Cingular Picks Lucent for IMS
Cingular Wireless LLC has become the second major U.S. wireless operator to show its IMS hand, picking (NYSE: LU) to supply a convergence platform that will start to roll out sometime in 2006. (See Cingular Picks Lucent for IMS.)
The companies say Lucent's IMS-based platform will be used to provide voice, video, data, and multimedia services that can be accessed over different types of devices, in conjunction with Cingular's rollout of its High-Speed Data Packet Access (HSDPA) upgrade to its cellular network. Cingular is expecting to complete the network upgrade by the end of 2006.
The concept behind IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), you'll no doubt recall, is a unified network architecture that can support a range of IP-based services for both packet- and circuit-switched networks, and employ a range of different wireless and fixed access mechanisms.
Lucent will be deploying its media gateway, network controller, session manager, and application and subscriber data servers in the operator's network as part of the upgrade.
Analysts are cautiously optimistic about what the win means for Lucent’s prospects in the emerging IMS market. “This announcement suggests Lucent's IMS initiative is further along than we, or anyone else, originally thought, with revenue recognition now likely to occur in the first half of 2006,” writes Citigroup analyst Alex Henderson in a note on the deal.
“Financials on the deal were not disclosed, but we believe this contract is significant in size and scope and we expect to see more IMS contract wins coming out of Lucent in the not-too-distant future. We think Lucent has demonstrated, with this contract win, its lead on its North American rivals in this potentially 'game changing' technology.”
Lucent’s rivals in the IMS game include (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), but -- as Citigroup’s Henderson points out -- Lucent’s win is also likely to be “disappointing” to softswitch vendors like (Nasdaq: SONS) and (Nasdaq: TKLC), which already have business with Cingular.
Nikos Theodosopoulos, senior analyst of communications equipment at UBS Investment Research, believes the deal bodes well for Lucent's prospects at Cingular's fixed-line parents, (NYSE: BLS) and (NYSE: SBC).
"We continue to believe LU won the IMS deal at BLS [and] is well positioned for a possible IMS rollout at SBC," writes Theodosopoulos in a note.
As Unstrung exclusively reported last month, IMS is not the only leg on Cingular’s convergence stool. The firm is also planning to deploy unlicensed mobile access (UMA) technology, which allows handoffs between cellular and WiFi networks, in tandem with IMS. (See Cingular's Got Big FMC Plans.) "We've been testing UMA," confirms Cingular spokesman Ritch Blasi. “The first app will be a hybrid of UMA and IMS.” Unstrung Insider analyst Gabriel Brown suggests that the application will use UMA to handle voice switching between networks and then an IMS/SIP (session initiation protocol) client that will enable the system to locate users and determine their availability to communicate via phone, email, text messaging, or video.
“My guess is that this is what Cingular will launch with,” says Brown.
Blasi wouldn’t confirm specific plans for services, saying that Cingular is still looking at the market requirements for convergence.
The other major U.S. mobile operator that has announced plans for IMS is Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S). In September, the operator told Unstrung that it still intends to be the first to roll out IMS in the U.S.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung