The only publication dedicated to OSS     Volume 2, Issue 1 - June 2005
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Emerging IMS: Charting a New Direction (Cont'd)

Further out, the potential for IMS broadens and deepens. According to Ulticom, who has been particularly vocal about its IMS solutions, "There is a long-term need to create a ubiquitous service delivery architecture that abstracts and hides the complexities of underlying networks and end user devices. Full-scale IMS deployments including 3G Radio Access Networks and 3G wireless devices will offer end-to-end service transparency, but this network will not be realized overnight." That is, like any convergence technology, the goal of IMS is to be virtually invisible, with seamless transitions between complex systems.

Added Incentives
IMS is also a possible platform for major service providers that do not have wireless subsidiaries/ branches to develop MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), and can help any service provider deliver varied services in a way that is easier, cheaper, and less risky than previous technologies. The ultimate future of IMS remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that IMS is the future of telecom. Ian Cox of ABI Research recently made the oft-quoted statement that "every Tier 1 service provider in fixed and wireless networks will announce SIP-based services running over IMS in the next six to twelve months. Any who don't will be like airlines that missed out on the jet engine."

IMS has another aspect beyond interoperability that is being explored extensively by SP's like British Telecom, whose long-awaited 'BluePhone' has finally been unveiled, and retagged as 'BT Fusion'. This handset, developed by Motorola, possesses the ability, ostensibly, to make seamless transitions between wireless networks and local Bluetooth connections as the operator moves from one area to another. That is, a user can operate his handset in his or her home or office over a Bluetooth link to a VoIP connection, walk out the front door, and continue the conversation on a wireless network, all without dropping the call. This aspiration of maintaining a true convergence of wireless and wireline connectivity is among the Holy Grails of convergence, and BT maintains that it is here.

Front-line Challenges
SP's now are not even limited by medium, and often need to outsource to maintain QoS on widely varied services. Benjamin adds, "One of the challenges to supporting true converged services is having systems that are flexible enough to define and manage the full range of services that broadband carriers need to provide." Some specific challenges that arise out of IMS are granular bandwidth and session control, support for xVNO, outsourcing, and supply chain management, and maintaining the level of service abstraction.


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