Alcatel Embraces Tispan's IMS
The ability to cater to both fixed and mobile operators is important. IMS was developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) with mobile operators in mind. Enabling the same capabilities, such as customer identification and resource allocation control, for fixed line operators required some significant tweaking to the standards, work that has been undertaken by European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 's TISPAN (Telecoms & Internet Converged Services & Protocols for Advanced Networks) group. (See Tispan: IMS Plus.)
Now Alcatel claims it's won the race to offer fully converged IMS capabilities, and Heavy Reading analyst Graham Finnie thinks so too. "It's the first I am aware of," says the analyst. "Everyone's moving to Tispan. It's important that Alcatel has done this -- it shows that Tispan is important to IMS," and especially to the large vendors that deal with the Tier 1 carriers that have both fixed and mobile networks and businesses.
So what is it that Alcatel has developed? Three things specifically, says Carl Rijsbrack, marketing VP for fixed solutions at the vendor. The first is NASS (Network Attachment Subsystem), which manages user identity and authentication and controls access to the network.
The second is RACS (Resource and Admission Control Subsystem), the policy and QOS management system that allocates bandwidth for service sessions.
The third is the Access Gateway Control Function (AGCF), which enables PSTN service emulation over IMS, a critical feature for carriers wanting a steady migration from existing service sets.
Rik Missault, VP for enhanced applications at Alcatel, notes that all of Alcatel's 3GPP and TISPAN IMS capabilities have been developed in-house, except for the session border controller from partner Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT), which acts as the proxy CSCF (Call Session Control Function) in the IMS architecture. (See IMS Guide.)
That, claims Missault, makes Alcatel "more future-safe" than if it had to pull together a variety of partners to deliver an end-to-end IMS package for fixed and mobile operations. "We're trying to ensure we have our own products."
Using partners to meet carriers' needs is something Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has done successfully in Europe, where it has snapped up some meaty IMS engagements with Tier 1 carriers. Ericsson's chief IMS partners have been IP centrex specialist BroadSoft Inc. and RACS specialist Operax AB . (See FT Picks Ericsson for IMS, Vodafone Selects Ericsson IMS, Ericsson Provides IMS to Telefónica , Telecom Italia Picks Ericsson for IMS, Ericsson, Broadsoft Snack on Danish, Ericsson, Telenor Test IMS, and Sources: Operax Scores With Tier 1 Carriers.)
"We feel we are on a par with Ericsson now, but we have more in-house technology. Ericsson relies on partnering with Broadsoft for applications. That's a good product, but partnering is more risky," claims Missault.
Others might feel the same if Alcatel was announcing big name engagements, reckons Heavy Reading's Finnie. "Alcatel has ground to make up. It has invested a lot in IMS in the past few years, but it needs to announce some major deals to give it some credibility. It needs to catch up with Ericsson in that respect."
In addition, Alcatel faces the prospect of merging with another IMS big hitter in Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) before the end of the year. What will happen then? Which company's IMS product set will be taken out to the market?
The executives say they can't comment on anything related to the Lucent merger, saying only that "no customers will be left stranded."
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading