Cisco Systems has thrown its support behind an evolving set of wireless standards that will enable cellular carriers to offer new services based on the Internet Protocol.
The networking powerhouse announced on Monday that it was updating several products with technology based on IP Multimedia Subsystem standards developed by the cellular carrier community. The IMS standards were adopted to specify an architecture and protocols to bring a wide range of IP-based services to wireless networks.
Until now, Cisco has had only limited support for IMS technology in its networking products suite. Now the company is adding support to more devices, such as its 12000 IP router, which combines the functionality of an IP edge router and a Session Border Control (SBC) device that controls and manages IP multimedia traffic using protocols like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323. The company also added IMS support to its media gateway, Softswitch and PSTN gateway products.
These changes to Cisco's infrastructure products will enable cell phone companies to add more new services to third-generation data networks. Today, mobile data networks offer services like ring-tone downloads and SMS text messaging. With higher-capacity networks, cellular operators want to adapt IP services that run on wireline networks so they work in a mobile environment. Protocols included in the IMS standards, like SIP, can help carriers offer these new services.
Specifically, IMS enables services such as dual-mode telephony, which allows people to use a mobile phone on a VoIP connection when they have access to Wi-Fi and on a traditional cellular network when they have no Wi-Fi. Other services that use IMS technology include push-to-talk, which allows a phone to behave like a walkie-talkie, and mobile instant messaging.
Several infrastructure players have started incorporating IMS into their gear. Lucent Technologies, which supplies cellular phone companies with infrastructure equipment, has a suite of products that support IMS. But Cisco's entry into the market is important because it is the largest supplier of IP equipment.
"It's important to see large equipment makers like Cisco including IMS in their products," said Joel Hughes, president and CEO of Openera Technologies, a company that develops IMS-based client software for cell phones. "It shows that carriers are serious about taking services that exist in the IP world and adapting them to the mobile environment."