Whatever happened to IMS?

The IP Multimedia Subsystem standard at one point seemed like the answer to everything--network and service convergence, operational efficiency, technical flexibility and rapid, painless service creation. All the industry had to do was follow the standard, deploy IMS-compliant gear, and the future would take care of itself.

We should have known then that it was too good to be true. IMS rode a wave of hype that lasted for more than half a decade, that is, if you followed it since the early 3GPP standards work. For most of the industry, the hype began and peaked much more quickly. But now, an IMS backlash is setting in. Telcos and mobile carriers are said to be disenchanted with IMS. We need to do something about that.

The original intent and significance of IMS is getting lost amid discussions of Web 2.0, unified communications and session initiation protocol implementation. Hiccups in the VoIP and fixed-mobile convergence markets haven't helped either. There's a perception that you don't need IMS to support all of these technology and service evolutions. That perception is true. IMS is the framework that can help operators make better sense of these evolutions by bringing interoperability, security and management to the forefront.

There's also disagreement around the industry about how and where to deploy various IMS functional elements, such as the service capability interaction manager. Disagreement is okay. Like any other standards framework, IMS is a source of rich debate about what's written in stone and what is left open to interpretation. The standard gives us the guiding principle, but there is indeed more than one way to implement it in the real world. Yes, this stuff is hard.

IMS may be slower to develop than expected, and implemented in a more dispersed and less organized way than some of us hoped, but it's a guiding influence that will help telecom network operators through the rest of the convergence era. There's a lot of that era left. For more debate and advice about IMS, join FierceTelecom and FierceWireless at our IMS Executive Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept 19-20.

- Dan