The IMS Forum upped the ante for Plugfest 6, which took place last week at the UNH InterOperability Lab in New Hampshire. This go-around there were three IMS core networks – one standard open source core and two put together in what was described during a media briefing as a vendor mix and match.

Two IMS operator networks were simulated. "What we want to prove is that IMS can work between operators …. One of the terms we are trying to coin is nomadic services," said Manuel Vexler, technical chair, IMS Forum, explaining that the goal is to roam with all services.

It took a day and a half to bring the networks together in the lab. "It takes about two weeks for a softswitch to get provisioned and … probably about two months for a digital switch (to be) provisioned," Vexler said in comparison.

Also new at this Plugfest, interoperability was done real time across four continents. Vexler called this a "proof point" that IMS is simple. "We are pretty much halfway to the point where we can say that IMS is a fully implemented and implementable technology," he said.

Tests, apps and services

Among the applications and services tested are Centrex and VoIP, intermessaging, and billing and charging, including online charging. "It allows operators to offer services on the spot," Vexler said. "(You) don’t need to subscribe …. (People) can try a service once. It is pretty much like the way we download music."

There also was a picocell running in the lab. In addition, participants said they see femtocells as an application for IMS. John De Pietro, senior director and product line manager for Starent, noted uses in both consumer and enterprise markets on the CDMA side, while John Nye, vice president of corporate marketing for Sonus, said the opportunity for femtocells and picocells is with fixed mobile convergence.

None of the panelists, however, saw much growth in deployments of femtocells until 2010 or 2011.

Mix and match

Regarding rollout schedules for IMS, panelists agreed that service providers are still committed to IMS, although it may be piecemeal at first.

"(I am) seeing the immediate economic challenges in the downtime as a near-term hiccup," said Anantha Ramu, vice president of engineering for Acision. "(Providers have) not compromised on their overall commitment to provide IMS centered services. Instead of taking a big gulp at one time, (They are) taking a phased approach."

Vecima Networks told Communications Technology that while none of its customers have implemented IMS, a "fair number" are using SIP of some kind for voice. Larger customers are using policy decision functionality. "In that case, (it) is almost working like an IMS network, but (it is) an all-proprietary solution," said Robert Forget, Vecima director of wireless product management.

– Monta Monaco Hernon

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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