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Optical/IP

Forum Pushes IMS

The UMTS Forum has stated defiantly that the majority of wireless carriers offering third-generation services will have implemented IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystems) technology in their networks over the next four years (see UMTS Forum Evaluates IMS).

Promising the integration of real-time and non real-time IP-based multimedia communications via a software upgrade to the cores of existing general packet radio service (GPRS) networks, IMS is an industry standard defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). Some critics, however, have already begun labeling it as little more than a pipe dream lacking a clear roadmap to any potential success.

UMTS Forum vice-chairman, and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) representative, Josef Huber, strongly opposes such sentiment, telling Unstrung that full deployment will be in place from most carriers by the end of 2007.

“The move to IMS is a must,” Huber urges. “There is still a lot of work to be done worldwide to get a better understanding of the evolution path that brings us from the existing traditional telecoms world into an IP world, but we expect most operators to upgrade to IMS in this timeframe.”

According to Huber, Europe’s Tier 1 global carriers are currently leading the way in IMS implementation. “Vodafone, Telecom Italia Mobile SpA [Milan: TIM], Orange SA [London/Paris: OGE], and T-Mobile International AG have a large interest in the technology at present and can see its potential impact on capex and opex,” he says. “We expect to see further trials from operators as they attempt to integrate IMS into their existing networks.”

Along with Huber’s own company, Siemens, a number of the world’s leading manufacturers have demonstrated the technology in recent months (see Vendors Push Carrier Upgrades). Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) introduced its Intelligent Edge, based on IMS, at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes (see Nokia Claims Intelligence ); and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) demoed its Instant Talk Solution at CTIA last month (see Ericsson Demos PTT at CTIA). Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) are also believed to be trialing IMS functionality in some form.

However, a lack of unified standards is preventing IMS from making significant inroads into carriers’ business plans. The 3GPP’s Release 5 specification, completed last August, is intended to define a standard IP core for GPRS networks and beyond, which would help pave the way for more sophisticated, and interoperable, data services on such networks. However, no operator has yet implemented the full specification.

The UMTS Forum’s report notes that "some of the required IMS standards are still being developed or finalized," and Huber admits that a Release 6 specification, expected later this year, will see “changes and additions that will give us the final basis for a complete IMS development.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung
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