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3GSM: Donde Está IMS?

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), one of the enabling technologies for bringing together wireless and wireline networks, is set to be one of the most hotly contested topics at next week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, with some vendors adopting radically different stances within the IMS camp.

Much of the focus on IMS so far has come from wireless operators. Indeed, standards work was initiated and developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) . (See IMS Guide, IMS Takes Over the World, Bulldog Bites on IMS, Lucent Lands BellSouth IMS Deal, SBC Jumps on Lucent IMS Bandwagon, and Ericsson, Broadsoft Snack on Danish.)

Can IMS branch out and enjoy broader adoption?

"We're coming down the other side of the IMS hype curve at the moment," reckons Tyler Nelson, chief marketing officer at policy management vendor Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC), which will be touting its IMS-based capabilities in Barcelona next week. "The only companies that are delivering anything to the operators at the moment are the very big systems vendors, which are supplying end-to-end systems for carriers to try out, and there have been some early disappointments."

Sanjay Jhawar, VP of business development and marketing at BridgePort Networks Inc. , though, believes there's a great deal of activity right now. He believes there will be some major mobile operator contract awards in 2006, with commercial deployments starting the year after.

"There are plenty of major RFIs and RFPs out at the moment," says Jhawar. "We've studied the market very closely and we're sure there will be some big contract awards this year from Tier 1 mobile operators, with deployments and services in 2007, with 2008 being the banner year for IMS."

To catch that wave, BridgePort will be showing off its NomadicONE IMS Convergence Server (ICS), which enables voice calls to be handed off between GSM and wireless LAN networks, at the 3GSM event. (See BridgePort Touts Convergence.)

That viewpoint concurs with a carrier survey undertaken by Heavy Reading last year, which found that 25 percent of carriers are planning to deploy early IMS-based systems in 2006. "There will likely be more major decisions made by wireline operators this year," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie. He believes the wireless carriers have a bit more time to consider their options, but that there will still be some major mobile IMS contract awards within the next 12 months.

Then there's UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), which is touting its fixed/mobile convergence system in Barcelona next week, and announced it without even mentioning IMS. (See UTStarcom Tackles FMC .)

So is its system based on IMS at all? It is, says Farshid Mohammadi, product manager for the vendor's Continuity FMC platform. "It's a SIP-based IMS solution, but we made a conscious decision not to mention IMS in our press release. We feel there's still a lot of confusion about how IMS will pan out, and we didn't want to add to that confusion. We are trying to stay focused on technology that's of use to carriers and can be deployed right now," says Mohammadi.

There will be more coverage of IMS developments from the Barcelona event next week.

So what else will dominate debate at the GSM jamboree, which has nearly 1,000 exhibitors and 50 times as many expected attendees? Fixed/mobile convergence (FMC), HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access), mobile TV, 3G in China, emerging markets, and mobile VOIP are all expected to be among the hottest talking points. (See China's 3G Gets Green Light, Mobile TV Gets Turned On, and Cingular HSDPA Goes Live.)

At the center of all these topics is IP. "We can expect to see a lot of vendors positioning around introducing IP capabilities in the access network," says Heavy Reading's latest recruit, senior analyst Patrick Donegan. "We can also expect to see the first significant wave of public jockeying for position around 'Beyond 3G' technologies, be it WiMax, UTRAN LTE [Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network Long Term Evolution, or Super 3G], IEEE 802.20, or the enhancements to the CDMA 2000 roadmap, which Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is calling DMMX [Data Only Multicarrier Multilink eXtensions]."

What you can be certain of is that there will be no shortage of unusual and baffling acronyms being bandied about (UABABBA). There will also likely be thousands of press announcements. Here are a few that have made it out of the door early.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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