Whatever happened to IMS?

* The state of IP-Multimedia System technology

Today, we’d like to launch a “mini-series” on the state of IP-Multimedia System technology and deployments that will span the next several editions of this newsletter. In the series, we will interview several key players who have a large stake in the success of IMS, including some IMS component suppliers and three carriers who have embraced an IMS strategy for service deployment.

As a prelude, we remind our readers that IMS is an architectural framework for delivering IP multimedia services and applications to users. The initial framework and standards were initially developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), and were first designed to serve GSM-based cellular networks, but the standards have evolved to support wireless LAN, CDMA 2000, and wireline networks.

As an architectural framework, IMS does not specify how applications should be developed; rather the framework is designed to provide a common architecture that lets wireless carriers and wireline carriers interoperate between networks in supporting common applications and services. IMS also relies on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to provide session control. IMS has the potential to play a critical role in fixed-mobile convergence (FMC.)

And in the interest of fair journalism and analysis, we also disclose the hypotheses we will test and the pre-dispositions we hold as we launch this series. We believe that, “on paper,” IMS is a great idea. But we think that IMS deployments are rolling along very slowly due to many factors.

First, since IMS relies on SIP for session control and since fewer that two-dozen VoIP features have proven multivendor interoperability we think that one big roadblock to IMS deployments is the lack of agreements on how SIP should be deployed in multivendor equipment.

Second, since IMS must work in a carrier environment, IMS “hooks” for carrier operational support systems (OSS) must be in place for any scalable deployment and we find that IMS support for OSS is minimal at best.

Finally, we hypothesize that wireless carriers and wireline carriers who don’t operate sell both wireless and wireline services may have a vested interest on slow-rolling IMS-based FMC solutions while carriers that do operate both network types may hesitate to give up revenue or to change their existing business models for voice minutes of use.

Starting next week, we’ll test our hypotheses and ask several IMS suppliers and carriers to challenge our initial views on IMS.

Editor's note: Starting the week of  Nov. 19, you will notice a number of enhancements to Network World newsletters that will provide you with more resources and more news links relevant to the newsletter's subject. The Convergence & VoIP Newsletter, written by analysts Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick, will be merged with the VoIP News Alert and will be newly named the Convergence & VoIP Alert. You'll get Steve and Larry's analysis of the convergence and VoIP market, which you will be able to read in full at NetworkWorld.com, plus links to the day's convergence news and other relevant resources. This Alert will be mailed on Mondays and Wednesdays. We hope you will enjoy the enhancements and we thank you for reading Network World newsletters.

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