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New Report Helps Mobile Operators Assess The Value of IMS

The UMTS Forum has issued a new report that addresses the technical and service issues facing mobile operators as they consider the business implications of upgrading their Third Generation networks to support IMS: the 'IP Multimedia Subsystem' that promises the integration of real-time and non-real-time IP-based multimedia communications.

The full version of UMTS Forum Report 27, 'Strategic Considerations for IMS - the 3G Evolution', is available exclusively to Members of The UMTS Forum. An introduction and overview is also available free of charge to non-Members.

Based upon the clear direction from the mobile standards community and evidence that all current development work in the fixed environment is IP-based, it would appear that an 'all-IP' network is inevitable. Therefore, it would seem that the critical deployment question for mobile operators is when and how to deploy IP and IMS, not whether or not it is financially justified to deploy it at all. Given the unique market, regulatory, and technology issues faced by each operator, this report illuminates many of the critical macro factors associated with IMS deployment and provides an approach for further individual operator evaluation.

While market forces demonstrate that IMS functionality is desirable and necessary, current market reality makes deciding when to deploy problematic for a number of reasons:

- Uncertainty regarding service adoption: End user adoption of new mobile data services has been slow.
- Standards: Some of the required IMS standards are still being developed or finalized.
- Investment costs: Cost of deploying IMS or upgrading an existing mobile network to IMS.
- Strategic considerations: The interoperability of IMS may be viewed as a competitive threat (e.g. third party application providers and VoIP).

Even for mobile operators committed to deployment of an IMS-based IP network, the timing and scale of such deployment must be determined and the additional cost of IMS have to be carefully considered. The purpose of this new study is therefore to:

- Develop a flexible cost analysis methodology that can used to study a range of networks with different architecture, size and configuration.
- Use this methodology to assess high-level relationships between different IMS deployment strategies.
- Analyse the 3G revenues associated with IMS based on the UMTS Forum's 3G service categories and the same bounded revenue forecasting methodology used for the UMTS 3G revenue and subscriber forecasts.
- Use this methodology to assess different contributions to IMS service revenue and their timing.
- Identify scenarios that represent clear deployment choices that an operator might consider in terms of level of deployment investment and timing of market entry.
- Discuss the relative service, cost, revenue, and strategic implications for these options.

About IMS
The IMS ('IP Multimedia Subsystem') vision integrates mobile voice communications and Internet capabilities, bringing the power and wealth of Internet services to mobile users. IMS enables peer-to-peer real-time services - such as voice, video - over a packet-switched domain, allowing the creation and deployment of IP-based multimedia services in mobile networks as they evolve from GPRS to UMTS and beyond. Another key attraction of IMS is scalable common service control - its ability to manage parallel services for the user, opening the mobile network to third party application service providers and introducing an open, business model in place of the traditional telephony model of specialised service providers.