IMS. What Choice Do You Have? IMS World Forum 2013 Summary.

In the effective duopoly of IMS core supply between Ericsson and Huawei, it’s fair to ask, “IMS.  What choice do you have?”  Talk to many people in Telecoms not directly working on IMS and they’ll simply right it off as dead.  For a dead technology, the conference was very much alive, the busiest I’ve ever seen it.  The dynamic tension between factors such as: the decade+ old IMS standard, siloed telecoms standards like RCS, the rise of the real-time cloud, the success at global scale of internet based communication services using off-the-shelf IT technology, open source trumping open standards (watch Opus), QoE (Quality of Experience) trumping QoS (Quality of Service) e.g. MP3s and Netflix, the rise of WebRTC, and continued inaction by many operators, to name just a few has created a ‘tinder box’ situation.

The communications core of the network and the services running on top have become interesting again.  Just as IMS is finally starting to reach its stride in deployments, the writing is on the wall that change is about to happen at a pace we’ve never before witnessed.  We live in a software defined world, not the SDN/NFV (Software Defined Network / Network Function Virtualization) hype that will add cost and slow down your network, rather the fact that software enables both service and software infrastructure changes in the blink on an eye.  It’s the People and Processes that slow everything down, and that can no longer be tolerated as customers now have choice thanks to the broadband  pipes being deployed with LTE and soon 4G.

At the end of this weblog I review some of the highlights from the presentations, there were many, and I apologize to the many excellent and insightful presentations I do not mention.

The main themes from the conference were:

WebRTC: I covered the key points in the WebRTC Workshop.  The technology is the easy bit it’s the services, business models and operations that are the hard bit; and where Telcos and their suppliers must focus.  I’m currently attending Genband’s Perspectives13 conference, and will review their SPiDR gateway and enabled services in my next weblog.

Complexity: Its real, it’s not whining, it’s not an excuse for inaction.  You’ll see in the slides from Telefonica, TEO, Bouygues, Iusacell, etc. the real challenges operators are experiencing in their deployments  And suppliers are offering solutions to mitigate this complexity, e.g. ACME Packet, Genband, and Huawei.

Innovation: Larry Baziw from Rogers gave an excellent update on RON (Rogers One Number).  The key is start small, focused and earn the business, do not expect you deserve the business.  This is a critical attitude change required in the industry – business and customers must be earned.  The assumption of the RCS slow burn is a fallacy, magic will not just happen once some indeterminate penetration is reached.  Without focus and experimentation the experience will not be competitive so RCS will remain niche.  Naoki Uchida from NTT presented a range of business service innovations using technology from communications API leaders like Voxeo Labs including WebRTC.  Martin Geddes presented the HyperVoice vision, treating voice as text in the integration with business processes.

Wooyong Choi from SK Telecom gave a great review of their RCS (messaging) and VoLTE (voice and video comms) experiences.  No price premium for HD Voice, make HD calling transparent, the customer almost does not know except in their history that it was a HD call.  They stated inter-working between operators is essential, standards are only beneficial, I couldn’t agree more.  They see a convergence of RCS and VoLTE, but more as a framework than as one UI to rule them all.  Interestingly they’ve modified the Joyn brand, adding a ‘T’ to it.  Further proof that Joyn brand makes no sense, the presence on the contact list shows what you can do, not some brand that overlaps the telcos’ brand and requires fees to be paid for the GSMA for a free service.  Why are telcos paying the GSMA twice, membership fees and Joyn fees?  Perhaps Telcos need to form a new organization focused on broadband service providers with a future (across mobile, broadband, converged and internet based service providers), that perhaps works across all the new digital groups created in Telcos in direct competition to the monopolistic GSMA.

Wilfred Nicoll gave an excellent presenting on the realities of deploying IMS.  Put simply, People and Process rule over technology.  He gave some great advice on how to build consensus and frankly shared their trials and tribulations along their IMS journey.  In answer to the question, “IMS.  What choice do you have?”  ACME Packet and their work to simplify the complexity had favorable comments on their deployments of Acme’s IMS core by several Telcos.  Also Huawei showed an IMS proxy to simplify VoLTE deployments.  So there are choices, that are still ‘IMS’ based.  But there’s a bigger storm brewing from how the internet-based service providers are delivering their services.

