Carriers Line Up for IMS Test

The MultiService Forum will tomorrow (Thursday) announce a global interoperability test involving IMS-based systems and services.

The IMS, or IP Multimedia Subsystem, standard is regarded by many in the telecom world as the best approach to services that could be rolled out concurrently across fixed and mobile networks -- often referred to as fixed/mobile convergence. It appears to be gaining favor with many Tier 1 carriers. (See BellSouth: The IMS SuperBowl? , Ericsson, BB Mobile Show IMS, IMS Crunch Time, IMS Takes Over the World, IMS: What Are the Hot Apps?, Ericsson, Broadsoft Snack on Danish, IMS: Pulling the Pieces Together, Ericsson Provides IMS to Telefónica , LR Explains IMS, and Ericsson Grabs Sprint IMS Win.)

So with IMS gaining traction, the MultiService Forum (MSF), which organizes multivendor interoperability tests across multiple carriers' networks, plans to conduct a test to "demonstrate multi-vendor interoperability of QoS-enabled voice and multimedia services" spanning North America, Europe, and Asia in October 2006. (See SIP Ready for Prime Time, Says BT and MSF Claims IP Demo Success.)

The organization is working with operators to develop multiple test scenarios, and says (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Korea's , Japan's , (NYSE: VZ), and mobile giant Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) have expressed their interests in getting involved.

The MSF says the tests will involve the origination and termination of multiple services between IMS networks and those based on the MSF's own "R2+ Architecture." R2+ defines a set of physical IMS-based network designs that the forum believes will help its members "focus on a common set of commercially viable scenarios."

The network used for the tests will comprise R2+ wireline and IMS-based wireless nodes, with services being tested locally and internationally using fixed, mobile, and roaming SIP-enabled devices.

"Service providers see the promise of IMS, but more work needs to be done on the detail required to deliver true multi-vendor open architecture solutions," says MSF president Roger Ward in a prepared statement. The event, he says, "will be a prime opportunity for both carriers and vendors to test the ability of vendor-specific IMS solutions to interoperate with MSF R2+ networks."

But how useful are these tests? One industry analyst, who requested anonymity, says the process may be of limited use for those operators and systems suppliers that aren't involved in the MSF's event, but that the MSF should be credited with taking the work done by the IMS standards bodies -- European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)'s TISPAN group and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) -- one step further. (See ETSI Holds IP Multimedia Services Workshop and ETSI Drives Convergence Standard.)

"I think it's useful, if only for the vendors and carriers involved. While TISPAN/3GPP is the authoritative standards grouping, someone has to bolt the bits together and test them," says the analyst.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

To find out more about the promise of IMS, check out the Light Reading Live! event, IMS: Blueprint for an Applications Revolution, to be held at the Langham Hotel in London on December 8, 2005.

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