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IMS

IMS Takes Over the World

The latest report from Heavy Reading charts the rise of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology, and says that it is key to fixed-line carriers' ability to deploy services more cheaply, despite the technology's roots in the mobile world.

At its core, IMS is a means of delivering IP applications over different types of wired and wireless access networks (see IMS Guide). And the report, entitled "IMS and the Future of Network Convergence," finds that "IMS stands a good chance of becoming the primary network and service architecture for delivering revenue-generating IP applications on Tier 1 networks."

"It’s not too much to say that many vendors and some service providers now see IMS as the single most important telecom technology development of this decade, and almost all now see it as one of the most important," writes Graham Finnie, the report's author.

"All major equipment vendors, many mainstream IT suppliers, and a host of smaller specialist companies have committed to the IMS architecture. Yet there are very few true IMS deployments to date, and many unanswered questions about where, why, and how IMS is best implemented." Indeed, Finnie doesn't see many deployments happening until 2006 or 2007. And when deployments do happen, he writes that fixed-line carriers will be in the driving seat.

"IMS is now far more than just the means to mobile multimedia or even FMC [fixed/mobile convergence]; its transition from 3G to mainstream NGN [next-generation network] has been rapid. Although IMS was initially defined in the cellular mobile industry for 3G networks, many vendors report that there is now greater interest in IMS among wireline carriers than among wireless carriers. The reason: Wireline carriers face a more urgent need to fill the revenue gap, and broadband DSL is a better medium for the wide range of applications that IMS can allow than 3G – primarily because it is inherently higher-bandwidth than 3G, and also because VOIP will be deployed much earlier in broadband than in 3G."

But because the early development work was done on the wireless side, mobile infrastruture vendors have taken an early lead in the market.

"Ericsson and Siemens are currently in the best positions regarding IMS," Finnie writes. "Ericsson has taken a clear lead by virtue of its early commitment to IMS. Its strong wireless heritage is attractive to service providers, and it is the only vendor with a range of announced major IMS contract wins and customers. Siemens also bet early on IMS and has one important customer in KPN. Of the other incumbents, all are now strongly committed to IMS – with the notable exception of Cisco."

The mobile lead should be no surprise. IMS, as we hinted earlier, was initially developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to specify a third-generation mobile system based on evolved GSM core networks and the radio access technologies they support.

But the commercialization and growth of the scope of the technology is encouraging many more players to get in the game. The vendor space is becoming crowded and highly competitive," writes Finnie. Heavy Reading has identified at least 70 companies with an IMS proposition, and no doubt others will be added to the ranks of IMS pursuers in the months ahead.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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dljvjbsl 12/5/2012 | 3:07:44 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World
IMS as marketing speak

From the article:

Yet there are very few true IMS deployments to date, and many unanswered questions about where, why, and how IMS is best implemented."

IMS is a refernce spcfication that contains the standard SIP architecture and a great deal of hype. If IMS leads to renewed interest in the industry and more jobs then great. Howevr one should not confuse it with a significant piece of technology. It is marketing speak for standard SIP ideas.
fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:07:40 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World I'm not so sure that IMS can be characterized as being basically SIP. Would that it were so... while I'm no SIP fancier, SIP at least works across the Internet model, with a general notion of services riding above a transport network that doesn't peek inside the envelope or control content.

The IMS architecture seems to be a complex, almost baroque way to take total control of every bit inside every packet, and bill for it based on the application. It's fast WAP, a gussied-up Minitel using IP to impress the investors.

The business model of IMS -- you can see this in the "Don't Get Skyped" presentation that Rod Randall gave -- is to have all "services" (end user applications) performed by the network, or at very leased charged for as if they were, on grounds that you shouldn't get away with bypassing their services. It's the old Private Express model of business, wherein the Post Office is supposed to get a stamp for letters delivered by others in violation of its monopoly.

