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Time Warner Puts IMS to the Test

In the race to develop next-generation multimedia services using Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem technology, Time Warner Cable may have just pulled into the lead.

While telephone companies such as AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. have yet to field their promised IMS-based services, Time Warner Cable and network gear provider Siemens Communications Inc. last week said they have successfully created a working version of a system that welds Wi-Fi broadband and cellular phone communications together using the technology.

That could open the door for services allowing consumers to share multimedia and view entertainment content on any device, anywhere.

A product of the cellular industry, IMS provides a common set of rules and monitoring tools for sending data between any set of devices across any kind of Internet Protocol network. It tracks the flow of data, checks for authorized users, identifies the devices they use, monitors the transmission and sends any charge information to a service provider’s billing system.

Using that, service providers can develop applications that may flow from a cable network to a cellular network or Internet grid and end up on any kind of device, be it a cable set-top box or mobile handset.

In the Time Warner lab test, staged in its Herndon, Va. facility, the cable operator and Siemens demonstrated several multimedia applications, starting with a dual-mode service allowing calls to flow from outside cellular network to a home Wi-Fi network using a single wireless handset. Other demonstrations built on that idea, including an online gaming session between a cell phone user and an opponent on a wireline broadband connection.

The successful test with Time Warner is a milestone for IMS, according to Harold Braun, president of Siemens’ networks division.

At recent trade shows including TelecomNext and the National Show, “everybody was talking about IMS,” he said. “And nobody can really show it, alive, and demo it. And it was not a demo, it was more of a field trial that we did.”

Time Warner was evaluating whether IMS could become a viable base for new cable services.

“Now the company sees that it is real, that we have all of the components and that we can execute it,” Braun said. That will have a ripple effect among cable operators, “because everyone is looking to Time Warner to see how they did it, what they did and how they will roll it out,” he added.