Archive for May, 2007

IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS)

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Meeting at Ericsson
While recently in Sweden I enjoyed a day with Ericsson, an important part of which was spent acquiring a better understanding of IMS.

This was accomplished via a number of discussions and demonstrations. I always find Ericsson very responsive to my preference for in-depth discussions with their key experts, rather than powerpoint presentations.

As many of my colleagues will know, spending an hour or so with broadband guru Martin Harriman is always invigorating.

But back to IMS ..

The role of IMS
First of all, it is important to place IMS within the context of other developments, such as NGN and FttH.

NGN, FttH and IMS

  • NGN is a concept that addresses the access and integration of core systems – from billing to network management and from mobile to fixed.
  • FttH addresses the user access to these systems and, through them, to the many applications and services.
  • IMS is a technology standard that organises all of the applications stored within the NGN systems.

IMS allows telcos to offer the users the same or probably a better user experience than they currently get from the new media companies through web-based systems.

Managing the digital media
While one could argue that IP alone can also create such an environment it could be in the interest of the telcos to themselves develop a network that could provide such an experience. This would most certainly have added value, and it would also enable them to offer these ‘application organisation’ services to the content and service providers. As an IP machine IMS offers a framework for global IP applications, interoperability and access to mass markets, while the alternative doesn’t deliver that framework.

With their national and international reach telcos can create much larger networks than the new media companies. However, the longer they wait to generate their NGN-IMS-FttH strategies the more market share they will give away to the new media companies.

In the past, the incumbent companies could afford to allow these newcomers get a foothold in the market, and just buy them up later, but this is no longer an easy option. Telcos can no longer buy up companies willy-nilly – some simply can’t afford this anymore, and some of the newcomers have grown to such levels that they could easily gobble up a few telcos if they wanted to.

Key tool for telcos
The interoperability of applications over the various networks is a very powerful tool for telcos in their battle to maintain their position in the market. Yet they have been slow to seize this opportunity; to date no more than half a dozen of them are seriously involved, while, as usual, the others have test beds and pilots but very little action.

Yet the companies that have implemented IMS are also the leaders in securing their share of the application management market. They include Telefonica, Sprint, Swisscom and Softbank. The key reason has been that IMS delivers good cost savings, and this is the first thing that telcos need to realise if they wish to compete with the Internet media companies.

While each implementation is very different, as I have said on other occasions, an average of 30% cost saving is the minimum a telco should aim for when looking at IMS. Once that is in place telcos can move on and use IMS to improve the customer experience through multimedia, and to expand their revenue base through new applications, clever billing and packaging options.

From mobile to fixed networks
Interestingly, although IMS was first seen as a major tool for mobile operators it has been the fixed operators who have taken the lead. Mobile operators are even further behind in embracing the brave new world of applications – their efforts to date have mainly been aimed at protecting their extremely lucrative mobile phone business

It will be impossible to replicate that level of profitability in any other part of the telco industry and they will try for as long as possible to milk the current market before moving more seriously into other applications.

NGN would be the ideal system for IMS to operate on, but it also works on the existing environment. It can link broadcasting, PCs/Internet, 2G and 3G systems.

IMS tool for new business models
Of course, new IMS business models will, like the Internet, have to look at advertising and permission-based models. But, here also, there is now enough evidence that these are becoming sustainable business models. Furthermore, based on their national and interactive operability, telcos’ networks will have clear advantages that they could exploit, both for content providers and advertisers.

While the opportunities are endless I did pick up on a few applications that might not be well-known at this stage, such as:

  • A service that allows remote parental control. Services are controlled via the TV set-top box, but a child can ask parental permission to watch content that is blocked and the parent can, via the mobile phone, provide (or not) the requested permission
  • In healthcare, an SMS or message can be sent to a patient to double-check that they have taken their medication.

Paul Budde

See also: Global – Telecommunications Infrastructure and Fixed Voice

We invite your comments: 2 Comments on IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS)

LMDS and Optus (Agility)

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

New auctions were conducted in November 2000. Optus had established a subsidiary company, Agility Networks for the purpose of participating in the LMDS auction. The company is interested in LMDS as an access technology which provides an opportunity to expand reach and access new customers.

They obtained 500MHz of spectrum in all areas. Shin Satellite obtained 150MHz of spectrum in regional Western Australia and regional South Australia.

