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White Paper

Meet Economic and Technological


Challenges through IMS
A next generation network that solves operational
difficulties facing today’s telecommunications operators

By Lou Grilli, Syniverse Technology Manager

This white paper:


• Discusses the business and technological challenges faced by today's
operators and explains how IMS can overcome those difficulties.
• Provides an overview of IMS technology and how it developed.
• Explains the economic benefits to be realized from the IMS framework.
• Addresses industry concerns with pragmatic information about the reality
of IMS today.

Syniverse Technologies — www.syniverse.com


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 1

THE HIGH-LLEVEL DEFINITION 2

THE MARCH TOWARD STANDARDIZATION 2

A PROBLEM-S
SOLVING SOLUTION 4

THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND IMS 5

ECONOMIC IMPACT FOR OPERATORS 9

INDUSTRY CHATTER VS. REALITY 11

CONCLUSION 14

GLOSSARY 15

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INTRODUCTION
Telecommunications subscribers today are a technically savvy group with a long list
of wishes for their providers. Some of those wishes include:

• Instantaneous communication.
• Immediate access to new, enhanced services that increase productivity.
• Ubiquity of services across network providers.
• Access to advanced services that all work the same – whether at home, at
work or on the road and whether utilizing wireline, wireless or cable systems
in either a home or roam network.
• Access to voice, Internet, multimedia, productivity, education, entertainment
and other communication functions on a single device.
• The ability to know if a family member, friend, co-worker or other “buddy
list” contact is available, where that person is and how that person wants to
be contacted.
• Bundled services all on one bill.

Furthermore, today’s subscribers can be fickle and are not averse to leaving one
operator to join an alternate provider that offers newer, faster or more advanced
services.

Additional challenges facing telecommunications service providers come from the


business side of the coin. Some of those challenges include:

• Counteracting new or increased competition from other wireless, fixed and


cable operators with differentiated services.
• Offsetting brand erosion from mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs)
and resellers by providing more “sticky” services.
• Countering the threat of declining average revenue per user (ARPU) by
quickly rolling out higher-value services.

Fortunately, the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) provides an architectural framework


that gives all telecommunications operators – wireline, wireless and cable – the
means to cost-effectively manage the increasingly complex issues that must be
resolved to meet subscriber demands, preserve market share and increase revenue.

For consumers, IMS enables a consistent user experience in the look, feel and
behavior of applications as a consumer moves from home to road to office. This
user-centric paradigm brings together a consumer’s mobility domain (on the go),
enterprise domain (at work), residential domain (in the home) and wireless domain
(when remote).

For operators, IMS is a standards-based delivery infrastructure that will ease the
migration to fully converged communications and enable a multi-vendor
environment, provide for quicker roll-out of new services and applications, allow
interoperability between servers, and increase revenue.

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THE HIGH-LEVEL DEFINITION
What is IMS? It’s easier to start with what IMS is not. IMS is not a new product, not a
new technology, not a new protocol. IMS is not something end users will be able to
see or even know about, although they will notice the new services enabled by IMS.

IMS is a framework architecture – a definition of capabilities specified in a set of 3rd


Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) documents that defines components, services
and interfaces for next generation networks (NGN). It uses Voice over IP (VoIP)
implementation based on a 3GPP standardized implementation of session initiation
protocol (SIP), and it runs over the standard Internet protocol (IP). Connectivity with
existing phone systems – both packet-switched and circuit-switched – is supported
and, because IMS is access agnostic, it allows operators to use different underlying
network architectures. Furthermore, telecommunications operators are able to
provide both mobile and fixed multimedia services.

The primary driver behind IMS is the ongoing, cost-driven and, ultimately, inevitable
move away from circuit-switched services toward IP packet-based services. With IMS
there is no such thing as “voice” – everything is data, whether that data is
exchanged via multimedia messages, conference or chat sessions, text messages, or
traditional conversations between two people. Granted, voice service can be billed
differently from other data sessions, and quality of service (QoS) for voice can be
dictated differently than other data services, but the bottom line is that all
exchanges are exchanges of IP data.

IMS is not entirely new; in fact, it incorporates many existing network concepts and
standards, such as VoIP, SIP signaling, IPv6, presence, call redirection and multimedia
services. What the new framework does is draw together call control and service
provisions into a horizontally integrated system that allows new services and
combinations of services (e.g., presence list, rich call group chat, Push-to-Talk,
multimedia advertising, instant messaging, multiparty gaming) to be developed and
deployed by mobile and fixed network operators in shorter time cycles and with
greater interoperability.

THE MARCH TOWARD STANDARDIZATION


The first step in the development of IMS came about when the Universal Mobile
Telecommunications System (UMTS), as it moved toward an all-IP network, saw the
need to coordinate its efforts and standardize protocols and network elements.
3GGP, the standards body responsible for GSM standards, was chosen to provide
leadership in the development of the next generation of network standards.

The first effort to establish a formal definition of a wireless IP network was provided
in 3GPP Release 4, which separated the mobile network into circuit-switched and
packet-switched domains. This release specified basic IP connectivity between a
UMTS operator and external IP networks. Later, 3GPP Release 5 proposed the first

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version of IMS and allowed a UMTS operator to provide all services, end-to-end,
over IP. In a general way, Release 5 described IMS, SIP and the desirability of end-to-
end QoS as part of the “all IP” future. It also provided descriptions of VoIP services.

The current 3GPP Release 6 acknowledges and includes the requirements of fixed
and CDMA operators. It also defines mechanisms for providing services over
multiple bearer channels and defines interconnection to the public switched
telephone network (PSTN). Additionally, Release 6 formally adopts SIP and Diameter
definitions as its core, and defines the following four major IMS building blocks:

• all-IP core network


• all-IP radio access network (RAN)
• multimedia call control based on SIP
• QoS support for IP

3GPP Release 7 is now in committee and, in its present form, adds new functionality,
defines fixed broadband access via IMS, deals with policy issues, specifies voice call
handover between cable and WLAN/IMS systems, and standardizes end-to-end QoS.

3GPP also has created a roadmap directing how to introduce IMS to a packet-
switched network and how to begin migrating away from circuit-switched services.

The effort to implement IMS as the definitive industry-wide standard for a converged
network is faced with the separate efforts of other telecommunication organizations
that are working on their own versions. The MultiMedia Domain (MMD), an effort by
the 3GPP2 organization for third generation CDMA2000 networks, is intended to
mirror and be interoperable with IMS but with definite distinctions. The primary
differences are mainly in the implementation of the wireless packet network (a
1XRTT/EV-DO network versus a GPRS network centered on SGSN and GGSN), in the
RAN (CDMA versus GSM air interface differences) and in the use of IPv6 (required
for IMS but optional in MMD).

Fixed operators and cable operators also have embarked on standardization efforts.
In the United States, cable multiple systems operators (MSOs) have shown interest in
IMS by adopting a significant portion, but not all, of the IMS standard as part of the
CableLabs PacketCable 2.0 initiative. Meanwhile, fixed operators outside of North
America have turned to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute‘s
(ETSI) standardization committee, the Telecoms & Internet Converged Services &
Protocols for Advanced Networks (TISPAN), for a version of IMS. The result is a
TISPAN NGN definition heavily reliant on IMS specifications but geared toward
wireline operator implementation. North American fixed operators have gathered
together as the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and
documented their own NGN definition, which borrows significantly from TISPAN but
has additional variations.

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Each of these versions of what generically are considered “third” generation or
“next” generation networks have remarkable similarities – they are all based on the
same common thread of IP protocols (primarily SIP and Diameter) and they all
adhere to the same principals (converged networks, three-layer architecture, network
abstraction). On the other hand, they also all differ in some subtle and not-so-subtle
ways in the manner of interconnecting networks, in the way billing information is
exchanged and in numerous other network capabilities.

The bottom line is that while IMS and its cable, fixed and CDMA alternative versions
move all telecommunications service providers much closer toward the goal of
converged networks, there still is room for third-party vendors to provide
interoperability services to connect separate networks and resolve the differences
among the various standards.

A PROBLEM-SOLVING SOLUTION
There are several problems inherent in today’s networks that will benefit from a
move to the open-standard computing platform of IMS. Those problems include:

High cost of developing new applications and services for operators who are trying
to remain competitive.
Today, each newly developed application requires separate development of
functions that must be included in all new applications and services. Examples of
these common functions include billing, reporting, user interface and presence
management. Having to replicate the development of these functions for each and
every offering is a time-consuming and expensive process. Furthermore, new
services take longer to get to the revenue-generating end user. IMS solves this
problem by using standards-based functions that are reused rather than replicated
each time a new application or service is developed.

Lack of interoperability among operators offering the same services.


