Is IMS Dead?


Is IMS Dead?

IP multimedia subsystem, or IMS, the technology that every vendor was touting two years ago, has fallen off the industry priority list. At this week's FierceMarkets IMS Executive Summit in Washington, D.C., all the Tier 1 wireline and wireless operators present (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and US Cellular) talked about how important IMS was to their network but they also pinpointed several serious gaps in the technology that must be resolved before they can move forward.

While the technology is certainly not dead, you could say it is in critical condition. During a roundtable discussion with industry analysts yesterday at the IMS Summit, Akshay Sharma, research director, carrier network infrastructure, converged infrastructure at Gartner Dataquest summed up his view of IMS by saying that the technology is currently in the "trough of dissolution."  He said that operators and vendors have realized that it's much more difficult to deploy IMS than originally anticipated and many are getting frustrated with its slow pace. However, he added that he expects the technology will soon move to the "plateau of productivity" where applications will start being commercially deployed and operators will make slow and steady progress toward having a simpler backend network architecture based on routers and IP soft switches

One big issue is in the billing systems and OSS. Most IMS applications that are being tested or launched by operators remain in separate silos and haven't developed to be the fully converged solutions that most envisioned when IMS was first conceptualized. The OSS and billing system integration is necessary to make this happen but many operators have multiple billing systems making this a complex and costly proposition.

Another common complaint is about IMS standards, or lack of them. I heard this week repeatedly that some standards exist while others are still in development and without a resolution most operators are hesitant to move forward. This issue is particularly a problem for smaller Tier 2 operators that can't afford to deploy proprietary IMS elements in their network.

When asked where they thought the industry would stand with regard to IMS at this time next year, all analysts agreed that progress would be minimal and most believed that we would be having many of the same discussions that we are having today. In the fast-moving world of technology, this is a bleak prognosis for a technology that was supposed to revolutionize the telecom network and reduce telco infrastructure costs. -Sue