Instant IMS: No IMS Required
When I decided on the sub headline for this article I realized it might be viewed as potentially controversial. How, you may be asking can one have IMS without IMS? Well there is an answer to this question and it may or may not be what you are expecting.
You see the benefits of IMS are great. We all realize this fact and moreover service providers understand if they aren’t able to provide the benefits of IMS to their customers soon they risk losing revenue. It is a fact… If service providers do not continuously look for newer and newer revenue generating applications to replace declining voice revenue, they are in trouble.
Enter Mavenir Systems, a company based in Texas filled with some of the leading telecom minds in the industry. Mavenir’s mission is to allow carriers to provide many IP communications services rapidly. Generally the services we are talking about are the ones we generally associate with IP Multimedia Subsystem or IMS.
In addition, the company is positioned to allow devices which are not IMS-ready to have IMS functionality such as mobile Centrex over 2G. Mavenir works with a slew of endpoints whether or not they support SIP.
For example to conference or transfer a call you simply enter a star code which is not audible to the other party or parties on the phone call.
Why would you want such functionality? Simple. The reason is by utilizing existing devices on the network your ability to recoup investments in new technology is potentially greater. Mobile Centrex and other services are not going to generate significant revenue quickly if most of the handsets on your network aren’t able to access them.
Mavenir agrees with the premise I have been espousing for many years. Service providers need to embrace VoIP and provide it with enhanced services to be successful. Another path many providers are taking instead is to acquire their way out of this inevitable scenario.
But even AT&T, for all it’s acquisitions has had to embrace new technology to take on the threats posed by new VoIP service providers and the cable companies.
I have been writing about enhanced services for years and service providers have been providing few of them during these years of writing. Unfortunately for such providers, innovation is now coming from the computer world. An example is Grand Central the maker of a service which allows find me/follow me solutions and was recently purchased by Google.
In my talks with many equipment providers – especially on the fixed line side, I am learning more and more about the paralysis taking pace in carrier boardrooms. These companies see their voice minutes declining and generally are afraid to invest in voice anymore. In fact they aren’t sure what they should do.
In the wireless world there is still growth in voice service but this doesn’t mean the entire service provider market doesn’t need to wake up. Remember the potential for Sprint/ClearWire and Google to become serious wireless competitors exists. This is no joke. Google owns Grand Central. What if they further become a wireless VoIP provider with a significant wireless footprint?
Service providers can only use M&A for so long to give the appearance of continued success. They need to be innovative and need to start taking bigger risks while they still have a shot at staying successful in a world dominated by computer companies such as Apple and internet companies such as Google.
So as service providers begin to implement IMS they need to consider the fact that Mavenir’s technology allows existing services to work in the world of IMS. So ringback tones, 911 and lawful intercept should continue to be functional.
The company sells a universal gateway known as mOne which allows services such as video calls to become audio calls and back to video calls depending on the capability of the device. In addition, device/computer cloning allows an IM session to be cloned via SMS allowing conversations to be transferred from a phone to a computer and back. The same goes for voice calls.
The platform further provides presence detection on 2G networks.
The company has come up with marketing/product bundles for their customers and in my opinion they make sense. You can never predict how successful new offerings will be but these seem like logical ideas which will at a minimum increase stickiness and in the best case increase ARPU.
Here are some examples:
Basic Mobile with Group Plan: Allows voice and texting over 2G handsets and group billing of multiple handsets.
Desktop Edition: Allows VoIP calling for mobile customers with additional benefits such as support for consumer electronic devices in the home.
Group Presence Package: Provides presence information for address book and integration between IM (instant messaging) presence and the IMS server.
I did get to see some demos in the company’s Texas office which consisted of a video broadcast which was listened to on an analog phone and then transferred to a video phone. When the call was transferred, the video signal was displayed.
There was also an FMC IMS demo utilizing the 3GPP VCC (voice call continuity) standard (more on VCC and FMC). This particular demo utilized the PCTel VCC client. I also had a chance to see a demo of a cloned IM/SMS session where both participants were able to utilize a mobile device or a pc to text message one another. The thought here is being able to continue text conversations seamlessly across devices.
Mavenir Systems seems to have found a sweet spot in the service provider world as they allow the rapid deployment of new services across existing devices while allowing IMS-based networks to more easily tie into the systems and devices which currently exist in carrier networks.
Is this an IMS replacement? Perhaps. But it seems to me that “IMS stepping stone” is more like it. If you are a carrier, you should be spending time researching web services which provide advanced telephony functionality. There is a window of opportunity for service providers in which they can still be the innovators in the next generation of IP communications. This window is brief. It is highly recommended that you keep an eye on the VoIP 2.0 revolution and another on what Mavenir Systems is up to.