The telecom industry in general and the wireless sector in particular have a long-term plan based on the Internet Multimedia Subsystem. The IMS is a packet-based system that uses the advantages of the Internet protocol (IP) to erase the demarcation lines between wired and wireless networks. Not only does IMS rely on ubiquitous IP, but it makes adding or changing services as easy as adding or adjusting servers.
IMS, as I pointed out in a feature last month, is a big deal — but one that is not easy to accomplish. But once deployed, the future has arrived.
Such a difficult transition is made much easier and efficient if there is a “killer app” that more immediately justifies the rollout in terms of the time and effort. That killer app is Voice over Long Term Evolution, or VoLTE.
The first iteration of LTE networks only carries data. The 3G networks that 4G is destined to replace still do the heavy lifting on voice calls. That changed in August, when MetroPCS and South Korean providers SK Telecom and LG Uplus started VoLTE service. That rollout will continue for MetroPCS. T-Mobile said that it will continue to support the carrier’s VoLTE services if their merger closes.
Last week, ABI Research said that IMS revenues will reach $3.4 billion during the next half decade. The top five vendors will dominate and the customer base will move from being predominantly wireline to wireless.
That growth will be fueled by the big players. iTWire this week reported that Alcatel-Lucent is encouraging innovation among Web developers by providing application programming interfaces (APIs) that link to the IMS driving the LTE networks. The piece quotes Sue White, Alcatel-Lucent’s senior director of advanced communications marketing:
"We are making these new IMS networks very accessible to web developers so they can build any type of communications features - voice, video conferencing messaging etc into their applications and service providers can then sell those apps and create a better experience for their customers," White said.
The bottom line is that IMS provides Web developers with full access to the networks. The big vendors and carriers are in on the act. For instance, CNET reports that Verizon Wireless will launch VoLTE late next year or early in 2014. That seems like a long way off. But, for a changeover of this magnitude, it is just around the corner.