Cable IMS Resurgence?

Cable's hot and cool relationship with the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) could be on the front burner again, or at least that's what we're supposed to think after Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Camiant Inc. announced the completion of a product interoperability test. (See Ericsson, Camiant Do Interop.)

The technical teaming and validation of Ericsson's IMS platform with Camiant's policy control platform came at the request of several tier-1 operators, company officials say.

"We had, simultaneously, requests from the cable and wireless sides," says Solomon Israel, Ericsson's senior director of system integration and multimedia business development.

Such an integration will enable operators to piece together their own IMS architectures, where otherwise they might be locked into proprietary options, says Susie Kim Riley, Camiant's founder and chief technology officer.

The CableLabs PacketCable 2.0 platform borrows heavily from IMS, but some cable operators have indicated that deployments are still at least a year away, due to significant up-front investments and the lack of a revenue-driving application that will turn the tide quickly. (See The Slow Road to PacketCable 2.0.)

Israel insists that cable operators are making evaluations now and putting IMS into lab environments with the anticipation of rollouts later this year and into 2009. For its part, Ericsson claims to have 46 IMS contracts in place, with 20 already serving live commercial traffic. Among them, Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is using Ericsson's IMS technology for VOIP applications.

Operators are looking at IMS for wireless VOIP services that tie into their common infrastructure. Riley expects operators to start by looking at SIP-based, multi-line commercial VOIP services delivered over IMS.

"Everyone ultimately agrees that they have to go in the direction of IMS, because legacy [technology] won't take them there," she says.

At the same time, these nearer-term business opportunities could give operators a way to "get their feet wet" with IMS before deploying it to millions of subscribers, she says.

IMS will also touch IP-based video services, particularly when real-time communications are baked in, Israel notes, citing examples such as multiplayer gaming.

But the proof will be in the pudding in terms of how rapidly cable operators introduce IMS and PacketCable 2.0 into their networks.

"There might be a couple of MSOs looking at it right now, but I don't think there's a great cable wave of IMS activity going on," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. He expects most IMS-related activity to be focused on wireless operators rather than cable MSOs in the earlier phases of deployment.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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