During the research for this month’s cover story, Telecoms' grand design, we talked to dozens of experts in the telecoms sector – analysts, suppliers, operators and others. Each time, we asked them about convergence and the role of a certain piece of software – IMS (the IP multimedia subsystem – see article, What is IMS?). In every case, they said that it is an enormously important development for the telecoms industry.
We then asked: But is it important for the IT business user in general – the Information Age reader? Here, the consensus broke down, with a few saying yes, but most reporting that it was principally a matter for the operators and their suppliers.
But then we probed further. Will it change the way networked services are delivered? They all agreed it would. Could it affect the structure of the telecoms sector, or even parts of the IT industry? Will it affect media companies – like BSkyB or Time Warner? Is it of relevance to portal companies, such as Google, eBay and Yahoo? Will it have an impact on the delivery of Internet-based services to the consumer – services such as online banking, or travel, or shopping? Could it lead to more network outsourcing? The responses were universally positive.
So this is why we are devoting our lead feature this month to a complex, expensive and arcane suite of telecoms software that (fortunately) most businesses won’t ever have to install. It is complicated, unproven, and controversial, but there is almost unanimous agreement that IMS represents one of the most significant developments yet in the unfurling of the information age.
If it all works in the way the operators are planning, IMS will not only be the platform that finally enables the convergence of telecoms, media and the Internet; it will also provide a means by which they can control and charge for access to these services. It is a big technical story, but a bigger business one.