Nerilė Mažeikienė from TEO gave an excellent presentation on their experiences, which are not uncommon.  I’m sure many telcos will recognize the IMS issues: revenue maintenance not revenue growth, delays, people and process issues, IMS can fall over so services are disrupted, and integration with PBXs is a pain.

Chang Feng from ooVoo broke through several mistaken beliefs Telecoms hold dear:

  • Open source trumps open standards (watch Opus)
  • QoE trumps QoS (e.g. MP3s and Netflix)
  • It’s all about the services, multiple apps provide a good enough solution to interop (e.g. Skype, Viber, Whatsapp all running on your phone)
  • Carrier grade doesn’t matter that much to consumers, just restart the call / app.

Congratulations to the IMS Industry Awards winners:

  • Best Cloud based IMS solution: OpenCloud Rhino
  • Most innovative service launch enabled by IMS:  MetroPCS’ world-first launch of VoLTE and RCS 5 services using Mavenir’s suite of application servers built on mOne® Convergence Platform
  • Best innovation in RCS:  Noble Communication RCS Client and Application Server
  • Best VoLTE product: Mavenir’s Convergence TAS (Telephony Application Server)
  • Best integrated IMS solution: Huawei E2E IMS integration solution

Niklas Blum from Fraunhofer Fokus gave a good review of their open stacks, including OpenIMS and OpenEPC.  He made a passing comment at the end of his presentation, that I think foretells the changes we’re going to see, “OpenIMS is optional, you could simply do it over the top.”  The writing is on the wall, we need to react to break the log-jam of inaction, else have internet-based service providers using WebRTC run rings around the Telcos that will become mere ISPs as in the limit its the customer that decides.

5 thoughts on “IMS. What Choice Do You Have? IMS World Forum 2013 Summary.

  1. Ian

    Alan, there are no joyn fees payable by Telcos or anyone else. Please check your information sources.
    The joyn brand was established as a focal point for RCS service deployment and is achieving its aim.
    And Telcos are completely free to set up whatever groups they wish; the GSMA is an Association set up by and on behalf of its members who direct and steer its activities. It does not compete in the commercial space of its members and is not a monopoly.

    Reply
    1. Alan Quayle Post author

      Hi Ian,

      All I can do is report what I’m told by the people working at the coal face on Joyn/RCS. The GSMA is more than welcome to give me a briefing. I’m told there are fees by at least 5 different Telcos. If there are no fees then I am perplexed as to why people implementing Joyn/RCS are making this claim, are there technology licensing fees? Something must be charged for them to make this claim. Perhaps if the GSMA were more open on how Joyn works and made it open for any service provider, regardless of GSMA affiliation, it could remove this perception?

      Calling and SMS work quite well without the Joyn label. I pay Verizon for my communication services, I expect Verizon’s brand to be front and center of my communication experience, not some weird little yellow sticker that overlaps my communications service provider brand. And to launch without video communications is an embarrassment to the industry, its not even on a par with Skype, Tango, and the many other internet-based communication service providers. File share before video communications? Did you even do any market research on how people use these services?

      I see much disaffection from the working level of telcos and suppliers directed at the GSMA and its detached programs, e.g. OneAPI Exchange. As an independent I can say what people are thinking, you can ignore my feedback, but my advice is to realize the value of my independent role as I provide feedback without any corporate / political filter. The GSMA is a monopoly, telcos have no choice and its members appear to have little control. The GSMA needs to evolve, limiting it to just mobile operators is silly in today’s market reality. The GSMA can choose to ignore this advice at the expense of its continued decline into irrelevance and the future success of our industry.

      The GSMA has a critical role in the telecoms industry and its not performing adequately, that is the consensus view from the people I talk with in the industry. Change is required.

      Best Regards,

      Alan

      Reply
  2. Paul Barnes

    Alan – thanks for the summary. Very insightful.

    I am one of those long-time IMS-sceptics that you must encounter often, but based on your notes I can see that it’s finally gaining more traction and driving some practical benefits. You may win me over to the IMS corner yet!

    Best regards,

    Paul Barnes

    Reply
  3. Sridar G

    Alan,

    Wonder why you believe that SDN/NFV will add cost to the network.

    These are high visibility subjects and are evolving , they challenge established provider mindsets and push in the direction of offering Operators a wider choice in the network and application space. It is early days what these initiatives lack is the evidence of quantified benefits but I would give it time before calling judgement

    Tks
    Rgds
    S

    Reply

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