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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

MSF GMI interoperability test for IMS and NGNs

I've just spent the morning up at BT's Adastral Park, formerly its Martlesham R&D campus, plus a few presentations yesterday afternoon at their HQ in London.

I'd been taken up there principally to look at the MSF's Global Interoperability test for NGNs, which is currently taking place. This is a major 2-week test hooking together 5 operators' new IMS/NGN networks (BT, Vodafone, Verizon, KT and NTT) with various vendors' kit to check a lot of the basic protocol stuff actually works, when different networks are bolted together. Basically it's IMS/NGN standards + a whole bunch of specific implementation details nailed down.

Basically - the main standards for IMS & other stuff can be a little "woolly" about specific details - different options, some things left up to specific vendor or operator interpretation and so on. MSF (The MultiService Forum) attempts to actually tighten some of this up - I'll write about them another time if I get a chance, but the bottom line is that in my view this is "necessary but not sufficient" to get IMS working in anger. While it certainly makes sure that I can place an IMS call from a device on BT's network to one on Voda's or NTT's, to some extent that's "table stakes" and just proves the basics work. I was a bit more impressed that they'd also managed to bridge a call between an IMS device and an Internet-resident SIP end-point, via the testing labs at the University of New Hampshire in the US.

However, what's not currently included in the MSF's remit is:

(a) any really conclusive attempts to bridge between IMS/NGN and Internet worlds, for example by inviting Google or Microsoft to take part in the tests, probably not with a real-world "MSF Spec" network, but with one which is a good real-world example of a large-scale, multi-application IP/Internet environment
(b) interoperability between operator NGN and enterprise IP network domains
(c) anything that relates to the access or device mechanisms, and how that may work with/around/against the network-level interoperability. Most of the testing is being done by engineers using laptops, rather than phones or anything in which a restricted user interface might apply. Clearly this was "out of scope" for the current project, but it would be nice to see MSF or another body try to work on the "end to end" interoperability of IMS/NGN from the user's perspective

Overall, very interesting. 5 major operators, and a bunch of major equipment vendors like Cisco and Nortel and Huawei. Notable absences were Nokia and Motorola, though.

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