IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) hit the telecoms industry like a lightning bolt three years ago. The new architecture, originally designed to deliver IP multimedia to wireless users, was seen as an inevitable standard that would bridge the transition from fixed to IP networks. Vendors such as Nortel, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and others stepped up their marketing of IMS, but many telecoms couldn't quite grasp the new business model and were reticent to embrace it.
Some service providers opted instead for the simpler service delivery platform (SDP) model, which involves a different approach to deploying converged multimedia applications individually such as VoIP, and video-on-demand and instant messaging on mobile phones.
'The term IMS is losing its luster in the market,' says Keith Nissen, an analyst for research firm In-Stat. 'It's now entering its deployment phase where it is being marketed as more of a service such as VoIP or video sharing. The term 'IMS' never comes up.'
Nissen notes that since IMS is really a network architecture, it's difficult to develop a viable business plan for it. 'From a technical standpoint, IMS is very important. But the reason IMS is not progressing as rapidly as many people thought it would is because the business model that is driving IMS deployment is not so well-defined yet. With SDPs, you are taking a step-by-step approach.'
As a result, Nissen and others say proponents are taking a much more pragmatic approach to marketing IMS, stressing the applications it can empower rather than the immediate complete network transformation it promises.
'The hype was very, very high on IMS,' notes Eric Bezille, a marketing leader for Nortel. 'Now it is more rational - do it when you need, if you need it. We still believe IMS is highly advantageous, especially for service providers interested in accelerating their time-to-market applications. However, in the past IMS was pushed to operators without a good justification for their businesses.'