Interesting discussion on serusers the last week or so: Dragos from FOKUS Fraunhofer announced that they will GPL IMS-extensions to SER. Also, several people have independent from that posted questions about SER for CSCF functions.

The discussion of course quickly turned to “what’s the point about IMS”. Of course, the usual suspects in these kind of discussions particpiated. Jiri, Juha, and myself 🙂 Here is my post:

“The underlying assumption is that an operator has made an investment where it wants some return. The big question from an operator’s point of view is what is the best approach to get the return? There will different answer depending on your market position and your feeling of strength. Operators are afraid of becoming just a bitpipe. It was the same issue for big network operators a few years back (and still is): become an efficient bitpipe (Level3) or a full communication services provider (AT&T).
The truth is that a walled-garden approach works as long as you have some assets people want. But as the value chains disintegrate operators have to take a position somewhere along the value chain.

I think the big questions that operators are asking themselves now are these:

  • How long time will my assets allow me to keep a walled garden?
  • Exactly what are my true assets as the value chains disintegrate?
  • When the walled garden comes down, what is the position I want?

Some operators will be protective and keep a walled garden as long as possible, while others will try to open up, invite third parties in and try to make the pie bigger… Most operators will probably do both as they don’t really have any answers to the questions above yet :-)”

Well, as you can see, I find the whole IMS discussion interesting. Not from a technical point of view, it’s an architecture among others, but from the business implications of it. The truth is that IMS does not really support operators in their efforts to generate revenues on new services. Other bloggers have covered this and the Telco 2.0 initiative is also adressing it:
Dean Bubley had a particularly critical wrap-up after his participation at the Telco 2.0/IMS Services Brainstorm.

The truth is that IMS does not standardize a very critical component for the operators: how to make MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and 3rd parties operate in their infrastructure, deliver services, and generate revenues on the operators behalf. Here in Norway, Telenor (incumbent) together with Oracle standardized the SMS content services interface. Soon, Telenor had 6 x Telia’s (Sweden’s incumbent) revenues on SMS content services, and we are talking about a significant part of the total revenues.

Operators will not open up their networks to anybody; they will not adopt an Internet-type attitude over night. However, they do need to open up enough to get help to generate revenues from external companies and innovation. That’s why they are looking for “Service Delivery Platforms” beyond IMS. Well, SDP is not standardized, so if you want to deliver a service to operator A and operator B, they most likely will require you to use different “standard” interfaces to get access to their subscribers. Not exactly the way to stimulate innovation!

So, what does this mean to SER? Using SER for IMS implementation may well be an academic exercise as operators will go for commercial alternatives (maybe except smaller operators in developing countries). However, as services converge across network technologies, there is a need to bridge the mobile, fixed, and Internet worlds. Not for the operator, but for the users’ sake. Could SER play a role?

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