Normally, the first objective of operators is to roll out new services as quickly as
possible, both to keep subscribers interested and to increase revenue. Second and
third objectives are to provide subscribers the ability to use the service while
roaming and, sometimes much later in the process, the ability to use the new service
in conjunction with subscribers on another network.

For example, today many operators offer Push-to-Talk (PTT) service. Nextel was the
first to do so and set the standard for subscriber expectations regarding quick set up
and voice quality. Sprint (pre-Nextel) and Verizon then both rolled out Push-to-Talk
over Cellular (PoC) using their respective packet networks, and Alltel has PTT over its
circuit-switched network. However, Alltel subscribers can’t PTT with Verizon or
Nextel, and Nextel cannot PTT with Verizon, and so on. This lack of interoperability
hampers the uptake of this valuable application much in the same way text
messaging didn’t take off in the United States until operators used gateways to

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allow subscribers from one network to message with subscribers of another network.
Multimedia messaging is following the same slow course of acceptance and usage
because of the same interoperability issues.
However, the technology-agnostic framework proposed by IMS resolves, in advance,
these interoperability issues. In the case of PTT, subscribers on one network would
have the ability to immediately add a “buddy list” of PTT subscribers from another
network. The benefit for operators is increased income from faster acceptance and
increased use of newly rolled out services.

Inability to take advantage of converged networks.


One of the promises of IMS is the concept of converged networks. At one time,
fixed voice access, fixed broadband access using DSL, Wi-Fi, mobile packet
networks and more were all isolated from each other and typically provided by
different service providers. IMS allows the subscriber to gain network access and use
the same applications, regardless of the media. This means an operator has the
potential for many additional roaming partners, including non-mobile partners.

THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND IMS


There are several technological advantages when implementing an IMS service
model versus the current “stovepipe” service model. In the stovepipe model used
by most networks today and illustrated in Figure 1, applications stand alone and the
development of and access to each application is done independently of other
applications. There is no sharing of resources, even when the same sorts of
resources are required for each “pipe.” As a result, common service capabilities and
access technologies must be replicated for each application developed.

Mobile TV Multiplayer PTT/


Interactive
PoC
Gaming

Billing Billing

X X
Billing

QoS QoS QoS

Presence Presence Presence

NETWORK
Figure 1: Current “stovepipe” application/services architecture.

Each time an operator decides to develop a new service, such as mobile TV,
engineers working on the project also must develop the ancillary resources needed

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to enable the new service. These essential resources or elements include items such
as billing, QoS, presence/availability and more. Then when the same operator rolls
out a different new service, such as a multi-player interactive game, the same
ancillary resources (i.e, billing, QoS, presence/availability) need to be developed
once again for the new game application. This time-consuming and expensive
development process must take place for each new application. One of the many
goals of IMS is to provide the necessary resources to all applications in a
standardized fashion through the application servers.

The IMS service model, as illustrated in Figure 2, can be viewed as a multi-


dimensional model with three layers, or planes – the application plane, the control
plane and the transport plane. The way the elements of each plane are developed
using standards-based, technology-agnostic criteria addresses several difficulties
inherent in the traditional stovepipe model. The result is that IMS allows for the
integration of individual, standards-based components that can be mixed and
matched as needed or desired. In addition, the architecture separates support for a
specific device from the services available, allowing common functions to be
reutilized rather than replicated. The end result is significant time savings from
cutting implementation time in half, as some lab trials have shown. And if time
equals money, reducing time ultimately reduces cost.

Mobile Multiplayer/ PTT/


Interactive
TV PoC
Gaming

} Application
Plane
ING
BILL
QoS } Control
Plane

ENCE
PRE S
} Transport
Plane

Figure 2: IMS application/services architecture. Capabilities the applications require, such as


billing, QoS and presence, are integrated into the overall IMS architecture, thus alleviating
the requirement to build them separately into each application.

IMS also allows for the convergence of wireline and wireless technologies. IMS is
access agnostic and offers the same framework for any kind of access (wireless,
wireline, cable) and for any type of data (VoIP, data, multimedia). Figure 3 on the
next page illustrates each layer and indicates how the architecture provides a level
of abstraction to the layer below it, simplifying implementation and connectivity.

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AS AS AS
Application
Servers (AS)
(reutilize common APPLICATION PLANE
functions)

Session
Management HSS
& Control CSCF CONTROL PLANE

Access
Agnostic TRANSPORT PLANE

Cable Network Wi-Fi DSL Network

GPRS, Edge, WiMAX


1xRTT, EV-DO

Figure 3: The three IMS layers.

The Applications Plane


The applications plane in IMS has application servers (AS) but not actual
applications. An application developer creates the application, and the AS provides
the application-common functions, such as generation of billing information,
management of presence and subscriber availability, guaranteed voice-level QoS
and more, that are needed by all applications in the IMS environment. One of the
intents, and hence benefits, of IMS is that these common resources necessary to the
development of the applications are provided by the IMS network in a standardized
way. The basic premise is to “build once, use many times” by decoupling the shared
services from the infrastructure. Taking advantage of the shared, standards-based
resources saves time and development expenditures, allowing operators to make
new applications available quicker and at a reduced cost.

The Control Plane


The core of the IMS network is the control plane. What was called the “switch” in
older networks is called the call session control function (CSCF) in IMS. The CSCF is
a softswitch that processes signaling using the SIP protocol. The application servers
in the application plane above the CSCF do all the communication work. The CSCF,
which is basically a SIP server and media controller, handles inbound and outbound
traffic and, as far as the application is concerned, takes care of any necessary circuit-
switched-to-IP conversions. From the CSCF’s point of view, the specific media type
(RAN, Wi-Fi, DSL, etc.) is all an abstraction that is taken care of in the transport
plane.

The control plane also has another important difference from today’s legacy network
architecture. The older home location register (HLR) has morphed into an all-IP

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database called the home subscriber server (HSS). The HSS database contains a lot
more information than the traditional HLR database. The HSS determines such
things as user location and availability, and it also performs authentication and
authorization functions. Furthermore, the HSS may be implemented using
commodity hardware rather than purpose-built network equipment, and it uses less
expensive off-the-shelf software. And the subscriber database contained in the
logical HSS can be distributed across multiple physical databases.

One of the most significant differences – and biggest cost savings – is that in the
IMS framework, switches and subscriber databases are all based on IP protocols,
specifically SIP. Network connections using IP rather than SS7 connections are much
less expensive.

The Transport Plane


In today's networks, the intelligence of the network, such as switches and the HLR, is
tied to the type of network. The result is that GSM HLRs only work with GSM
networks, CDMA authentication only works with CDMA networks, etc. One of the
visions of NGNs is that the intelligence of the network (i.e., switching and control
functions, subscriber database, authentication and authorization, etc.) looks and
behaves the same, regardless of the type of media used to access it. In IMS, the
transport plane provides this layer of abstraction for various access methods.

Both subscribers and operators will benefit as the industry moves a step closer to
the goal of one network anywhere, anytime, anyplace. This is because the network,
based on a common set of protocols (primarily SIP and Diameter), functions the
same using any underlying media type. The transport plane takes care of any special
needs for the device, such as handing off a mobile subscriber from site to site. Thus,
an application appears and behaves the same to the subscriber, no matter what type
of device is being used at the time.

Taking advantage of all this, the subscriber would have access to her network and
associated applications and services, such as catching up on missed episodes of
"Lost" or checking scores for her fantasy football league, from her home network –
whether she is on a train on her mobile phone, at home on a Wi-Fi access device or
at work on a fixed broadband connection. Additionally, this access-agnostic
architecture would allow this subscriber the ability to view her home digital video
recorder from her mobile phone, from her laptop on a Wi-Fi access point, from her
hotel Internet connection or, in the future, from her WiMAX or other broadband
connection.

The service provider who would benefit from this access-agnostic architecture will be
the one who offers multiple access avenues, such as a mobile operator who also
offers Wi-Fi and fixed broadband access, or the fixed operator with DSL lines who
may have cable properties and may also offer mobile service and Wi-Fi hotspots.

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ECONOMIC IMPACT FOR OPERATORS

IMS Premium Beyond resolving a plethora of technical challenges inherent in today’s stovepipe
Services architectures, IMS’s biggest impact as the telecommunications industry moves
Presence toward converged communications is the economic benefits. Today’s market for
Management: wireless services is becoming crowded. Several cable operators have joined together
Know if and how
people are avail- to offer mobile services bundled with broadband access branded under their own
able to communi-
cate across
names. Many MVNOs, including Disney, Virgin and ESPN, have started offering
devices. targeted services. While all this traffic is still being delivered on the underlying
Video Streaming: network operator’s physical network, the ARPU for this traffic is lower – in some
Share video cases, significantly lower – than if these were the network operator’s own customers.
streaming files
with others; view In addition, brand erosion is occurring as consumers are blurred to the distinction
video stream files between the real network provider and the brand owner from which the consumer
from the Web or
other device. purchased the service. All this impacts an operator in the wallet.
Multi-party
Gaming: Play Economic benefits of migrating to IMS will manifest themselves in several ways,
interactively with
one or many including:
people.

Location Additional revenue streams.


Services: Ability
to retrieve location Already the trend is away from revenue produced by basic connectivity toward
specific info. revenue derived from next generation and high revenue-producing premium
Multimedia IM: services and applications made possible by IMS’s ability to integrate voice, data and
Send/receive text content services. Also, the use of a flexible platform enables service providers to
messages, graph-
ics or prerecorded build their own services or mix-and-match applications for a custom suite. End-user
audio/video clips
to/from other
opt-in to premium services will increase both ARPU and overall minutes of usage or,
users in near real- more appropriately, “megabytes of usage” in the IMS world of data.
time.

Video Cost savings from reduced operating and capital expenses.


Telephony:
Synchronize a The cost savings for mobile operators who move toward an all-IP IMS-standardized
video and audio
session with network are considerable and come in a variety of forms, including:
another user.

Rich Call Group • A lower cost associated with implementing new technologies – IMS provides
Chat: Have a shared, standardized protocols and a decomposed architecture (build once,
voice session with
multiple users use many times), so the time and expense needed to develop new
sharing text,
graphics and
applications and services are greatly reduced.
pictures. • Less expensive hardware platforms – With IMS, operators have the capability
Mobile Video to use less expensive, commercial hardware platforms (i.e., Unix box or
Conferencing: blade server) rather than purpose-built platforms for things such as a mobile
Conduct real-time
video session switching center or HLR.
between two or • Less expensive software development – Instead of having to pay for
more users in
a mobile specially designed proprietary service control point application software
environment. required for the complex workings of a switch, operators are able to
Personalized purchase and deploy less expensive, platform-independent Java
Info Services:
Get personalized
programming software.
content delivery • Less expensive support – Maintaining today’s complex networks requires
based on user
profile. complex monitoring and support tools. Likewise, the training to maintain the

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specialized skill sets required to support the networks can be costly and
time consuming. Moving to commodity networks and common protocols of
IMS will ease finding and maintaining the skill sets necessary for network
support.
• Less staff for support and administration of this equipment – By leveraging
common protocols and equipment, support staff can be more productive
and proactive to supporting the network. Efficiencies in support staff can
also be gained using commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software
platforms.
• Lower maintenance costs – Older equipment prevalent in today’s network
typically carries hefty maintenance costs, despite being paid for and
depreciated. Additionally, some of the software in use today is no longer
supported by the original vendor, creating additional support issues. Newer
equipment and systems, even after taking into account initial purchase
costs, have a short-term payback period due to significantly lower support
costs. In many cases, maintenance costs for new hardware and software
components can be 10 to 40 percent less than existing equipment, which
puts the IMS network on a more favorable curve, as seen in Figure 4. Once
the legacy equipment is phased out, the operator can immediately start
recognizing lower maintenance costs.

Initial investment of IMS network


Ongoing cost of ownership

Existing legacy network costs


(fully depreciated)

Estimated 10% to 40%


lower support costs

Today Future
Figure 4: Estimated legacy vs. IMS network support cost savings.

Lower risk profile.


Because new applications can be introduced with minimal deployment time, effort
and expense, the payback period is shorter and the risk of launching new services is
minimized.

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Less churn.
Customer loyalty increases when one operator can deliver lifestyle voice and data
services and when the customer has access to new applications and services with no
delay and no interoperability concerns. Because IMS enables rapid service creation
via simple modular elements, the result is faster time to market and satisfaction of
consumer demand.

Preserved roaming revenue.


With today’s networks, operators risk losing roaming revenue to VoIP providers,
especially when connecting through Wi-Fi access points. The emergence of mobile
devices like handsets and smartphones that take advantage of Wi-Fi will drive
subscribers to use Wi-Fi when sitting in one place, such as at home, in a coffee shop
or at a convention. Wi-Fi service also will be offered by third-party, non-operator
vendors. Mobile service providers can preempt this movement by forming
agreements with Wi-Fi providers and allowing subscribers to access the Wi-Fi
service, with billing and security provided by the mobile operator. This will enable
subscribers to continue to access applications from their mobile phones or
smartphones the same, whether on their cellular network or in a local access point.

INDUSTRY CHATTER VS. REALITY


Chatter: Most deployed IMS services are just trials. Furthermore, commercial
applications are centered on a single application or a small group of applications,
such as PTT and video.
Reality: It is true there is no full IMS commercial production network today, and trials
are limited or are only implementations of single applications. However, since a new
network is a significant investment, operators are especially careful before rolling out
anything widespread to ensure the viability of these new capabilities, user
acceptance, QoS and operational issues. Actually, IMS acceptance will really be no
different than it was for the roll-out of digital networks when there was only analog.
Eventually all voice and multimedia communications, both mobile and fixed, will
move to flexible, IP-based technologies and replace current circuit-switched
technologies. IMS is the evolution path for softswitch architecture.

Chatter: IMS is an “all or nothing” architecture.


Reality: This is not true. Fortunately, the migration to IMS can occur in a piecemeal
fashion and be easily phased in by integrating circuit-based technologies, preserving
existing billing systems, etc. Operators can pick and choose which elements to
implement, so the migration to IMS can be gradual and deliberate with a focus on
the elements that make the most technological and fiscal sense. Furthermore, there
is no definition of mandatory versus optional functions. This means a network can
evolve from today’s intelligent network (IN)-based, circuit-switched paradigm to the
IMS model over time and with minimal pain.

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Chatter: The return on investment for moving to the IMS architecture is just not high
enough to justify the changeover.
Reality: The cost for a complete replacement of an existing and, in most cases,
depreciated network with a brand new from-the-ground-up IP-based network
certainly cannot be cost-justified by the incremental revenue derived from additional
services or from the cost savings in maintenance and support. As just discussed in
the previous point, IMS should not be looked at as a wholesale replacement of an
existing network. Instead, the move to IMS is best made in small increments (e.g.,
adding IP capability in the form of a softswitch alongside the existing mobile
switching center or adding VoIP and multimedia alongside existing voice circuits),
and each upgrade can then be justified independently. From a high level, IMS works
as a set of standards to guide these incremental upgrades so that as operators
evolve their networks, they do so in a manner that facilitates interoperability with
other operators.

Chatter: There are 1.8 billion mobile phones in the world today, almost all controlled
by IN-based circuit switches. Even new 3G-324M mobile video telephony services
are run over 64 kbps circuit-switched data service. There is no economic justification
for replacing this circuit-switching equipment.
Reality: It is true there is limited availability of IMS user equipment, specifically SIP
clients on mobile devices. This will change, though. Remember that at one point
when operators started discussing countering fraud using authentication, no phones
were authentication-capable. However, driven by the operators, a complete change-
out of handsets occurred in a matter of a few years. The same process will take place
for IMS-enabled devices.

Chatter: Despite the goal of IMS to enable many competitors, it is the incumbents
who are typically winning IMS deals.
Reality: It does seem that a handful of vendors, the same vendors who have always
led the industry, are making headlines with big contracts. However, a number of
start-up companies, many never seen in the telecommunications industry, have
stepped up to fill niches in the IMS playing field. While some of these new entrants
will settle out over time or be merged into larger players, it has given operators the
opportunity to be introduced to new technologies from many new players.

Chatter: 3GPP R5 introduced many of the basic concepts which make up an IMS-
compliant network; however, R5 is still not deployed in most 3G networks.
Furthermore, IMS has been/is being further refined in several revisions, none of
which are “fully baked” at this point, and additional revisions will emerge over the
next decade. Also, much work remains in standards committees. ETSI and the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are looking at PSTN simulation versus
emulation, and some vendors are pushing to require SIP instead of H.248 as the
media server interface while other vendors continue to oppose this change. It’s
unlikely that any standards will ever be agreed upon.
Reality: Tackling such a daunting task as defining a completely IP-based framework,
starting with large and general descriptions covering every aspect of the network,

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inevitably requires on-going work, refinement, change requests and addendum. It
also is inevitable that mistakes and omissions have or will be found and need
correction. Simply put, the various releases are just steps in the migration toward full
implementation of NGNs. Remember, any new protocol, technology, standard or
architecture goes through changes as it is refined and implemented. For example,
the original protocol specifications for GSM MAP signaling looked very different
than they do now, the ANSI-41 protocol for many years was considered an “interim
standard” (hence the notation IS-41 Rev A/Rev B/Rev C) and we are in the midst of
witnessing the evolution of Wi-Fi (the 802.11a/b/g/n series). Furthermore, friction is
undeniable between the TISPAN and 3GPP efforts to define one efficient network
that will meet very divergent business models. And neither ITU nor 3GPP have a
reputation for rapid standards development. Even if everyone agrees to some
selected subset of IMS to pursue, the telecommunications industry has a history of
forking on technical advancements as innovation keeps outrunning the standards
process. However, everyone is used to multiple variations and, most importantly, the
goals of all the groups involved are in harmony – to create an operator-friendly
environment for real-time, packet-based calls and services that not only will preserve
traditional carrier controls over user signaling and usage-based billing but also will
generate new revenue at reduced implementation costs.

Chatter: Everyone is getting all hyped up about IMS and it isn’t even here yet. Also,
there are plenty of technological alternatives to IMS.
Reality: Despite industry enthusiasm about and anticipation of IMS, especially its
technological convergence aspect, IMS in its present form is not a given. And it is
true that IMS implementation is not a necessity for today’s applications. Cable
operators do not need to operate an IMS-compliant network to offer voice over their
cable networks; likewise, fixed network operators do not need IMS to offer video.
Mobile operators are providing video calls to subscribers using 64K time division
multiplexing (TDM) connections, a technology that transmits multiple signals
simultaneously over a single transmission path. And PTT, which emerged as one of
the biggest reasons to move to IMS, is done today in the proprietary-integrated
digital enhanced network (iDEN), a wireless communications technology that
provides support for voice, data, short messages (SMS) and dispatch (two-way) radio
in one phone with excellent results. However, operators will need new applications
with new revenue streams – applications that will not be easy to develop without
IMS. Additionally, not accepting IMS or its eventual evolution will mean a
continuation of the lack of interoperability. So although IMS is not a full-fledged
architecture as of today, the desire for interoperability and the quest for increased
revenue will continue the push to make IMS a working reality within the next two to
four years.

Chatter: Significant differences exist among NGN versions developed by 3GPP,


3GPP2, CableLabs and TISPAN. Therefore, a fully converged network is nearly
impossible.
Reality: Although underlying similarities exist among the different NGN versions, the
differences are still considerable. So, yes, the dream of a fully converged network

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across the board is something that remains elusive for the time being. However,
these differences are not a reason to summarily dismiss a migration to an IMS
architecture. IMS, as an NGN, is coming, and operators will find ways to bridge
interoperability issues among networks – just as they do now. Fortunately,
companies already are working on services that will connect all networks and resolve
the differences among the various standards.

CONCLUSION
There is no doubt IMS is the coming standards-based NGN architecture of choice in
both the technological and economical arenas for today’s wireless, wireline and
broadband operators. The primary driver behind IMS is a move away from circuit-
switched services toward IP packet-based services. However, IMS will support both
systems. And because the framework is access agnostic, IMS allows operators to
continue to use different underlying network architectures.

As expected, IMS responds to and solves many of the industry’s biggest


technological challenges, including the lack of interoperability among operators who
offer the same services and the inability of operators to take advantage of
converged networks.

More importantly, IMS creates definite economic rewards, including:

• Additional revenue streams.


• Cost savings from reduced operating and capital expenses.
• Lower development costs for new applications and services.
• Lower risk profile for deploying new applications.
• Less churn.
• Preserved roaming revenue.

Although the migration to IP and packet networks is well underway, that journey is
taking place in several different ways by different standards committees. The result is
that the differences between IMS versions are significant enough so that
interoperability issues will likely continue to be problematic, and operators will need
to find ways to overcome these issues. Fortunately, as has been the case in the past,
operators will be able to find solutions from third parties that will help solve the
interoperability challenges.

Finally, IMS implementation should be viewed as a strategy of migration rather than


replacement of an entire network. Operators can pick and choose which elements to
implement, so the migration to IMS can be gradual and deliberate with a focus first
on the elements that make the most technological and fiscal sense. In essence, IMS
can be viewed as a roadmap for operators to use to guide them through an
evolution to fully converged communications – a process that is already underway.

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GLOSSARY
3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project): Group set up to produce globally
applicable technical specifications and technical reports for a 3rd Generation Mobile
System based on evolved GSM-core networks. It produced the standards for W-
CDMA (UMTS). The scope of the 3GPP was later widened to include the
maintenance and development of GSM technical specifications and reports.

3GPP2 (3rd Generation Partnership Project 2): Counterpart of 3GPP, with


responsibility for standardizing the CDMA2000-based members of the IMT-2000
family. 3GPP2 is spearheaded by ANSI.

AS (Application Server): IMS-compliant, SIP-based multimedia application servers


host and execute value-added multimedia services, such as network games, video
content, PTT, instant messaging, presence, etc.

