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3G/HSPA

IMS Takes Over the World

The latest report from Heavy Reading charts the rise of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology, and says that it is key to fixed-line carriers' ability to deploy services more cheaply, despite the technology's roots in the mobile world.

At its core, IMS is a means of delivering IP applications over different types of wired and wireless access networks (see IMS Guide). And the report, entitled "IMS and the Future of Network Convergence" finds that "IMS stands a good chance of becoming the primary network and service architecture for delivering revenue-generating IP applications on Tier 1 networks."

"It’s not too much to say that many vendors and some service providers now see IMS as the single most important telecom technology development of this decade, and almost all now see it as one of the most important," writes Graham Finnie, the report's author.

"All major equipment vendors, many mainstream IT suppliers, and a host of smaller specialist companies have committed to the IMS architecture. Yet there are very few true IMS deployments to date, and many unanswered questions about where, why, and how IMS is best implemented." Indeed, Finnie doesn't see many deployments happening until 2006 or 2007. And when deployments do happen, he writes that fixed-line carriers will be in the driving seat.

"IMS is now far more than just the means to mobile multimedia or even FMC [fixed/mobile convergence]; its transition from 3G to mainstream NGN [next-generation network] has been rapid. Although IMS was initially defined in the cellular mobile industry for 3G networks, many vendors report that there is now greater interest in IMS among wireline carriers than among wireless carriers. The reason: Wireline carriers face a more urgent need to fill the revenue gap, and broadband DSL is a better medium for the wide range of applications that IMS can allow than 3G – primarily because it is inherently higher-bandwidth than 3G, and also because VOIP will be deployed much earlier in broadband than in 3G."

But because the early development work was done on the wireless side, mobile infrastruture vendors have taken an early lead in the market.

"Ericsson and Siemens are currently in the best positions regarding IMS," Finnie writes. "Ericsson has taken a clear lead by virtue of its early commitment to IMS. Its strong wireless heritage is attractive to service providers, and it is the only vendor with a range of announced major IMS contract wins and customers. Siemens also bet early on IMS and has one important customer in KPN. Of the other incumbents, all are now strongly committed to IMS – with the notable exception of Cisco."

The mobile lead should be no surprise. IMS, as we hinted earlier, was initially developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to specify a third-generation mobile system based on evolved GSM core networks and the radio access technologies they support.

But the commercialization and growth of the scope of the technology is encouraging many more players to get in the game. The vendor space is becoming crowded and highly competitive," writes Finnie. Heavy Reading has identified at least 70 companies with an IMS proposition, and no doubt others will be added to the ranks of IMS pursuers in the months ahead.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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