LAS VEGAS -(Dow Jones)- Last year, the CTIA Wireless show set the foundation for next-generation technology ranging from high-speed mobile connection to integrated voice and data networks. This year, the equipment vendors are back to show off their capabilities.
Internet Multimedia Subsystems, or IMS, was among the heavily touted technologies at last year's event. It provides the network architecture that combines multiple networks - from voice, video or data, wireless or fixed line - into one Internet-based line. This year, equipment vendors such as Lucent Technologies and Motorola are introducing applications that help the service providers run their networks better.
"IMS is an enabling platform," said Cindy Christy, president of Lucent's Network Solutions Group. It answers the question, "How do you deliver value to the customers?"
Lucent has made much noise in bringing the different parts of the network - from the access points to the long-haul transport line - onto an Internet system. The company now wants to lay different applications on top of it, which Lucent says carriers can do at a much lower cost than if it were to bring applications to a more disparate network.
One such feature is the marriage between IMS and Internet television service. At Lucent's booths were flat-screen televisions running a simultaneous video feed with data applications such as an instant messaging program and traffic and weather data. Lucent's Internet protocol television, or IPTV, work has been focused outside of the US. Alcatel, which announced merger plans with Lucent on Sunday, has done an increasing amount of IPTV work in the U.S., and counts AT&T Inc. among its largest customers. A Lucent representative speculated that consumers are willing to pay $30 to $50 a month for the core IPTV service, and that the different features could run from free to an additional $20.
Another application includes a quality of service guarantee that prioritizes different kinds of traffic - so voice runs at the fastest speed to maintain the quality of a phone call, while text messaging or emails go at a slower rate.
"We're doing a lot of work to help customers realize the value (of IMS)," Christy said. While only the main officers have been announced for the new combined Lucent-Alcatel company, Christy said she expects to have a role in the company.
IMS presents an interesting decision for carriers, said Jorge Fuenzalida, a consultant for inCode Wireless. Do they spend capital on expanding their network to get more subscribers? Or do they invest in IMS in an effort to generate more revenue from their existing customer base? For now, deployment of the technology is still at an early stage.
Lucent also is running a test with Telecom New Zealand for a project called "dynamic optimization." The technology will gather information about a wireless network and automatically move base stations to different positions to increase or decrease the capacity depending on the traffic or time of day.
Motorola, meanwhile, is working with IMS as a backbone for wireless services that include WiMax, a souped-up form of wireless fidelity, or EV-DO, which is a third-generation wireless standard used by the likes of Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.
With IMS, different devices ranging from cellphones, laptops and televisions can communicate with each other. Motorola said that once the carriers deploy IMS on their networks, consumers can go out and get applications such as instant messaging, which go for about $50, or use video phones, which cost roughly $300, and integrate them. Customers also can extend the office features to the home.
Motorola unveiled a WiMax system that powers an Internet phone service. Through the use of WiMax, which offers a wider range than Wi-Fi, the company can provide Internet-based wireless phone service in underserved rural areas or developing countries. The system uses a version of WiMax called 802.11e, which is generally associated with mobile applications. But Motorola is using it for fixed-location services.
Samsung, however, is using 802.11e for the world's first deployment of mobile WiMax. Jim Parker, a senior manager of wireless systems, said the technology will enable pure-play fixed-line companies to offer a WiMax-based wireless phone service, allow existing wireless companies to extend their network, or allow companies a wireless alternative to their traditional broadband connection. Samsung is working with Korea Telecom and SK Telecom to deploy the network in South Korea.
The technology is important as another growth avenue for the equipment companies. The carriers have previously been focused on investing in equipment for their third-generation wireless network.
"For wireline operators who missed out on the opportunity of wireless growth, this is their second chance," Parker said. He said each base station costs less than $100,000, and about the same number of base stations as the ones used by traditional wireless technology are required. Each base station has the range of 3 to 5 kilometers, he said.
Sprint is among the companies testing out the technology.
Prices for the phones for the SK Telecom-Korea Telecom project have yet to be set, but expect them to be at the higher end. In addition, Korean carriers aren't allowed to subsidize phones like the U.S. carriers.
Samsung also unveiled laptop WiMax cards for business customers and other professionals. Down the line, Samsung hopes to design phones that work under both WiMax and a traditional cellular network.
-By Roger Cheng, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2020; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires "
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