Customers probably won't want this, especially if it includes the Deep Packet Inspection filters that Bytemobile and others are trying to sell. They're stuck with it today in the WAP world, but the wireline side still has a real Internet. The Bells are, it seems, trying to put an end to that too, with their move (which Martin seems anxious to allow) to terminate their century-old common carriage obligations. This would replace the broadband Internet with a "fat wasteband" of IMS or IPsphere walled garden "services".

It's totally a vendor push, against user interests. With any luck at all it will fail miserably.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:07:40 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World fgoldstein writes:
Customers probably won't want this, especially if it includes the Deep Packet Inspection filters that Bytemobile and others are trying to sell. They're stuck with it today in the WAP world, but the wireline side still has a real Internet. The Bells are, it seems, trying to put an end to that too, with their move (which Martin seems anxious to allow) to terminate their century-old common carriage obligations. This would replace the broadband Internet with a "fat wasteband" of IMS or IPsphere walled garden "services".

It's totally a vendor push, against user interests. With any luck at all it will fail miserably.


I see it somewhat differently. First, it's not a vendor push, it's an operator push. Operators make money by selling services and features that their customer base is willing to pay extra money for. IMS gives them a platform to roll out these extra services.

I agree that IMS is pretty much the anti-SIP architecture. The cell phone is kept dumb and all the features are implemented in the core. The stripped-down and compressed SIP protocol variant subset spoken by cell phones is poked at and inspected as the signaling enters the core network to ensure that nothing will be harmed. The cell phone has a GSM SIM chip in it so it's difficult to steal service or hack into the network without physically stealing a phone. In my opinion, this is a pretty good way to build something that you want to be hardened and you expect to charge money for it. It's not the SIP sandbox advocated by the IETF where all features, including phone calls, are given away for free.

Unlike vanilla SIP, which is fully distributed and thus likely to be unreliable for a number of years due to complexity in a multi-implementation and multi-vendor environment, IMS is bounded and has centralized control so it's much more straightforward to make it work with a high quality level.

Of course, if you want everything for free, IMS ain't gonna do it for you.
dljvjbsl 12/5/2012 | 3:07:38 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World Thinking that telco operators shoud stop making money from the voice services and just become a fat bit pip is ludicrous

It may be ludicrous but as this message board demonetrates it is what technology is dictating that the network do. Users of this board create their postings locally with customization by mark up language. There is no need for any network operator intervention. Users could, if they wanted, put their SIP address in any posting in orer to allow voice interaction either directly or through conference.

So as others have said IMS is being developed for operators not users. IMS doesn't really do anything except add some 3G acronyms to the standard SIP architecture. Applications come by the actions of the magic SCIM box that does everything but is still mysteriously undefined.

SO IMS is like King Canute. It commands the tide of technology to withdraw and like Canute will inevitably fail. The telecom carriers are will slowly vanish because nobody will pay for their services.
turing 12/5/2012 | 3:07:38 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World Well said Alchemy.

Thinking the telco operators should stop making money from the voice services and just become fat pip providers is ludicrous.

Try telling a Cable operator they should stop making money from Video delivery, and instead just live off the fraction of revenue from broadband data. After all, you can get video over IP and other video providers or just anyone could send it to you over the internet, so why should you be locked to using your local cable co's video just 'cause you use their cable?
TelcoWelder 12/5/2012 | 3:07:37 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World As far as I can tell an IMS is a next generation service platform.

Yes, there is a lot of hype, but it is also very important. Lets say at the moment you are a mobile operator, you probably have different servers, architechture and interfaces for your customer's: voice mail, balance enquiry, pay-as-you-go crediting service, bill enquiry, wap gateway. From the operator view there will be the location services supplied to 3rd parties, the interface to messaging - why get your customrrs to interface via X.25 to your SMSC's when you can, for a price of course, host them on your IMS. You can have all of your logo, ringtone, game, and widget download services in one place.

