One of the biggest trends in the service provider space is convergence.  As competition continues to intensify, service providers are beginning to realize the need to offer bundled services (on one bill) that includes voice, data and multimedia applications within a single solution.

Bundled solutions, commonly known as “triple play,” must leverage the capabilities of next-generation networks. In fact, triple play has really evolved to “quadruple play” with the addition of wireless services.  This enables service providers to introduce blended services such as video phone, multimedia chat, and gaming to a variety of devices. Subscribers also want to simplify the myriad of phone numbers, subscriptions, passwords, buddy lists, e-mail addresses, etc. In summary subscribers are demanding to get whatever services they want, whenever they want them, regardless of where they are.

One of the common technologies enabling quadruple play is the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). IMS is a powerful extension to the existing network infrastructure that allows service providers to build the next generation of communication services based on an IP advanced network architecture.  IMS specifications and elements are network independent, thus enabling the quadruple play services to be network and device agnostic, and can integrate voice, data and multimedia services in a single session.

The IMS is an integral part of a service provider’s network, providing a control plane for SIP-based services. However, IMS is only part of the story. A complete next generation network architecture must include network layer, which constitutes the entirety of the IP network, the control layer (of which IMS is a part), and the service layer that sits on top.

Part of the opportunity for rolling out quadruple play services is for service providers to offer a compelling end-user experience through the composition and orchestration of new services at the service layer of their next generation network.  Composite services leverage the functionality that already exists within the service provider network by combining the existing functionality of discreet functions to create higher value.  An example of this is an integrated communications and entertainment experience delivered over any device, any location and any network.

In order to deliver true “quadruple play” service providers must be able to create these composite services across multiple service platforms, technologies and protocols across both fixed and mobile networks.   As a result, service providers must look at control layer to deliver, amongst other things, network integration, session control and subscriber management while looking beyond IMS to the session layer to provide the capability to compose these new services -- allowing reuse of all assets, integrating legacy system and linking to back office business processes such as rating, billing and provisioning.  

To create composite services, applications must have the ability to communicate with each other.  Within the IMS context, the Service Capability Interaction Manager (SCIM) provides this functionality.  Beyond the SCIM, Web Services are a set of protocols that enable interaction and synchronization between applications at a higher level.  Web Services enable interaction at the service layer between service platforms and multiple protocols.  Using Web Services service providers can enable intelligence across applications to provide new services to customers and streamline internal IT-based tasks.

Overall, service providers have long attempted to respond to competitive pressures by introducing these new services. This has left them with a complex build up of control architectures and service development platforms that are making it difficult to continue to innovate and provide new services.  Service providers much find a way of simplifying the deployment and management of services and providing common service enablers to assist with operational processes with architectures such as IMS. Web Services and service orchestration further enable composite services and operational processes to be created from a wide range of diverse services.