IMS is finally reaching its potential as a true innovation platform

Image credit: Oleg Golovnev /

IMS has been a “thing” for 15 years or so. Now it appears to have finally come of age and gone mainstream, and Jan Rijk Vonk, director of innovation strategy at KPN and a scheduled speaker at the forthcoming IMS World Forum, May 23-24 in Madrid, has a very simple explanation why.

“It is as simple as the fact that legacy systems are not flexible, they are not software based,” he says. “Now that networks are increasingly software defined, we can take advantage of the flexibility of IMS.”

It’s worth remembering that when IMS first emerged, the Global Billing Association did a quick survey of operators, asking them: “Is IMS in your strategic plan?” The reply was: “Yes, but we have no idea why.”

Now it is becoming very clear why, explains Vonk: “The OTT players are forcing us to move. Also, ten years ago when the promise of IMS was identified, we were running a high margin, safe business. Now margins are much thinner and we need it to keep up, to work with the OTT players.”

Vonk notes that OTT players are providing APIs on which you can build your own products, “and that is exactly what we need to be doing. All the new players are using APIs – Uber is using Twillio, for example, so is AirBnB.”

Vonk adds that the new players need telcos because they can provide 99.9% uptime. “Interestingly, we are seeing that SMS is on the rise again because it is more reliable for alerts – 99.5% uptime is not reliable enough for many applications. iMessage is not that reliable, and interestingly Google is going in the other direction by buying Jibe and using RCS. They can start providing SMS, enriched SMS, and offer it as if it were a Google service.”

IMS is a foundation of innovation, and Vonk firmly believes that the most interesting propositions will come from OTT players and telcos combined. “We have just started and are building some applications already. Once we see the outcomes of the initial projects, then we can roll out innovative B2B services. Our goal is ‘Open Telco’ or ‘Open Innovation’, if you like”.

If you are working with large corporates to modernize their systems, the cost of integration drops, says Vonk. “It becomes a wholesale game. Now that you have Open Source IMS, you can, for instance, become an MVNO. Instantly. And the cost of entry drops, dramatically.”

Vonk observed that IMS is a solution that proves that a new technology takes ten years to become real. “Even three years ago the use cases were not really there. Now it enables many things, and we believe that the development community can make you grow faster than you can by yourself”.

Judging by Vonk’s excitement, the IMS World Forum is going to be a great event.

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