The IMS will centralise all of this, it will make the billing/activation interface nice and simple for the SI's and ISV's to code to, it will be a standard archtecture that will be scalable - you'll know you can throw more boxes at it without worrying if you should be spending more on your Java games cluster than your voicemail cluster.

It's going to open up new services, like storing your camera phone images remotely to look at on the web interface etc. The big boys (Vodafone etc.) are looking at context awareness applications - these are going to need access to service descriptions and costs etc. made available through the IMS.

So in a way there is nothing new here. iMode has been around from the user perspective and there are almost certainly programs in major telcos to standardise the rest, but this is a step accross the industry. SIP is just a protocol, IMS is just a platform - the two aren't directly comparable.
fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:07:36 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World Telcowelder, there's no need to centralize services, for their own sake. The idea of IMS is to control content. It doesn't open up new services -- the Internet is full of services! It provides a walled garden of services in lieu of allowing Internet access.

Mobile operators have a financial problem. They sell costly voice minutes of use. Internet access, if priced by the byte, is a hard sell, if only because customers are used to flat rates now. But flat rate Internet access allows VoIP and other services to be accessed for a marginal revenue to the operator of $0. Oops. If it cannibalizes the main product it's a problem.

So they don't want that either. So instead they have IMS, which allows them to sell walled garden services, block most of the Internet, and provide controlled, deep-packet-inspected access to selected Internet sites, along with its own pay-per-view. But no VoIP, no IPTV streams, no e-commerce sites that don't pay a cut, no free music, no dissenting opinion sites.

An alternative would be to charge above incremental cost for bandwidth, on a metered or bucket-of-bytes basis.

And there is NO excuse for this crap to TOUCH the wireline world.
sgan201 12/5/2012 | 3:07:35 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World Hi,

There is one good reason for IMS to touch the wireline world. This is for cellphone to switch over to VoWiFi mode when you went home. It makes sense to use the same IMS for the Wireless side to handle this kind of traffic.

Now, whether there is any other good reason for IMS, I have no idea..

Dreamer
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:07:34 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World dreamer101 writes:
There is one good reason for IMS to touch the wireline world. This is for cellphone to switch over to VoWiFi mode when you went home. It makes sense to use the same IMS for the Wireless side to handle this kind of traffic.

I sure hope your cell phone has one helluva big battery. Unlike the cellular network, IEEE 802.11b/g and the LAN & IP protocols that sit on top of them aren't particularly optimized for power consumption. You do an awful lot of transmitting when the phone is idle.

You don't necessarily need IMS to solve this problem. There are a good half-dozen alternative solutions being kicked around that are typically adjunct boxes on the IP network that use IS-41 or GSM-MAP signaling to the legacy cellular network to make the user roam onto the adjunct box. There's a flavor called UMA where you tunnel 2G signaling over IP. There's a flavor where you use vanilla RFC 3261 SIP.
turing 12/5/2012 | 3:07:32 AM
re: IMS Takes Over the World It may be ludicrous but as this message board demonetrates it is what technology is dictating that the network do. Users of this board create their postings locally with customization by mark up language. There is no need for any network operator intervention. Users could, if they wanted, put their SIP address in any posting in orer to allow voice interaction either directly or through conference.

On the contrary, web-based interaction and requirements are not the same as voice. Of course you and I can communicate with SIP directly, and if Enum every really takes off maybe it will even become more realistic to do so on a large scale. But since voip requires a level of network transport performance way beyond web/email, and you want to be able to reach the pstn, and possibly have a convergence of your cellphone services with wireline, etc. - you need a provider relationship which is far and above that of web browsing or email. For that you must pay. You can pay nothing and get little, or pay vonage/skype for the services and pstn calls but not get the quality and wireless convergence, or you can pay your local telco and get all of it, including broadband data bundled into a single bill. (if this thing ever actually works, of course)

The telco's are betting the majority of every-day people/consumers and enterprises choose the latter. They don't care much (I think) about the few geeks who can get much of it to work without them. They care a lot about the vonage's, and I think qos and bundling is their only saving grace there.
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