Are you surprised by the title? Well, that is really how I see things as it stands today. Based on my discussions with most OEMs and ISVs who have themselves been trialing all over the world for a few years now, we are just about at the phase when most trials are getting out into real deployment. Incidentally, incase you think that IMS all-IP ‘live’ deployments have not yet happened, think again. Remember, in 2006, there was an announcement that Wateem Telecom selected Motorola for a wimax deployment ? Well, that network does data and is ready for voice. Not sure if you knew, but that entire network is over an IMS subsystem (yes, you guessed it – WiMAX on its own is not a session specific architecture, while IMS is, so it makes sense to have IMS on WiMAX, huh ?). And yes, I mean R5+, which is all IP for both signaling and media.
Several green field operators are already deploying or have deployed IMS driven networks (we work with many of them), but very few are touting the IMS name around right now, since IMS has been a long used, much abused and somewhat delayed technology. But make no mistake, IMS powered networks are on the rise. Based on my discussions with several players, IMS deployments are on a steep rise, partly also due to ongoing WiMAX trials. It is worthy to note that most of the WiMAX trials today are to do with ‘high speed data’ and not voice. In other words, WiMAX as it stands today, and defined by WiMAX Forum is only at the IP-CAN level – all the blazing speed for an internet connection. But not voice calls, voice features or the other session level services. And please, don’t tell me “why do we need anything? P2P solves everything!”. Well it doesn’t. You need centralized services for technical and non-technical reasons. For example:
a) Technical: How on earth you do reliably implement a voice mail system and retrieve it when a person is offline ? What happens if the peer node who stored your VM is offline when you come online ?
b) Technical: How do you implement feature interaction ? (example A forwards to B to C, but by mistake C sets a forward to A) since in a P2P network no one has an idea of what service the other has provisioned
c) Technical: How do you implement dial-plans?
d) Non-Technical: What do you do if your “spectrum provider” (you know, in a wireless world, someone is paying for expensive spectrum) blocks VoIP ?
And again, this goes back to my original statement I had made in an earlier post – “IMS is the only architecture that is out there today which supports mobile, fixed and nomadic networks” from a session, policy and interworking perspective. Admittedly some of these areas are still ‘in progress’ from a standards perspective, but it’s the farthest out there in terms of maturity. It was also good to know that Verizon has decided to open up A-IMS and push it to standards bodies. A lot of vendors and operators have done good (but till date proprietary) work on enhancing IMS and filling in gaps, so it is good to see it get more public.
And finally, if you are wondering about my post because you hardly hear IMS being talked about today, this is because we are in the stage between “Hype is Over” to “Deployment is reality”. Here is how is describe it to many: