IMS as an Integrator for OTT?

Filed in LTE, RCS by on May 21, 2013 2 Comments

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) has been around for many years but has never really experienced the widespread uptake initially envisioned with respect to MNO and service provider architectures. However, with the emergence of LTE and the Evolved Packet Core, it looks as if the progression from 3G to 4G will be a boon for IMS technology.

Since the specifications for 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) mandate an “all packet” architecture, there will eventually be a full replacement of circuit-based and TDM (time-division multiplexing) technologies – although, I should stress, this will take QUITE a while for full circuit-switched replacement. Nevertheless, IMS should be a great benefactor, as many MNOs worldwide have announced plans to deploy new services such as RCS (Rich Communication Services), VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) and many others that can take advantage of packet technology all the way to the handset.

But let’s think about how IMS may also benefit nontraditional OTT service providers and MNOs at the same time. Can IMS be used to “integrate” OTT services with mobility in “partnership” fashion with MNOs? Maybe.

We need IMS to handle three main things:

  1. Quality of service, which ultimately translates into quality of experience (which is what users really care about).
  2. Charging, and the ability to segregate sessions and allow for different charging models for different services.
  3. Integration of new and different services. IMS does not mandate any particular business model; instead, it allows for different kinds of operators with different service offerings to charge as they determine most appropriate.

That third point is the most interesting to me, as OTTs have shown they are great at creating new and different services that users are demanding. So why not imagine that some of these OTT services will be integrated as “application servers”? That is, application servers within the IMS domain that are interconnected to service provider IMS domains for common treatment for basic things like quality of service and charging? I think it may be a stretch for now, but something worth thinking about and discussing.

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About the Author ()

BJ Neal is Vice President of Network Strategy and works at Syniverse's headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

Comments (2)

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  1. avatar Dean Bubley says:

    IMS *does* mandate business models – in particular it limits models to ones which are oriented around subscribers and subscriptions, rather than users, open access, sponsored anonymous access and so forth. It also commonly implies the legacy model of federated services across hundreds of interoperated service providers, which is too slow & largely unworkable going forward.

    IMS equipment & applications also often have various cost structures that limit the applicability of “freemium” approaches.

    I think it is more likely that we will see specific telecom operators’ services integrated the other way, into the web/app environment – either as servers, or via mashups enabled by WebRTC and TelcoOTT mechanisms.

    Dean Bubley

    • avatar B.J. Neal says:

      Thanks much for the comment. I really appreciate the insight and the help in providing a balanced view on the subject.

      My thinking was that as a technical matter, IMS was not intended to necessarily favor any particular business model or service provider sector, though I would agree that it is oriented around subscriptions and as such may imply a certain business model. I am optimistic that there may still be enough flexibility in the implementation of an IMS architecture that could possibly be leveraged to more open connectivity models.

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