In an interesting industry coup the service went live, only a few days after they had acquired the spectrum! They had used their test licence and the engineering services of their supplier to roll out a ‘real’ network that could be switched on as soon as the licences were acquired. In the process that had taken the first movers advantage away from AAPT. As there will be a limited number of ‘early adopter’ business customers over the next few years, being the first operator in this niche market is a great advantage.

Optus, through Agility will use LMDS to overcome the access problem involved in delivering high-speed services to their customers.

The technology, supplied by Alcatel and used by Agility can be classified as 2nd Generation (2G). It is much more reliable. During the recent storms in Dubbo and the Gold Coast the service remained in operation – in Dubbo the LMDS dish survived even when the roof next door was ripped to pieces by the storm.

By 2001 they had 35 wholesale sites in place. In that same year Agility was rolled back into Optus’s xDSL subsidiary XYZed.

By 2005 Optus was using a range of wireless broadband technologies such as UPStarcom, Alvarion and iBurst from PBA. It was also considering using the Unwired spectrum and technology options.

We invite your comments: Comments Off on LMDS and Optus (Agility)

Whirlpool survey of Australian broadband users 2004-2005

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

A Whirlpool web site user survey of 16,500 Australian broadband users has found that the broadband market is maturing and that value for money in 2005 has not grown as much as it did in 2004.

The survey found:

• Broadband users are shying away from long contracts, and will switch ISPs if they find a better deal, or a better service;

• VoIP usage has also increased overall;

• Just 37% thought competition is working well in broadband;

• Just 18% thought the ACCC is doing a good job;

• And less than 2% thought that Telstra’s management team is doing a good job;

• Some 82% agreed that ISPs needed to reduce their reliance on Telstra.

The survey contained good news for metropolitan city wireless networks:

• Some 56% thought a wireless broadband offering would be useful;

• 40% would be prepared to pay a $10 monthly premium;

• 18% an extra $20.

In terms of pricing, BigPond, Netspace and People Telecom experienced drops in satisfaction, with Optus registering a sharp increase after recent plan revamps, found the survey. Customers on Telstra and Optus Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) are not happy with the speed of their connection in contrast to their cable counterparts, the survey found.

We invite your comments: Comments Off on Whirlpool survey of Australian broadband users 2004-2005

TransGrid and Country Energy in New England

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

The University of New England, TransGrid, Country Energy and AARNet signed a memorandum of understanding in August 2002 for a new, high-speed telecommunications link between Armidale and Sydney.

Building on Commonwealth funding from the Department of Education, Science and Technology, the University of New England (UNE) has now increased its capacity to the AARNet hub in Sydney by almost 20 times from 8Mb/s to 155Mb/s using optical fibre provided by TransGrid. This link will allow the UNE to establish a telecommunications hub at Armidale that would have the potential to accommodate activities undertaken by New England TAFE and New England Area Health Service, as well as a future technology park.

AARNet acted as the nominated carrier for the TransGrid fibre link between Armidale and the AARNet’s Sydney hub-site at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Country Energy provided an optical fibre link between TransGrid’s substation in Armidale and UNE, and will explore ways in which UNE’s telecommunications hub can be used in the provision of high-speed telecommunications services in Armidale and the surrounding district. BPL would also be trialled at Armidale as a pilot project.

We invite your comments: Comments Off on TransGrid and Country Energy in New England

Video could choke the Internet 2005

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

With new services popping up on a regular basis offering to send you video over the Internet, the network operators feel that small clips are fine, but TV quality and especially high-definition programming could make the Internet choke.

If home users start to get away from the common home Internet use of an email here and a web page there, instead watching streaming video like they watch TV – for hours at a time, that puts a strain on the Internet. The Internet wasn’t designed for that, and beefing up the Internet’s capacity to prevent that will be expensive.

To offset that cost, telcos and ISPs want to start charging content providers to ensure delivery of large video files. Internet activists and consumer groups are vehemently against those plans. They want legislation to guarantee a neutral Internet.

The solution, of course, is to make the pipes connecting to the Internet fatter. Developments in several countries around the world are addressing this issue. There are now new fibre initiatives in many countries, Japan, Korea, Netherlands and USA are leading here.

The EU has developed guidelines for regional developments in Europe and in Australia the government is working with the industry to build a state-of-the-art alternative regional high-speed wholesale access network.

We invite your comments: Comments Off on Video could choke the Internet 2005