Over the last decade, debates have been waged – all IP or IMS? The choices Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have to make can be costly – in the billions.We like IP because we love OTT and IP networks, particularly as they become stronger, more flexible and more pervasive as a result of the explosion of WiFi hotspots.RCS likes IMS, and as IMS investments mature into actual IMS networks, certainly the slow moving Rich Communications Services applications will bring value to providers and their subscribers. Better quality – more interesting multimedia apps.CSPs are continually being boxed into a corner, as consumer demands increase and social networks enable consumers to share their troubles with others when they can’t, for example, make a phone call in the middle of NYC. The pressure on the Radio Access Network has become so intense, mobile backhaul solutions are really kicking in – which is interesting as the same CSPs who have been waiting for RCS to take hold are now moving calls to – WiFi!IMS did not eliminated one large CPS’s network coverage problems in Gotham. Further investments in their RAN solved that. While this CSP was fixing their issues, they saw many subscribers moving to mobile Skype – necessity being the mother of invention. Then, those subscribers liked Skype, despite its own limitations. Simple experience, nice address book and multimedia features, free on-net, and inexpensive off-net including international calls.Skype represents over one third of global voice traffic and near 100% of consumer video telephony traffic, and with Skype for Business, there is no slowing down.And Skype? Is OTT. A Skype for Web version is in beta Skype’s Web app is free to use and as of today works with Chrome OS and Linux, in addition to Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox on Windows and OS X. Chrome OS users can only use Skype instant messaging at this time, but it’s on the roadmap and the Beta is going well.The Myth of Seven NinesThere will always be businesses willing to pay for the premium QoS IMS promised. For them “best efforts” are not good enough. But what percentage of the market do these prospects and customers comprise? And is “best efforts” getting so much better, that the gap between IMS quality and IP and OTT quality is diminishing?RCS, which the entire industry knows has been rolling out at a glacial pace, may not even need an IMS to work. I’ve heard some CSPs are rolling out a client with an app server, then are using RCS NNI to interconnect with other CSPs. Some are throwing VoLTE into that new mix.And many, many more are simply going after OTT solutions (like fring – which happens to internetwork with RCS already so our customers are able to roll out fring white label solutions without worrying that this will water down their existing investments in RCS).Roaming is another area OTT is solving faster than RCS, VoLTE and IMS. It’s the Internet! And WiFi works just fine. What consumers are really enjoying is the association of their phone number when using fring – so their identities “show up” when they call, text or otherwise message their friends, even while they are out of the country. And there is no additional charge for this.
While CSPs often remain “overly focused” on their expensive, highly engineered, complex road maps other players like Line, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype continue to attract hundreds of millions of subscribers.While the industry knows where fring stands, we’re not suggesting CSPs should completely write off their IMS investments. It’s true, we need to continually improve the infrastructure. But as new standards emerge – lighter standards like WebRTC and ORTC – it’s important for the marketing teams in CSPs, not just the engineering teams who’s life’s work has been spent building IP and then IMS networks to pay attention.
By Roy Timor-Rousso on August 4, 2015