Lucent's latest IMS deal could speed dual-mode services

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

BellSouth Corp. is turning to Lucent Technologies Inc. for help in building an IMS (Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem), the carrier announced Tuesday, a move that could put U.S. cellular giant Cingular Wireless LLC and its two parent companies on the same page in building out their next-generation service provisioning systems.

BellSouth, the incumbent fixed-line operator in much of the southeastern U.S., has signed a multiyear, nonexclusive agreement with Lucent to buy the Murray Hill, New Jersey, vendor's IMS products and its integration, maintenance and support services. Last month both Cingular and SBC Communications Inc., which co-owns Cingular with BellSouth, also signed IMS deals with Lucent. The financial terms of any of the three deals were not disclosed.

IMS is an architecture intended for both wireline and wireless carriers to deliver services over their emerging IP networks. The new architecture should allow providers to bring users a variety of new services at a faster pace than with a traditional infrastructure, analysts said.

IMS takes the place of the control infrastructure in the traditional circuit-switched telephone network, with the key difference that it separates services from the underlying networks that carry them. With IMS, services can reside on application servers anywhere and be delivered by multiple wired and wireless service providers. Information about the preferences and access rights of a carrier's customers is held in a central system and can be made available to other carriers to enable roaming.

As a common service provision architecture across wired and wireline networks, IMS could be used for combined fixed and mobile services in which a subscriber carries a dual-mode cellular and Wi-Fi handset. That lets users carry the same phone on the road as at home or in the office, connecting to home broadband or an enterprise LAN via Wi-Fi. BellSouth began a trial of such a service earlier this year with Cingular, said BellSouth spokesman Brent Fowler.

All major service providers want eventually to offer fixed-mobile convergence, according to Burton Group analyst David Passmore. Doing part of that work with the same vendor may make things easier for the BellSouth, SBC and Cingular to implement the service in the short term, he said.

"Having the wireline and the mobile operators all using the same software from the same vendor would seem to facilitate this," Passmore said. "For near-term implementations, being able to rely on a single vendor has its advantages, but over time I think you'll see the vendors will end up supporting pretty much the same standards."

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