IMS promises faster and easier delivery of exciting and innovative services. Enthusiastic supporters believe that it will kill OSS as we know it - they say IMS is all about standardization, and with it, the mechanisms to move toward the long promised vision of the plug-and-play service offering. Standards will simplify all the things that OSS used to do.
However, the more pragmatic IMS supporters note that it is all about engagement of the customer with sophisticated product bundles and charging models that can be rapidly repackaged to pre-empt changes in market requirements and competitive pressures. This can potentially be a powerful tool in the search of the elusive killer app. Such a focus on innovation and differentiation, however, places new pressures on the OSS.
Following the standard approach, it is possible to achieve many of the benefits inherent in IMS. With simplified provisioning through standardized profiling, using home subscriber servers and subscription management, as well as alignment with defined online and offline charging practices, IMS has the potential to really simplify the OSS processes.
Simplify, not eliminate
However, this view of IMS is challenged from a number of directions, not least of all from IMS equipment and application vendors seeking to differentiate outside the framework of standards, and service providers moving ahead of the standards as they seek to meet customer demands for new services.
Larger telcos are creating their own extensions to the standards and enforcing these through their own buying power, ensuring sophisticated services requiring provisioning and charging interfaces outside of the IMS core and into the multi-vendor and multi-technology network.
There is also the challenge of new business models, such as the incorporation of third-party applications leading to a heavily multi-vendor and non-standardized environment. Quality of service (QoS) in IMS requires an increased level of network and infrastructure knowledge to provision services, providing a new dimension for charging and rating.
The standard view of IMS is caught up in the short-term issues of deploying IMS cost effectively and using existing infrastructure to do so. Making a long-term success of IMS is all about customer engagement - using agility and responsiveness to acquire and then defend market share. Sooner or later, operators will have to start thinking of the IMS standard as a framework that can be built on to achieve innovation.