Vendors Prep for IMS Fight

The cellular industry is gearing up for a battle royale between the industry’s incumbent network vendors over 3G wireless data signalling software, according to the latest edition of Unstrung Insider.

The report -- "IMS: The Heart of Wireless & Wireline Convergence" -- claims that cellular equipment suppliers expect IP multimedia subsystems-related products and services, which handle call and data signalling tasks on 3G networks, to become a serious contributor to future revenues.

Originally defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 5 specifications for 3G networks, IMS provides a SIP-based control layer with open interfaces to the transport layer and the services layer above. It gives carriers control over services on a per-session basis, and is expected to provide unprecedented flexibility to the way mobile data is delivered to the subscriber (see Forum Pushes IMS and IP Multimedia Subsystems: Easy Does It).

Applications enabled by IMS include the ability to launch a circuit voice call from an instant messaging session; the ability to start a video-sharing application during a circuit voice call; multimedia conferencing; and multiplayer gaming.

Report author Gabriel Brown notes that all of the major network vendors are targeting the IMS space, though progress to date varies between each player. “The two vendors that have moved most aggressively are Motorola -- which is leading with a push-to-talk offering, a well developed partner program, and 18 commercial contracts for IMS-related technology -- and Nokia -- which also appears to be an early leader, with four commercial contracts and several publicly referenced Tier 1 customers” (see Moto Launches IMS Program and Nokia Claims Intelligence ).

Brown argues that both companies “look to hold an advantage in the mobile operator market due to their robust handset sales.”

Meanwhile Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) are all flagged as having relatively well developed IMS strategies (see Ericsson CEO Pumps Mobile Broadband, Lucent Accelerates into 3G, and Siemens Integrates Ubiquity).

“Siemens arguably has the most mature product IMS product set, given that it launched ahead of other vendors in 2003 and is now involved in trials with 30 customers,” says Brown. “Lucent has made a big commitment to its ‘Accelerate IMS’ platform, which it sees as an umbrella term applicable to all future converged wireline and wireless networks. Ericsson is also starting to more strongly articulate its vision for IMS and its role in mobile and converged networks. It recently said it had 25 customer deployments, of which three are commercially committed.”

Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) have yet to launch IMS products officially, burdening them with ‘laggard’ status. “However, they both claim to be in good shape to offer products on a schedule concurrent with customer demand,” adds Brown. “They make the point that this is still an early market that will take time to mature.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

IMS: The Heart of Wireless & Wireline Convergence is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.
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