Ericsson Cements IMS Credentials

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) reasserted itself as Europe's leading vendor for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology with the announcement of two deals with different parts of Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD).

The deal as sole supplier of IMS core technology to Vodafone Portugal is an engagement worth noting, as the mobile carrier has about 4.7 million customers (as of March 31) and is building a single service management and delivery architecture for all its services.

These now include DSL, as Vodafone Portugal has just announced its launch into the fixed broadband services market and is currently installing its own DSLAMs in the central offices of Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT). (See V'fone Portugal Uses Ericsson, Vodafone Portugal Offers DSL, Vodafone Uses AlcaLu DSLAM.)

Offering a combination of mobile and fixed broadband services is part of Vodafone's new Mobile Plus strategy announced last year. (See Vodafone Upheaval Continues.)

More significant, though, is Ericsson's deal to be the sole supplier of IMS technology and integration services to Vodafone Germany , or D2 as it's also known. It has more than 31 million subscribers and is also now offering fixed broadband services, from its Arcor AG & Co. KG business, to its mobile customer base. (See Ericsson Wins at V'fone Germany and Carrier Scorecard: Vodafone.)

Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan believes this is "one of the most significant IMS contracts to date." He says Ericsson is already supplying Vodafone Germany with its mobile switching centers (MSCs) and home location registers (HLRs), but is not the current supplier of the network's Gateway GPRS Service Nodes (GGSNs) and Serving GPRS Service Nodes (SGSNs), vital elements in a mobile operator's data core -- "So this is a significant endorsement of Ericsson's capabilities in next-generation packet technology."

Donegan adds that being a sole supplier to this part of the Vodafone empire is also significant. "Germany is not just a big network, but is also a global center of excellence in terms of technology evaluation within the Vodafone group."

Donegan's colleague, Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, also rates this as an important contract award in the IMS sector.

"I would see this as a good and important win for Ericsson after a few recent setbacks in the battle with Nokia Networks ," which landed recent IMS deals in Northern Europe, most notably at Scandinavian incumbent Telia Company . (See NSN, Com Hem Strike IMS Deal and Nokia Siemens Wins IMS Deal.)

"Vodafone could easily have chosen to use Nokia Siemens, or could have dual-sourced, but the fact this is a sole-supplier relationship is very important for Ericsson," notes Finnie. "After SoftBank Corp. in Japan, this is Ericsson’s most important IMS win among cellular mobile providers."

Despite losing some of its initial shine as the architectural blueprint for next-generation networks, IMS is still at the heart of the network evolution strategies of the world's major carriers, so winning deals like Vodafone Germany is important to the major vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) as they struggle to prove themselves as the most trusted and reliable supplier of NGN technologies. (See AT&T Defines Service Creation Platform, Carriers Surf the Web 2.0 Wave, Why Telcos Need Web 2.0, and FT, Telefónica Talk Up IMS.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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