years to tens of billions. The pace of the evolution to IMS is quite different from one carrier to another. Many customers have in fact strong investment plans in NGN, softswitches and SIP multimedia services. These customers are asking for IMS ready systems, enabling them to establish an IMS environment , so they will be ready when business will demand.

On another front , we see IMS and IMS-ready commercial services delivered this year by operators being driven by Fixed Mobile Convergence service offering opportunities for business and/or residential segment.

This being said, IMS is still buzz word in the telecoms industry and many vendors as well as service providers are anxious to demonstrate leadership in this area. As a result, many announcements both in the wireline and wireless markets have been positioned as IMS wins, even though there were no IMS-compliant products in the deals. For example, many vendors positioned wireless POC (Push-to-talk over Cellular) contracts and soft switch contracts as IMS wins.

At this time, Nortel has deployed IMS ready solutions and SIP commercial applications with 100 plus customers worldwide, including Orange, Verizon, Telefonica, BT, Neuf Cegetel, UPC, Cox, Liberty Global, Bell Canada, Embarq, R Cable, Chunghwa Telecom.  With Nortel, these customers will be ready to move to IMS!

So this is Nortel’s take. There are certainly some truth to the statements about companies reaching to position themselves as IMS players.
This is what Michael Cooper, VP, Marketing and Strategy, Convergence Business Group in Alcatel-Lucent had to say:
IMS is real. Over the past year, service providers and network operators worldwide have announced initiatives to deploy IMS. For Alcatel-Lucent this is reflected in the number of lab trials that have migrated to live deployments. These deployments, as well as the ongoing trials, are providing carriers and equipment providers with critical insights that are helping to provide a clearer indication of the types of services that operators see as most important. Many of the services being deployed or tested involve consumer and enterprise VOIP or fixed-mobile convergence. Looking ahead, as IPTV, Internet, and Data services are added to the converged network, IMS will play a key role in blending and delivering Quality of Experience (QoE) and providing the policy and procedures for providers to differentiate their services from those offered by competitors.
So in the end it seems like the IMS or at least pre-IMS market is thriving. There are obviously different vantage points as to what constitutes a 100% IMS-based solution and what does not. But this market is still in its infancy and to be honest our goal at IMS magazine is to be the place service providers turn to when deciding where to purchase equipment. We will continue to be your personal guide to the IMS market. Now sit back and enjoy the ride.

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