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IMS: The It Architecture Gets a Vetting

IMS is considered the It architecture for offering converged, IP-based services, but migrating from legacy to next-generation networks is never without hurdles. Todays panel clears up the myths and asks the tough questions about the state of IMS adoption, the current standards road map, implementation challenges and success factors, and the integration requirements.

IMS is built around standard, defined building blocks, typically communicating via SIP and DIAMETER. It is essentially a blueprint for the next-generation network, laying out new architectural approaches such as user profiles that are shared between multiple IP applications. The IMS architecture ultimately provides for access- and network-agnostic IP applications; with a full implementation, a service provider can deliver multimedia services to both fixed and mobile users using any IP enabled device. The end result is the enhancement of the user experience and improved profitability, thanks to new sources of revenue from integrated services.

Session leader Manuel Vexler, vice president of the IMS Forum (formerly IPCC) and CTO at CopperCom, noted that while the standards governing IMS still are being developed, the framework already is gaining mindshare in marketing and technical planning departments, across all types of service providers.

At its core, IMS reconciles the evolution of multimedia consumer devices with network architectures providing differentiated classes of services,Vexler said. There are multiple standards organizations involved in the development of IMS, and there is still work to be done; however, the consensus on the OPEX and CAPEX savings is already there.

Payam Maveddat, a presenter and assistant vice president of wireless switching at Tekelec, said the challenges the operators are facing with IMS have to do with the migration strategy. Operators want the transition to be seamless, while taking advantage of the investments they have made in existing infrastructure.

For instance, mobile carriers are very keen to maintain their HLRs in their network, and have limited interest in moving to HSS directly, said Maveddat. Many carriers have IN-based prepaid systems that they want to use in both domains.

In parallel, having these new services provides challenges when it comes to network management. Operators will face the issue of providing SLAs for various offers and will have to design their access and transport networks to meet the demand and capacity requirements.

There are other concerns as well. Meanwhile, billing, the life blood of the carriers, becomes a major challenge, Maveddat added. Billing integration becomes a significant undertaking for the carriers, especially for new services that are not well known or may cut across various boundaries. As a result, the winning solution must take into account the seamless transition from the existing infrastructure to IMS, minimizing the impact on the carriers and end users.

Other presenters in todays discussion include Aaron Sipper, vice president of product strategy at sentitO Networks Inc., a provider of VoIP gateways and signaling platforms; and Matt Byrd, director of product marketing at MetaSwitch, which has a full IMS-ready portfolio of switches to support multimedia-enhanced IP services, such as IPTV.


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