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Growing Demand for IP Service Customization

Current Analysis has studied the status of industry-transforming telecommunications and entertainment services that are enabled by IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and other next-generation technologies and architectures.

They conclude that the most compelling attribute that the proposed overhaul of service provider infrastructures and business operations will deliver is not some yet-undiscovered application -- it's the ability to offer end-users customizable services.

As much as consumers and enterprise workers crave advanced multimedia services that blend together multiple applications across multiple devices, research proves that the most attractive component of any next-generation service delivery infrastructure is the ability to personalize the user experience.

The elusive application of the future is customization. Service providers destined to be the most successful in capturing subscribers will be the ones that deliver users not just compelling services, but the ability to harness the power of those services to make their lives more productive -- and at the same time more orderly.

As network equipment makers shift the focus of IMS and next-generation networks to application development, they must enable the service provider creation of new and compelling applications, and also the behind-the-scenes control mechanisms that will allow end-users to create completely personalized communications and entertainment environments.

As service providers look to offer combinational applications and fixed-mobile integration services in 2007, questions that remain to be answered include the role that IMS will play in delivering this control mechanism and the best procedure for service providers to follow in overhauling their services and network infrastructures to offer compelling customization to their subscribers.

A positive side effect of the fixed-mobile convergence movement and an IMS platform deployment is the concept of enabling service personalization. Through the combination of a centralized subscriber database and a presence server, service providers will be able to constantly track the type of connections and end devices that a subscriber is using at a certain time and place.

The idea is for the network to keep perpetual and real-time records of subscriber's many preferences and devices so they don't have to do this themselves. This centralized repository will enable a communications model in which information is simply sent to a subscriber, leaving it to the network to figure out if the recipient is available and how he or she would prefer to receive the information that is being sent.

Another useful byproduct of IMS is the expanded notion of network roaming. In the past, roaming meant that subscriber identification and authentication enabled users to 'connect' to non-subscribed networks -- in order to gain basic access. Looking forward, I anticipate that roaming will likely incorporate application and content access privileges.

As an example, if I subscribe to a premium pay-TV channel, I can choose to redirect that content to any network connected device (instead of the primary set-top box). It won't matter if the device is on my home network, outside the home, outside my subscribed mobile network, and potentially even outside my country of residence. My subscriptions essentially 'follow-me' to wherever I choose. Think of the example as a network-based Slingbox-like offering.

Clearly, this scenario has inherent interoperability issues that must be resolved, and there are organizations developing industry standards for this very purpose. The MultiService Forum is a global association of service providers, system suppliers and test equipment vendors committed to developing and promoting open-architecture, Multiservice Next Generation Networks.

Moreover, I can foresee major roadblocks that raise unanswered questions about the viability of these broadband services provider offerings. Will these services be made available during the current window of opportunity? Will the CapEx costs associated with the service delivery environment facilitate competitive service pricing, while maintaining a reasonable profit margin?

Meaning, as the price-point for 'bypass devices' (like the Slingbox) declines over time, can a network-based solution not only compete -- can it also add meaningful value to the user experience, and thereby differentiate the offering? Current Analysis believes that superior execution in making each subscriber feel as if the network was designed specifically for them -- i.e. MyService, MyWay -- will enable service providers to attract huge swaths of subscribers, and retain them over time.

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