It’s been a few days since the latest edition of the IMS World Forum and this interval has given us chance to reflect. We’ve been following IMS since our foundation, but our principals have been involved with IMS initiatives since the early noughties.
It’s been rather interesting since then. We have had hype, despair and, from some quarters, ridicule. Some analysts have been only too quick to take pot-shots at IMS, for a variety of reasons. Others have, of course, been more supportive. And, there were times when the IMS industry needed some friends.
Our position has always, we like to think, been realistic. We aren’t in the numbers or forecasting game – we don’t publish subscription-based market sizing reports or make predictions. But we do undertake our own research and interviews to support our thinking and output. It became clear to us a few years ago, after extensive interviews with service providers that IMS was the only real game in town when it comes to session control and service delivery for networks with millions of subscribers. Since then, nothing has happened to change this view. We used to be able to discuss credible alternatives back in 2008 – there simply don’t appear to be any left now we have arrived in 2012.
There are a number of reasons for this. First, the industry has seen growing numbers of IMS deployments. Without question, if you are a tier 1 or tier 2 telco, IMS is the way to go. Personal prejudices don’t come into this equation: it’s now a matter of market reality.
Secondly, any alternative that is left in the market is much more risky than IMS. Whereas IMS was relatively untried five or six years ago, industry experience today enables vendors to point to deployment success and history that validates their propositions. And, of course, the major vendors aren’t pushing alternatives, so nothing credible has emerged. It seems strange to note, especially given how the debate has been framed in recent years, but IMS doesn’t seem like a risky option today.
Thirdly, VoLTE happened, or at least was standardised, providing fresh impetus to IMS and confirming its position, at least for mobile operators. If you are moving to 4G, then the industry has decided that IMS is critical. Finally, one thing that gets consistently overlooked by dissenting voices is the unique challenge of providing fixed and mobile telephony services. Yes, there are many cool new services that can be offered and, it’s true that OTT players offer more innovative applications.
But an equally important truth is that telcos have to meet somewhat different challenges. Some have to deal with universal access or service obligations, all have to deal with 911 / emergency services and Lawful Intercept regulations. Whatever you may think of IMS, these are inescapable facts and IMS has been designed to enable telcos to meet all such regulatory requirements and obligations. That is not to say that IMS is beyond criticism – far from it. There are many legitimate concerns. But the simple fact remains: it’s a done deal.
Based on our experience of the IMS World Forum, the IMS industry today seems to be in rude health. We heard from more operators about more deployments. As we noted back in 2009, it’s a matter of not if but when for most operators. The IMS World Forum continues to serve a great purpose in bringing together different stakeholders and encouraging debate. And the debate continues to evolve, as will the IMS itself.
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