"Indian operators are exercising caution with IMS"

by Rajendra Chaudhary    Oct 30, 2006

With all talk about Cisco s Next Generation Network (NGN) Architecture, where does IMS fit in?
In December 2005, Cisco outlined its Service Exchange Framework (SEF) strategy, a key part of its IP Next Generation Network (IP NGN) architecture, which embraces IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and non-IMS applications in order to help carriers support more service opportunities, achieve greater efficiencies and gain better control of their services and networks. With the Cisco Service Exchange Framework, carriers can separate the network layer from the service layer which will allow them create a service delivery environment that is access agnostic. As a result, the service provider can gain competitive differentiation by introducing services that traverse fixed and mobile access networks.

What are the challenges one is likely to face when deploying an IMS network and integrate it with the existing legacy infrastructure?
It is important to recognize that IMS is an architectural reference guide that introduces the notion of session control in a world where p2p traffic represents greater than 70% of the IP traffic today and SIP-based applications are just beginning to emerge. The 3GPP mobile standards community developed IMS for the wireless industry and the architecture is now being retrofitted for the wire line and cable operators as well through ETSI and CableLabs.

IMS is a complex and extensive architecture that will take years to implement fully in an operators network. Cisco embraces IMS and believes our service provider customers are interested in moving there networks forward in a way that supports the aspirations of the IMS architecture.

However, deploying an IMS architecture will vary widely between operators. Each individual provider starts from a unique reference point in terms of network assets, operational systems, skill sets, equipment type installed, available capital, customer dynamics and regulatory governance. As a result, we don’t see IMS as an event that will occur in an operators network, but rather a journey that will happen at it’s own pace.

IMS is based on the SIP protocol and not all services will necessarily be SIP-based. For example, most broadband delivered applications today are being delivered without the use of a session control protocol (SIP). New services such as Video on Demand don’t require IMS either, and still other applications such as gaming could be delivered effectively in an SIP or a non-SIP based architecture.

In the end, it’s not for us to predetermine how our customers will deliver services. So if they are all IP now and want to stay that way, we can help them. If they are IP-based now, but want to migrate more of their service offerings over SIP and IMS in the future, we can support them, and if they eventually want to base all of their services on SIP and IMS, we, along with our partners, will support them. Whichever route they choose, we want to be their trusted partner and help them succeed.

How willing are Indian operators to explore IMS? Are you aware of their current outlook towards IMS?
Service providers across the globe are actively trying to pursue new revenue sources. One of the promises embedded in the IMS architecture is the ability to introduce new IP applications or services at a rapid pace using the SIP protocol. As a result Indian operators are keenly looking at the possibilities that exist when applications support SIP and what that means for their network environment.

India, with its strong software development capacity is in a position to capitalize on the promise of IMS if indeed the customer or marketplace sees value in these new SIP-based applications. Having said that, one of the reason to exercising caution in the adoption of IMS by service providers in India is about the length of time it would take to recover their investments in the technology and therefore concerns on return on investment. Additionally, since a large portion of customers are just beginning to use basic voice and data services in India, the business case for advanced IMS applications may not be compelling enough in the current context.

Have you bagged any new customers here in India?
Cisco has enjoyed significant success partnering with the Indian operators as they build out there IP Next Generation Network. I think it is important to realize that before you can introduce IMS applications, you need a baseline intelligent IP network as a starting point. In this context, we are working with all of the Indian operators to insure they can deploy IMS and Non-IMS applications over their Cisco based IP NGN.