Many service providers have already, or are in the process of or considering making a move to IMS and for a good reason: it has some powerful theoretical benefits, not least of which is that it can contribute to achieving convergence of fixed and mobile user bases and platforms in the context of the migration to full IP so that rich and innovative service offerings can be considered in this new converged landscape. Services such as fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) can become a reality on a dramatically reduced cost base allowing operators to drive revenues whilst updating services and protecting existing legacy revenues. However, IMS brings some significant challenges — which can seem prohibitive to some service providers — but these can be addressed.
More on that topic shortly, but first, let’s remind ourselves what IMS is, why it was created, and what purpose it serves. IMS is the abbreviation for IP Multimedia Subsystem, a standards-based architectural framework that can deliver communications services such as voice, video and text messages over IP networks. It has been around for many years and was initially designed by the wireless standards body 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as part of the evolution of mobile networks beyond GSM. These days, IMS-ready platforms can also help support new business models and services, including the IoT.
For service providers, IMS provides smoother delivery of value-added applications and enhanced quality of service because it is a standard that works across all IP streams. It can also be a bridge for fixed network operators to embrace fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) or for existing mobile providers to enhance the range of services they can offer to customers by becoming ‘all-IP’.
In reality, IMS adoption has been slow and mainly focused on the consumer segment: its implementation requires a lot of effort, including inter-working between different networks, and some costly infrastructure changes, which can take years to complete. In the meantime, the over-the-top (OTT) approach has come along and taken a lot of the limelight away from IMS, promising to be a faster route to revenue. Of course, there are some risks to the OTT approach such as losing control and suddenly having a lot of traffic flying over a network for free., and loss of service continuity when transitioning from OTT to GSM.
Hence, it is no surprise that many network operators are not sure which way to turn: stick with the status quo, try OTT, or dig deep and commit to IMS. Some however have chosen another route, which is to have IMS partially — for instance, just for some consumer services — but stay with their existing network for others. And this stepwise transition avoids making complete forklift changes to a network all at once, making it easier and safer to explore the benefits of IMS.
However, having a hybrid approach risks introducing a lot of complexity, which is where adopting Enreach’s fully-IMS-compliant unified communications (UC) platform comes into play. Able to plug into any existing infrastructure, it can support non-IMS and IMS services simultaneously, so service providers can deliver value-added services while embarking on their transition towards full IMS, even if that is not for years to come. Enreach’s agile approach does not force operators in any one direction. It simply becomes the catalyst for portfolio transfomation by focusing on operational simplicity with the end users in mind.
The Enreach platform Enreach UP also makes the bridge between fixed and mobile, drawing on the group’s ‘mobile first’ heritage, working with some of the region’s pioneering mobile and FMC service providers for over a decade. Through the sister company Summa Networks, Enreach also brings extensive experience and expertise in 5G-ready Subscriber Data Management (SDM) software with existing IMS customers. So, for any service provider wishing to expand its mobile services or explore FMC, Enreach UP is an ideal path.
Other advantages include Enreach’s open and collaborative approach, for instance, supporting multiple phone vendors instead of pushing operators down the route of choosing one brand. Plus, Enreach is a European organisation with extensive local knowledge and presence, so it understands what operators in the region want and need. A final and important point is that Enreach’s platform is cloud-native-ready, and because it is built on microservices, innovative new features can be added quickly and efficiently.
Wherever a service provider is on its IMS journey (even if that has not yet started), the adaptability and agility of the Enreach approach mean they can roll out more value-added services in a controlled and reduced-risk way. IMS may have its drawbacks, but it is here to stay, so now is the time to explore transition options available.