IMS is like any other technology – it seems to have its haters and fanboys. As early as 2007, the death knell for IMS was being rung, and the haters were saying that IMS is basically hype and that it’s difficult to deploy, and the people backing it are the equipment vendors who have a stake in seeing it get adopted. IMS detractors pointed out that over-the-top (OTT) providers were shining examples of how voice services should be delivered and indicated that service providers should eschew IMS as too complex and overkill with its collection of functional network elements for providing voice.
The fanboys for IMS, on the other hand, point to the fact that each of the OTT players is an island to itself, and all of them ultimately rely on other mobile and fixed operators’ IP broadband networks for connectivity, quality, high throughput and low delay. And they emphasize how applications like Rich Communications Services (RCS) can take advantage of the underlying Quality of Service, security, and global reach of IMS- and VoLTE-enabled networks and can help service providers better monetize their investment.
In reality, service providers are good at connecting people; they did this first with voice offerings and now with data, and have added to that a whole host of capabilities that really do enrich the user experience like presence, location and mobility. And they are looking to improve this further with additional capabilities that provide a context-aware experience – a hot concept gaining traction among service providers - and that’s not going to happen with the older circuit switched networks designed solely for voice.
IP and multimedia, two words that make up the term IMS, are at the core of how people are communicating. According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), there are now 47 operators in 25 countries that have either started deployment or have deployed IMS networks for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services. In total there are over 62 operators - and that number is growing - that will have at their core an IMS network. Infonetics supports the notion in its report, “Service Provider VoIP and IMS Equipment and Subscribers” that not only are service providers continuing to spend on IMS- and VoLTE-related infrastructure but there is also an increase in the number of subscribers as well.
So, like or not, IMS is probably coming to a network near you. But, the road to IMS is rarely a straight line; rather, each IMS network migration differs based on where a service provider is currently with its network deployment. In our dealings with service providers that are making their transition to IP networks we see three important initiatives to consider:
- Circuit-to-IP call control transformation
- Enhanced media capabilities
- Diameter services for Authentication, Authorization and Accounting
We recently published a white paper that explains how service providers can position their networks more effectively around these important “getting-ready-for-IMS” initiatives. By focusing on specific IP transformation areas, service providers can lower the risk many perceive with deploying IMS and at the same time reduce costs from a CAPEX and OPEX perspective by migrating away from older next generation network (NGN) nodes to IMS-ready infrastructure. Surrounding their core revenue generating services with functionality like connectivity, security, interworking, session control and service enhancement for voice and data will help service providers with what’s needed to position them for an IMS-ready future without the need for a forklift upgrade down the road especially as they look forward to the lengthy transition from legacy networks to all IP. Attention to these transformation areas will benefit service providers regardless of where and when IMS will play out in their future. So get out those lawn chairs, because the sunset on the Publically Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) won’t happen in a blink of an eye. What do you think? Tweet us at @Dialogic.