Is IMS Necessary?


Is IMS Necessary?  
IMS, or IP Multimedia Subsystem, is often touted as a must-have network evolution for mobile operators that want to derive value from future applications. The goal of IMS is to replace the operator's current back-end network architecture with an all IP-based system making it easier to deploy applications. (For more the IMS standard, see Andy Seybold's commentary below).

Now that operators are starting to deploy IMS there has been a slight change in its perception. For example, not every advanced application needs IMS to be a success. Ken Rehbehn, analyst with Rehbehn Associates, says that some applications (particularly those that carriers don't want to have visibility into the network) don't need IMS. "I think there is a decreased expectation that if there's an application, it will be IMS," Rehbehn says. "Operators will still have applications that are not on IMS."

When I first started hearing about IMS, it was usually talked about in conjunction with push-to-talk and video sharing. Those applications, Rehbehn says, will definitely benefit from IMS as will any secure payment application. "Operators have very sophisticated billing systems in place," Rehbehn says. "IMS provides a wonderful framework for micropayments."

IMS is also critical for quality of service. Rehbehn says that IMS will allow service providers to juggle different levels of service quality. For example, certain streams of content (multimedia) may be designated a higher priority, other streams that don't require as much quality control will have a lower designation. 

Of course, some of the most compelling IMS applications-such as video sharing, push to video, etc. are big bandwidth hogs. According to iGR Research, IMS application usage will likely result in an increase in bandwidth consumption beginning in 2008. In fact, iGR is forecasting that total bandwidth used by mobile subscribers in the U.S. will double by 2011 with "light" subscribers increasing their usage from 6.3 Mb per month in 2007 to 22 Mb per month in 2011.

So while IMS may not be a necessity for all applications, it seems certain that mobile operators will benefit from the efficiencies IMS offers. Wireless carriers have long been looking for a streamlined way to deliver compelling applications and the IMS framework seems like a natural progression.

We'll be delving into all the various angles on IMS deployments at our IMS 2007 conference in Washington, D.C. Sept. 19-20.  Join me and my colleague Dan O'Shea of FierceTelecom as we chair the two-day event which will feature key speakers from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Cox Communications and more. Here's a link to the agenda. -Sue