Tuesday, July 18, 2006

IMS: Investing Many Shekles

Is it just me or does any one else see that IMS is over hyped and too complex?  At the last two trade shows I attended, Globalcomm and the Cable-Tec Expo, all of the major vendors and many smaller ones too where hyping IMS as the next big thing.  What next big thing I ask?  I walked around from booth to booth asking vendors what services would justify the huge expenditure to purchase and operate IMS solutions.  I invariably received the reply that any service can be provided on any device.  That’s nice, but they did not describe a service or even a business model to increase ARPU.  Lucent Technologies demonstrated a roaming service for TV.  How often do you go to another person’s house and where they don’t have similar channels?  Are you going to pay extra for that luxury that is probably limited to your MSO?  Longboard announced yesterday “MediaRoam” that allows a video stream to roam between wired and wireless networks.  They tout that a person can be watching the news at home then continue watching the broadcast in their car as they drive across town.  MediaRoam can truly be the killer app for IMS—pun intended.

IMS is not needed for these fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) applications.  There are many ways to implement it without the complexity of IMS.  Voice is the most frequently discussed application for IMS because it has the most potential for enterprise and mobile users.  Voice FMC can be used by wireless carriers to replace wired connections in the enterprise saving companies the expense of maintaining a wired and wireless infrastructure.  Sprint-Nextel is charging ahead in this area as we speak.  Sprint can charge customers an extra fee per subscriber and for the dual-mode handset.  Although they are going to implement the service with IMS, it is not necessary.  

The case for non-business mobile users is less obvious because this group is looking to utilize free or cheap Wi-Fi access to reduce their minutes on the mobile carriers’ network.  These users can be tacked on as incremental revenue to the business case for enterprise users.  Sprint-Nextel can offer this service through its MSO partners as a feature on their digital telephone service.  Each member of the household can have their own number that rings their dual-mode phone over Wi-Fi when in the home or at a hot-spot.  The MSO can charge an extra $10 per month per person.

The true benefit to IMS is the delivery of all services over IP regardless of the underlying transport medium along with unified service creation, management, and billing.  The question is whether there is a positive ROI for this value proposition.  Providers of IMS products need to find a way to articulate the true value proposition for IMS instead of hyping all of sorts of cool applications that may or may not increase ARPU.  The current implementation of IMS by many vendors is complex because it is full of servers, software, and interfaces which screams complex to purchase, implement, and maintain.  Vendors need to take a page from their own slides on convergence and simplify the functions into as few boxes as possible.  Also, they need to simplify the message to carriers on the real value proposition and business case because now it reminds me of EU regulations comprising thousands of pages of documents.

Cool applications that improve the business case will eventually be developed to take advantage of the capabilities that a single silo service creation environment provides.  These applications will be multimedia in nature but evolve from applications that we use on our PC today.  Social networking and content delivery everywhere will drive IMS once it is deployed by mobile carriers. The vendor that understands this pragmatic approach will be the one most successful with their IMS products.

Tag: IMS, Sprint-Nextel, Lucent Technologies, Longboard