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Nokia, NEC Test New IP Multimedia Subsystem

Two high-tech communications players have completed the first phase in a series of tests to show how a next-generation IP data and communications infrastructure works.

Phone giant Nokia and systems vendor NEC successfully completed interoperability testing between their IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS), the companies said Wednesday.

The tests were designed to show how major IMS features could work over an IP network connecting Europe and Japan. During the tests, Nokia and NEC established sessions for voice over IP and transferred instant messages between test terminals.

The trials are also being used to look at issues related to roaming at the service level. The ultimate objective is to have roaming for IMS-based services, allowing users to access the services of their home country even when they are abroad.

"In the future, we see IP-based multimedia becoming mainstream, providing people with a richer means of communications," Petri Poyhonen, vice president of Nokia's Core Networks, said in a statement. "The success of these trials shows the IMS standards are now mature enough for compatible implementation by different vendors."

IMS, as specified in 3GPP Release 5 (PDF file), allows for push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC); other IP multimedia services can also be accessed over any IP connection, such as GPRS and WCDMA networks and broadband home connections or WLAN hotspots . Motorola , Ericsson and British Telecom also support IMS standards.

Major equipment vendors are standardizing on the IMS architecture, because, as mobile devices and services evolve, operators want to tap into the high bandwidth of fixed and local-area wireless network resources. The problem had been that there was no common service environment.

NEC and Nokia claim the IMS architecture does the trick, because it enables a homogeneous service environment and incorporates IP, session initiation protocol (SIP), application servers, home subscriber servers and multimedia resource functions.

Nokia's IMS platform, launched in spring 2003, introduced SIP-based applications as a network service. After an extensive testing period with operator customers, the Nokia IMS is now shipping, and live tests are ongoing in several major European networks. Because of the new standards, Nokia said its operator customers now have new revenue opportunities both in 2G and 3G networks.

NEC's IMS solution is a combination of its carrier-grade middleware and Unix servers. The company said its IMS technology is available with both IPv6 and IPv4 address handling.

"IMS increases the value of an operator's network and subscriber base," Jay Miyahara, general manager of NEC's Mobilefone Solutions Division, said in a statement. "It will also allow mobile network operators to deliver new kinds of services to their users."

On the foundation of its Mobile Internet Platform, NEC said it will aggressively expand sales efforts in its primary products of "Ring back melodies," in which phone call recipients let call senders hear their favorite music or messages; "Location information system," a platform for providing various services based on participant location; and "3G/2.5G Mobile Visual Solution," which provides such multimedia data as cartoons, together with its other application software offerings.