IMS for consumer VoIP is a great first step, says Alcatel-Lucent

* The state of the IMS nation according to Alcatel-Lucent

Continuing our short series on the deployment status of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) among carriers, today we'll hear from Alcatel-Lucent, one of the world's leading end-to-end IMS suppliers. We recently interviewed David Withington, marketing director for applications at Alcatel-Lucent. According to Withington, Alcatel-Lucent strongly believes that IMS is a great solution for consumer VoIP and that by first deploying an IMS-based VoIP architecture, carriers could then enable many other IMS compatible applications.

Once IMS is deployed for VoIP in the service providers’ infrastructure, carriers can then offer more personalized services followed by a move to IMS-based control of mobile services. Alcatel-Lucent is working to help mobile operators understand what is happening in residential VoIP so they can launch their own solutions bundled with their existing mobile offerings. Operators can also start immediately with new applications, using IMS enablers such presence, instant messaging and network address book to enrich their existing offerings.

When it comes to IMS control for enterprise services, Withington says that most large organizations still want a hybrid architecture that includes both hosted and premises-based VoIP and allow for both legacy (TDM) voice and IP-based voice to co-exist. Since few large enterprises want an immediate cut-over to a pure VoIP architecture, carriers are faced with managing interoperability between the legacy and next-generation IP deployments that can take years to evolve within the corporate network. Therefore, carriers must deploy both IMS (with corresponding SIP call-control features) and provide applications that span both legacy and IMS-based VoIP solutions. On the other hand, smaller enterprises can benefit immediately from a fully IMS-based approach according to Withington.

As for carrier-to-carrier IMS interoperability, Withington notes that most carriers still want to use traditional Signaling System 7 (SS7) interfaces for transfer points between carrier networks for many years, so IMS interoperability between carrier networks isn’t yet a “hard requirement.” Once carriers agree to make the transition from SS7 to IMS for carrier-to-carrier connections, Alcatel-Lucent will support that requirement.

To support multimedia services like broadcast video on mobile handsets, Withington says that other (non-IMS) architectures are already doing a good job of supporting these services and that today an IMS control to watch television on a mobile handset is only a “nice to have” feature for downloading commercial content. However, he believes that IMS will play a key role in sharing user-generated content and in controlling applications between the PC, television, and storage devices and helping operators launch their own community and social networking applications – even linking to the Web with solutions like Alcatel-Lucent’s Web2.0 interfacing capabilities.

Finally, Withington sees two big hurdles that must be overcome before IMS can become ubiquitous. First, he believes that more end-user devices (including mobile handsets) will need to support IMS than exists today. And second, Withington says that, as with any new infrastructure deployment, integrating the carriers’ operational support systems (OSS) with IMS is THE issue and that since every carrier has its own unique and evolving OSS requirements and business processes, IMS-to-OSS integration will be an ongoing challenge requiring a strong partnership between the IMS vendor and the operator to resolve.

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