A Question of Control

Moderating last week's Light Reading Webinar on the role of session management and session control in ensuring service quality ("Service Quality: The Role of Session Management") brought to mind how many issues all incumbent telcos need to deal with, whether they want to or not – and judging from the progress made to date, most telcos right now seem to fall into the "not" category. On the surface, session management might be a topic that's near and dear to telcos' hearts, but maybe not.

Incumbent telcos have a lot to do before they can become true next-generation communications service providers. They have to determine what layers of legacy operations, infrastructure, services and business models to keep, and which to shed. Then, to meet demand from customers who use diverse access technologies and devices, they must integrate the remaining multiple network fabrics and rebuild their byzantine political environments, held together by their hierarchical management styles.

So far, incumbent telcos have resisted dramatic organizational change, relying on their ubiquitous physical network infrastructure to sustain their business. Massive technology investments have allowed telcos to rotate customers among their transport services and still generate substantial revenue and profit. But as a long-term strategy, this approach is fast approaching the end of its usefulness.

Over the next few years, enterprise and consumer customers will seek more than just new ways to send messages to one another. While most telcos talk about application delivery and management, when it comes to execution, they still emphasize the transport part of their operation.

The odd part is that telcos all say they understand that relying solely on transport revenues is an unsustainable plan, given the continued rapid commoditization of bandwidth in all parts of the network. At some point they will have to turn more applications management and control capabilities into solutions that their consumer and enterprise customers can use to manage their daily lives.

In order to deliver flexible solutions, most, if not all, incumbent telcos see session control as a principal catalyst for change: It enables them to integrate multiple access and transport technologies that will serve customers using the widest range of wireline and wireless devices. Session control in an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) environment promises to smooth that integration.

Even in today's pre-IMS environment, there are both hardware and software approaches to session control. These approaches, covered in our Webinar last week, can lay the foundation for telcos to make the technology and service leap to the next generation.

A huge part of that foundation is session control, which mediates connectivity and functionality among multiple access devices and technologies and the carriers' applications and service-delivery capabilities. In pre-IMS today and IMS tomorrow, session control will play a key role smoothing out the wrinkles between the elements that customers and carriers use to create solutions out of the network services and infrastructure technologies used to deliver them.

The enabling technologies for session control are now becoming widely available. The big question now is what telcos will do with them.

— H. Paris Burstyn, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
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