Revenue from mobile IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) sales is expected to increase more than 100% over the next five years, according to ABI Research. Approximately $8.4 billion was spent on IMS during 2009. According to principal analyst Aditya Kaul, that figure will rise to $17.3 billion in 2014.
What will spark this strong growth?
"IMS uptake will be closely associated with the deployment of LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks worldwide," says Kaul. "It's all to do with recent progress in standardizing how voice services will be handled within LTE."
Data has been seen as the glamorous "new kid on the block" of mobile services, and LTE has until now been regarded as a largely data-centric set of technologies. Until very recently LTE has not included good voice handling capabilities; yet most operators still earn 70% of their revenue from voice and SMS services. That has been a stumbling-block for LTE.
Now, however, a group of operators and OEMs -- AT&T, Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Verizon, Vodafone, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson - has agreed on the "One Voice Profile," a standard that defines a viable solution for voice in LTE. That, says Kaul, should encourage more operators to migrate to LTE, with the resulting greater adoption of IMS.
"IMS vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent have been waiting a long time for this," he says. "They've invested huge sums in IMS and haven't been recouping that investment as they thought they would. Now One Voice, paired with the completion of the Rich Communication Suite, will drive strong IMS market growth. IMS vendors are already reporting a definite increase in RFPs and sales."
There is one more hurdle for IMS, however: it is complex and expensive. The effort now will be to simplify and reduce cost.
IMS is just one aspect of a larger shift by mobile operators, to all-IP networks. ABI Research's new study "IP Transformation" (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1004433
) addresses the network elements impacted by this transformation and provides analysis and forecasts for each. The report also discusses the impact of LTE Evolved Core, IMS, Session Border Controllers and Media Gateways.