3GSM: It's an IMS Thing
And with good reason, of course. Carriers are demanding IMS credentials in their next-generation network RFP (request for proposal) and RFI (request for information) documents, say vendors, while the carriers themselves are embracing the IMS framework architecture. A survey of 140 carriers conducted by research house Heavy Reading in the second half of last year found that a quarter of operators expected widespread deployment of IMS-based technology in their networks in 2006, while nearly 40 percent saw that happening in the 2007-2008 timeframe. Only a few of the carriers surveyed thought they'd never implement an IMS-based network strategy. (See 3GSM: Donde Está IMS?.)
Some of the vendors showing off in Barcelona even had some big carrier names to bandy about.
Vodafone doubles up for IMS
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), the largest mobile operator in the world with nearly 180 million subscribers worldwide, has chosen Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) to supply it with IMS technology. (See Vodafone Selects Ericsson IMS and V'fone Picks Nokia IMS.
The mobile giant is aiming to start SIP service interoperability tests with other carriers as soon as possible, and is initially deploying Ericsson's technology in Japan, one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world.
"IMS is going to play a strategic role in our future service delivery," noted the operator's head of Global Supply Chain Management, Detlef Schultz, in a prepared statement. "We intend to pilot the next generation of services using this technology and will start interoperability testing with other operators as soon as possible," he added.
Schultz stated Ericsson had been chosen because of its "technology leadership in this area," and, along with Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), the Swedish vendor has established itself as a leader of the IMS pack. At the 3GSM show the company's CEO, Carl-Henric Svanberg, claimed 18 IMS carrier deals and 37 trials, while one of those customers, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), has launched VOIP services using IMS elements supplied by Ericsson and partner BroadSoft Inc. . (See Telefónica Deploys BroadSoft, Ericsson Provides IMS to Telefónica , Ericsson, Telenor Test IMS, and Ericsson Integrates BroadSoft.)
Vodafone might think Ericsson has "technology leadership" in IMS, but the Swedes aren't the only leaders in the IMS market. Nokia touted its latest IMS technology, available later in the year, with a claim from the vendor's VP of networks, Roberto Loiola, that "Nokia is the undisputed leader in mobile softswitching and IMS for fixed and mobile networks." (See Nokia Launches UMA.)
Undisputed? Say Guten Tag to Siemens Communications Group CEO Thomas Ganswindt, who claims his company is the "only company to have a fully-fledged IMS development suite," including a software development kit (SDK) and services simulator that allows carriers to test out new applications developed for an IMS network.
The vendor also noted that it passed a series of IMS interoperability tests performed by the GSM Association (GSMA) with "flying colors" and "without a hitch," and showed off a number of IMS applications at its stand. (See GSMA Trials Video Sharing and GSMA Trials Video Sharing.)
And it's quietly been making some inroads with its IMS story and applications development and partnership programs. (See Siemens Lands IMS Deal in China, KPN Lays Out IP Migration Plan, O2 Picks Siemens IMS, and Vendors Prep for IMS Fight.)
And then there's Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), with its claims of more than 70 "IMS-ready deployments" and more than 20 IMS trials and deployments. To be fair, the firm's COO of mobile activities, Marc Rouanne, didn't claim IMS market leadership, but for such an immature market, that's a sizeable degree of readiness.
So, what exactly is an "IMS-ready deployment"? Rouanne says that's where technology conforming to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's IMS standard protocols, such as SIP, is already installed and ready to be part of a broader convergence archiecture. He cites applications servers, softswitches, gateways, and HSSs (home subscriber servers, the master customer database) as typical examples of such elements, and notes deployments with the likes of China Mobile Communications Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. as commercially deployed references. (See T-Mobile Picks Spatial Tech and Alcatel, Sylantro Land Unicom Deal.)
Other 3GSM IMS snippets
Nortel Networks Ltd. is providing IMS technology on a new, ATCA-based, open hardware platform it's calling the "Versatile Service Engine" (VSE), with its Call Session Control Function (CSCF) components the first to be offered in this way, and others, such as its HSS, to follow. (See Nortel Intros ATCA IMS Platform.)
Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) strutted its IMS stuff in Barcelona as well. At the heart of Motorola's IMS package is next-generation directory and database technology from Apertio Ltd. , which followed up its recent funding round with a Tier 1 customer announcement. (See T-Mobile Deploys Apertio and IMS Firm Raises $30M.)
The company also plugged the phrase "wickedly cool" and ask the question "Are you a desperate housewife?" in one of its press releases. Ahh, that sparkling Schaumburg wit. (See Moto Demos IMS and Moto Intros Services.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading