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10 September 2007

Telstra throws cold water on IMS

Many operators have been backing away from full-blown end-to-end IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), preferring to implement spot solutions to address immediate user requirements, for now at least. This has led vendors like Cisco to announce step-by-step strategies to move operators towards the all-IP service delivery platform, and operators to show interest in simpler technologies that provide a few ‘IMS-like’ functions ‘ such as Unlicensed Mobile Access. However, it seems some carriers are eager to do full IMS right now, and Australia’s incumbent Telstra is one of them. The operator’s CTO Hugh Bradlow told a recent IMS conference that he was frustrated at the hype that suggested IMS was already end-to-end, but then delivered just ‘bits and pieces’.

Bradlow, although professing himself willing to implement an IMS in the short term, said he believes it will be years, in practise, until the technology is ready. ‘IMS is supposed to work end-to-end,’ he said. ‘Try and find me a decent IMS handset today and I’d be very interested in talking to you, but don’t bring me the usual suspects because the way the industry is talking today you have a different IMS client for every service you’re offering, which totally defeats the purpose of the whole thing in the first place.’

One of his main examples was SCIM (Smart Common Input Method), which will allow multiple applications to run in the same environment. This technology, Bradlow said, is ‘like the abominable snowman ‘ much talked about but never seen’.

He said ‘thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of standards’ would be needed to drive an effective real time IMS, and that issues such as open source software environments, integration of legacy messaging services, and delivery frameworks, all remained to be addressed convincingly.

He concluded: ‘If we are going to make this environment work, we have to be able to merge online identities with network-based identities, and that turns out to be the Achilles’ heel of the whole IMS service. And until we get that right, it’s not going to happen.’

Even Ericsson, which has 39 IMS contracts, 12 in commercial use, admitted the technology is currently still an incomplete solution, telling CommsDay that ‘there are still some things that we need to standardize. .. Until we have a true end-to-end standardization, handset vendors are hesitant in deploying these IMS-enabled handsets because they want to have a hard core spec to rely on before they produce 10m phones.’