INTERVIEW: Telecom carriers are beginning to deploy IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) technology in their networks instead of buying VoIP equipment. spoke to Mavenir Systems, a provider of converged voice and messaging solutions, about the opportunities and challenges faced in delivering next generation communications.

Research firm Infonetics recently forecast a 74 per cent increase in IMS equipment sales in 2009, while standalone VoIP purchases have dropped by a third in the past year.

The analysts report seeing "a noticeable shift" away from stand-alone VoIP networks to IMS in the core network.

Someone well placed to talk about this shift is Payam Maveddat, VP of marketing at Mavenir Systems.

His company provides a converged voice solution that enables operators to make the transition to a single all-IP voice core network based on IMS for any mobile access, including 2G, 3G, WiMAX and LTE (Long Term Evolution).

Most operators believe that IMS will be the core switching infrastructure – with the impending arrival of LTE and Rich Communication Suite (RCS) big drivers for IMS.

Both require IMS at the core.

Market Challenges

Maveddat told that the challenge for a small company like Mavenir is dealing with dominant equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent.

"It’s unfortunate that when large equipment vendors go in and discuss this ‘grand vision’, they never talk about the changes that reside from having two separate domains on networks – IMS and legacy," he said.

Maveddat said this is probably done deliberately since equipment vendors often have a vested interest in driving sales for the circuit side of their businesses.

"There are enough challenges and technical difficulties with new technology, so the last thing that appears on the radar of trendsetters is ‘how can I connect with my old infrastructure?’" he said.

But with IMS implementation in networks, operators need to look at the alternatives, according to Maveddat.

"That’s where Mavenir walks in – and we are gaining traction," he said.

Non-Standardised Products

However, while many companies are used to buying standardised products that is not possible in the IP world.

"The good news is: there are choices. The bad news is: there are choices," said Maveddat.

"Since there are no standardised products, companies have to look at innovations. That’s been very challenging."

Maveddat said Mavenir’s converged voice solution enables carriers to move their services from narrowband to IP-based access for broadband deployment as it is being rolled out.

He said four carriers – including three Tier 1s – in Asia, Europe and the US are using its converged voice solution.

"This tells us our strategy has been accepted and validated. Carriers want to use our services," he said.

Voice and Messaging

Maveddat said there is currently a great deal of discussion about voice and messaging on LTE.

This centers around the fact there is 18-20 years worth of investment in mobile switching infrastructure with a very unique set of services, which are globally accessible.

"With GSM, wherever you go, you pretty much get the same set of services," he said. "If you roam nationally or internationally, you have a seamless experience and can expect to get services exactly the way you want."

So when it comes to the business case for deploying LTE, Maveddat said operators such as T-Mobile in Europe have a big problem with voice and messaging.

He said unless there is service transparency between legacy environments and LTE, the adoption of the 4G mobile broadband standard will be seriously challenged.

"So what we at Mavenir provide is the ability to anchor all your services in one core and enable the user to move between a broadband and narrowband environment," he said.

"They do not see any service disparity."

Mavenir has 150 employees spread between its headquarters in Texas, offices in China and Bangalore, India and regional support centers in Europe.

Its IMS Centralized Services (ICS) allow mobile operators to connect and deliver IMS services to any device by connecting the IMS core to 2G, 3G, UMA Macro, Pico and Femto cells.

This will enable carriers to transition the voice core to all-IP, eliminating the need for legacy MSCs.

Maveddat said carriers that provide a purely mobile service, with no fixed infrastructure, are often interested in fixed mobile convergence services – without offering IMS.

For them, the value of Mavenir’s solution is that they can offer incremental services – for example, providing a fixed line service in addition to mobile, with functions such as ring-back and, soon, text messaging.

"The advantage they have here is that for a very low investment in infrastructure, they can get customers using a mobile service and provide unlimited calling from home," he said.

"Subscribers will think twice before changing mobile operator, which helps with churn."

Once operators have enough traction and consumers are adopting IP devices, Maveddat said the next stage is offering a complete stand-alone telephony service.

Mavenir’s service enables the IMS core to be connected to GMS legacy networks.

"It’s a changing game. Not only do we make it simple but we have a fast time to market and technology that works," he said. "The business case is improved for operators to launch the same set of services."

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