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IMS World Forum – Despite Progress, There’s a Lot to Discuss #IMSWF

Our own early research indicated a clear commitment to deploying IMS from operators. The real issues were not if, but when, and what else could be done with the infrastructure once in place. Like so many debates, the real issue – that IMS is a strategic investment for the migration of session control towards all IP networks, a point well-made by a number of operators – were obscured by too much emphasis on business models. As we discovered, however, there weren’t necessarily clear business cases to be developed. Rather, motivation came from a variety of sources.

Last year, we felt a broad consensus had been achieved within the industry. The advent of LTE was going to drive, if not accelerate IMS deployment and we would expect to see much more focus on services, third party integration and so on, as the basic questions seemed to have been resolved, as well as many more deployments. Well, we’ve certainly seen more deployments, RFPs and the usual vendor / operator activity.

However, ahead of this year’s IMS World Forum in Barcelona , we can see that there is certainly room for debate around certain key topics. For example, the advent of OTT solutions for certain key IMS services has opened up the question, in some quarters at least, of IMS-less networks.

This leads into the whole issue of what IMS is for. It’s worth remembering that IMS is not about voice per se – it’s (eponymously) about multi-media. In fact, it’s really a session control architecture and framework that enables users to access whatever real-time services are available and to leverage applications, which may or may not be provided by the operator concerned.

Thus, the question as to whether IMS may not be needed for voice services should be seen in the wider context of managing sessions for millions of users, of which voice is but one example. And, whether voice makes any money or not, it’s still hugely important. But so too are other capabilities like mobility, messaging, emergency services, interworking, roaming and so on. IMS caters for all of these, so to view it in the context of a single service may be misleading.

This question of what IMS is for remains relevant. The real issue is where it will go in the future as voice revenues and voice consumption decline relative to other forms of communication and services. It’s time to look again at what else IMS offers for the (many) operators that have taken steps to deploy solutions.

We also have the emerging topic of WebRTC and web-enabled communication. We wrote an extensive report on WebRTC, HTML 5 and their implications for operators last year. This year, we have seen a flood of interest in the topic and are working with our clients to devise the most appropriate strategy for capturing momentum.

In the WebRTC world, there is a need to interact with non-WebRTC devices, despite the viral like proliferation of WebRTC enabled browsers that will soon take place. IMS has a role here , as even Google acknowledges – although it’s somewhat amusing to see SIP described as “legacy”. Regardless, breaking out to IMS / PSTN / PLMN end points will be critical.

The IMS World Forum, then, promises to be a key talking shop for these and other issues. We will, of course, learn from operator experience, but it’s clear that there are a number of new topics that need to be aired.

We’re looking forward to going. Just as last year, MD Guy Redmill will be chairing sessions and participating in debates. We’ll report on what we learn during and after the event. If you are planning to attend, get in touch – it will be nice to hear your perspective and catch up with old friends.