CSCF (Call Session Control Function): SIP proxy server that provides call control
similar to a VoIP softswitch, although a CSCF uses 3GPP-specific SIP extensions.
There are three different types of CSCFs: A proxy CSCF is a SIP proxy that provides
subscriber access to network-based voice and multimedia services; it front-ends the
serving CSCF. A serving CSCF is the primary call controller for the operator network.
The interrogating CSCF is another SIP proxy optionally used by the operator to hide
internal configurations.

Diameter: The AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) protocol for


applications such as network access or IP mobility. The basic concept is to provide a
base protocol that can be extended in order to provide AAA services to new access
technologies. Diameter is intended to work in both local and roaming AAA
situations. The name is a pun on the RADIUS protocol, which is its predecessor (a
diameter is twice the radius). Diameter is not directly backwards compatible but
provides an upgrade path for RADIUS.

FMC (Fixed-M Mobile Convergence): The delivery of communications services based


on a combination of fixed and wireless technologies. FMC’s intent is to make
available a wide range of services through a single telecommunications network
foundation.

HSS (Home Subscriber Server): In IMS, the HSS replaces the legacy network’s home
location register (HLR). The HSS stores subscriber and service-related information,
including user identities, registration data, access parameters and service activation
information. It keeps track of which subscribers belong to the network and their
service capabilities. The CSCF consults with the HSS before initiating SIP
connections (calls).

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem): Next generation network for operators from the
3GPP who use the IP protocol as their foundation.

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IP (Internet Protocol): Network layer protocol in the TCP/IP communications protocol
suite (the “IP” in TCP/IP). The terms "IP network" and "TCP/IP network" are
synonymous.

MMD (MultiMedia Domain): MMD is the 3GPP2 CDMA-based wireless network


constructed on IMS technologies and IP protocols, elements and principles. It
provides 3rd generation capabilities.

NGN (Next Generation Network): NGN is a generic term used to describe the
emerging packet-based networks. Such networks feature mixed traffic types, such as
voice, video and data, and each traffic type receives an appropriate class of service.
An NGN is characterized by the use of multiple broadband, QoS-enabled transport
technologies in which service-related functions are independent from underlying
transport-related technologies. It supports generalized mobility which will allow
consistent and ubiquitous provision of services to users.

SIP (Session Initiation Protocol): Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard
protocol for initiating an interactive user session that involves multimedia elements
such as video, voice, chat, gaming and virtual reality.

UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service): 3G standard supporting a


theoretical data throughput of up to 2 Mbps. UMTS is characterized by broadband,
packet-based transmission of text, digitized voice, video and multimedia, offering a
set of services to mobile computer and phone users no matter where they are
located in the world.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): Technology used to transmit voice conversations
over a data network using IP.

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About the Author
Lou Grilli, a technology manager for Syniverse Technologies, has been involved with
wireless data since 1985, with responsibilities ranging from writing software for a
wireless packet network to managing operations for ANSI-41 applications to
directing wireless clearing house operations. He has been on the carrier and vendor
side of the business equation, working business cases for telematics opportunities
and industry mandates for wireless number portability, wireless intelligent network,
and SMS services and products. He also has published numerous articles on number
portability, roaming and fraud.

About Syniverse Technologies


Syniverse Technologies (NYSE: SVR) is a leading provider of mission-critical
technology services to wireless telecommunications companies worldwide. Syniverse
solutions simplify technology complexities by integrating disparate carriers’ systems
and networks in order to provide seamless global voice and data communications to
wireless subscribers. Carriers depend on Syniverse’s integrated suite of services to
solve their most complex technology challenges and to facilitate the rapid
deployment of next generation wireless services.

Syniverse provides services to over 350 telecommunications carriers in more than 50


countries, including the ten largest U.S. wireless carriers and six of the ten largest
international wireless carriers. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida., U.S.A., Syniverse
has offices in major cities throughout North America, The Netherlands, China, and
the United Kingdom, and a global sales force in Brazil, France, India, Italy, Japan,
Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore and Slovakia.

Syniverse is ISO 9001:2000 certified and TL 9000 approved adhering to the principles
of customer focus and quality improvement practices.

Syniverse provides solutions that assist the global communications industry solve
challenges it faces before, during and after migrations to an IP-ccore environment.
Visit us at www.syniverse.com for more information.

© 2006 Syniverse Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright
laws. Rev. 6-06

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