In a room full of people, mostly techies, who were discussing IMS, the question arose – ‘what, essentially, is IMS?’ You can imagine such an arresting interruption. The IP guys in the room said, ‘it's a type of router’. The applications guys said, ‘it's a type of platform’. The marketing guy (you only need one of them per dozen or so techies) said, ‘it doesn't really matter, as long as we can brand it’ (I'm not joking).

The real question, perhaps, was ‘Why do we need IMS?’ That might seem a bit pointless having already committed to it in the standards bodies. Indeed, IMS is rapidly becoming the standard for all next generation networks, not just in the mobile telephony world. However, the question is still valid because of where it leads to in our understanding of this brave new world of ‘next generation’ communications.

If you want the short answer, then operators need IMS because of its potential to both save money and increase revenue, essentially as a technology upgrade to their core network. It can do this in ways that no other single technology investment can seemingly achieve and it is relatively future-proof. Users need IMS because of the new levels of connectedness that it can bring to their lives. If we take the world view that mobile users pay for connectedness, not texts or minutes – then if we can find new ways of connecting, we ought to be able to charge more money. This assumes that we don't reach a connectedness saturation point, but ...

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