Pipeline Publishing, Volume 5, Issue 6
This Month's Issue:
IMS: the Way to True Convergence?
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The New Promise: The Path to IMS
from a Service Fulfillment Perspective

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By Chun-Ling Woon and Bill Otto

The Promise of IMS

Since its inception in 1999 by the wireless standards body 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) has evolved beyond the wireless world to embrace wireline as well. The convergence of voice, multimedia and mobile network technology over an IP-based infrastructure closes the gap between wireless and Internet technologies to provide end-users ubiquitous access of any IP service on any type of device. Ultimately, multiple networks will deliver multimedia applications in a standardized way.

Flash back to three years ago when IMS became a major movement. Engineers wanted to reinvent the network in order to facilitate network management. A wide range of vendors were jumping on the bandwagon and things became complicated due to the lack of synchronization and alignment, which resulted in longer roll-outs. Service providers tried to configure their products but it was difficult to activate and provision at the network level due to the diversity of hardware, software, and systems.

Ultimately, multiple networks will deliver multimedia applications in a standardized way.


Current Situation

It sounds ideal, but it is imperative for network operators to overcome the following challenges that exist when integrating an IMS infrastructure:

  • Disruption of existing services
  • Lack of alignment with fulfillment and assurance systems
  • Lack of proven economics for the investment
  • Lack of interoperability between BSS and OSS subsystems

The new promise of IMS is to get everyone to join the movement and to build systems to communicate in the same way. Once that happens, network operators can quickly and cost-effectively launch a wide range of new services to their customers, providing additional revenue streams.

Understandably, there has been a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about IMS enabling carriers and other service providers to expand their offering across both packet-switched and circuit-switched networks. Because it is standards-based and uses an open interface, flexibility is inherently built in to support all interactive applications, and allow third party participation, as well. The days of proprietary, closed network architectures will be left behind, and standardized IP-based systems will be in place.

The disconnect with the IMS promise is that it simply did not go far enough to reach the end-user (i.e., consumers, businesses, etc.). Simply put, IMS is better received in context of service and network management but less so in the context of improving the customer experience.

From an end-user's point of view, how do I place an order from an IMS-enabled network? And why is this so great? The answer is that if we truly believe in the promise of IMS, a number of scenarios will happen. When you expand your product offering, the network will automatically recognize it. The ordering system will reconfigure itself. When a service is ordered it will be provided by/over the network in a fashion that meets the needs of the user with the quality of service that they are expecting. At the end of the day,

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