IMS: A Dream Deferred?

By Ken Rehbehn
Published July 2007; Posted April 2008



IMS has received more than its fair share of ink in the trade press. Nonetheless, it remains a key - some say the essential key - to operator network evolution. In part, IMS (the Internet Multimedia Subsystem) promises to fulfill fundamental requirements for a trusted all-IP service environment. Ultimately, however, IMS offers broader benefits to service providers, ranging from rapid application integration to consolidation of duplicative functional silos.

Beyond noting its role in serving up fundamental building blocks for cost-effective, IP-based service architectures, network equipment vendors heralded IMS as a catalyst for whiz-bang applications expected to draw fixed and mobile subscribers who were willing to pay for new and compelling functionality. After more than seven years of standards specification and product development, however, IMS has not fulfilled either the building block or the application expectations yet, and operators continue to search for revenue-generating applications beyond variations of voice call processing.

Adding to the network operatorsí woes, Web 2.0 applications based on Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) have popped onto the scene. The potential for these over-the-top (of the network) applications to pre-empt the possibilities for similar operator services, casts a chill on business cases built around IMS platforms and applications.

Yet, despite the slow momentum behind native IMS applications and the threat of over-the-top services, operators are deploying the architecture - albeit in limited configurations delivering basic voice and the occasional mobile application. The original vision of a broad application suite delivered via mobile clients has faded. Taking its place is a pragmatic goal of cost efficiency benefits coupled with the occasional IMS-based voice, video sharing and mobility application.

It is, nonetheless, still clear that IMS has a role to play in evolving networks. It may take a lot longer to occur, and ultimately may serve a less comprehensive role, but it still will be critical to the operatorsí success.


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About the author:

Ken Rehbehn is an industry analyst specializing in mobility and convergence in service provider infrastructure.

This article is reproduced by special arrangement with our partner, Business Communications Review.


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