Sunday, June 20, 2010

IMS, is it just a Hype?

The hype surrounding the IMS (IP Multimedia subsystem) deployment is slowly fading away. In reality, IMS deployments are moving in snails pace. I have been hearing about IMS for more than a decade now with no sight of any concrete deployment from operators. There are very few operators around the globe who have deployed or promised to deploy IMS in their network. Some of the big operators in North America are focusing on LTE/WIMAX and there is no mention of IMS. According to TM forum’s yearbook , more than 100 operators acknowledge they will convert their network to IMS in the next five years. Alas I have been hearing this for a long time now.

Why do we need IMS? IMS was touted to be a service agnostic platform using which third-party applications can run on operator network. It was a bridge between web 2.0, messaging 2.0 and voice 2.0 and the Telco platform. Service creation and execution using IMS framework was supposed to seamless and easy. It had lot of promise from a platform perspective. Infact it was an answer from Telco to the growing popularity of Web 2.0. The layered architecture of IMS addressed all technical challenges that exist in today’s Legacy Circuit switched networks. IMS was originally designed for mobile but was extended to cover Wi-Fi and fixed line services as well. What was lacking with IMS was a good business case for Operators to justify the investment in the platform.

According to Ibrahim Gedeon, TELUS CTO, IMS was “a waste of seven years” by wireless industry that was trying to bring its voice service into the IP realm. One of the reports published late last year by Alan Quayle of Mind Commerce, IMS still remains niche. Even in the year 2014, only 32% will commence IMS deployment.

Here are some reasons I can think of why IMS is not getting its share of limelight:
• Lack of Compelling business case to justify the investment
• No IMS killer app to drive the requirement of IMS. Most of the promise by IMS can achieved without an IMS network.
• Lack of standards compliance including billing and Operational support system
• Service providers are still not convinced that implementation of IMS would translate into reducing costs and complexity.
• IMS brings in lot of promise and innovation. However service providers do not understand how to address and embrace innovation from a platform standpoint.
• Lack of understanding between IMS vendors and Service providers.

There is still some hope for IMS. Rich Communication Suite (RCS) another standard from GSMA aims to unify the communications experience by tying together presence, voice, chat and multimedia services over IMS. RCS holds a lot of promise, and we are already seeing operators (Orange, SFR etc) deploying RCS compliant handsets in the market. By 2011, there will be 7.3 million RCS subscribers mostly in Western Europe and Asia Pacific. If RCS does well, there will be strong push for IMS network.

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