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This installment of TMCnet's "Executive Suite," a feature in which leading executives in the Voice over Internet Protocol/communications industry discuss their companies’ latest developments as well as providing analysis on industry news and trends.

Technology Marketing Corporation President and Editor-in-Chief Rich Tehrani recently interviewed Harald Braun, President of the Networks Division of Siemens Communications in the United States.

 

Harald Braun

 
 
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Siemens’ Harald Braun


As President of the Networks Division of Siemens Communications (news - alert) in the United States, Harald Braun leads operations for the following product groups: wireless networks, broadband solutions, photonics, next generation switching products and solutions, and digital home. In addition, he is helping to drive the company’s strategy for deployment of Internet Protocol-based Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology and is also responsible for overall management of the division’s sales, marketing, and service and support functions. Braun has led the Networks Division since September, 2005. Prior to this, he was President of the Carrier Networks Division since 2002.

Of all the people I have spoken with about IMS there is a single individual I put on a pedestal as being able to talk about real-world applications of IMS that will change lives. It is great to talk about theory and all the things that are possible — but this person was able to explain what is happening today and what we will we see soon. Rich Tehrani’s Executive Suite is a monthly feature in which leading executives in the industry discuss their company’s latest developments with TMC president Rich Tehrani as well as providing analysis on industry news and trends.



Harald Braun — the President of Siemens Communications Networks Division — spent some time talking with me about IMS and more in a recent part-telephone, part-live interview. Harald is very animated and his passion for IMS comes through when he speaks with you. It is worth mentioning that Siemens has combined the Mobile, Carrier and Wireless divisions together to come up with the Networks division. This is where they saw the market going with IP being the standard and SIP being the protocol making communications happens. They are further moving the Mobile Group into the realm of IMS.

Harald says it is all about people and allowing the end-user to have more choice and making their lives easier. IMS requires the devices to have good interfaces in order to be able to use the applications. Also IMS will give us the ability to have more features, allowing you, for example, to invite others on a mobile or fixed-line conference call to share movie previews. Once you have agreement on a specific movie you can even buy your tickets with the same device. This sort of functionality is made possible with SIP sessions and currently works in the Siemens’ lab.

At this juncture it is worth noting a few things. The first of which is that most of the IMS applications coming to market are in the lab for now. Few are in production. It is also important to note that IMS is not needed to do many of the things it will be used for.

While this may sound strange, what IMS does do is make the next generation intelligent network possible. In the 1990s for example I witnessed the advent of Web-based telephony dashboards for things like call control. Incumbent service providers were able to give this innovation to their customers but chose not to. Vonage is credited with bringing a Web-based telephony interface to the masses — at least in the U.S. You don’t need VoIP to use a Web-based control panel but once you go IP you tend to go all the way. So think of IMS as a mindset. An architecture that gets service providers thinking how the next-generation network should look and what it should do.

So IMS is an architecture, framework, and an enabler. It will enable applications to be rolled out more rapidly and it will allow providers and developers to experiment with applications more rapidly and with less risk. It turns service providers into Internet companies.

IMS is an architecture, framework, and an enabler. It will enable applications to be rolled out more rapidly and it will allow providers and developers to experiment with applications more rapidly and with less risk. It turns service providers into Internet companies.

Getting back to the interview… I probed Harald more about applications and this is the response I got:

“Gaming is coming to be a big application. You can play games with many different people. Currently it is a very huge technology challenge to make games real-time. Concurrent or real-time gaming with people all over the country or world is the future of mobile gaming. People don’t stop gaming — many people play all weekend.”

Another consumer application is picture sharing allowing you to invite others to view the photos on your phone.

Siemens has brought their medical division into the picture and has integrated medical IMS applications. One application allows you to put your finger into a device on a toilet, which takes a sample of your blood and sends the information to your doctor. Apparently, according to Siemens, about 70 percent of the time when people go to the doctor because they don’t feel well, there is nothing wrong. This application reduces costs considerably while still catching that 30 percent. Oh, and in case you’re wondering — the toilet is not required, but this is a real-word application and as Harald explains it, in Japan, many of the toilets are already computerized. And to think, my wife finds it excessive when I bring a laptop into the kitchen.

A further extension of this application allows various parameters about your health to be sent to a hospital in real-time and you can subsequently be advised of the corresponding medications you need to take. A wireless monitor can be placed on the body to keep in constant touch with medical practitioners if needed.

Harald continues to tell me that the medical field has many applications that can be transmitted via IMS. “For simple things, you may not have to go to hospital,” he said.

Other interesting applications are security-based allowing you to see things that are happening on a mobile device based on triggers such as movement by a camera. Push to talk is not new but is yet another application we will see on IMS-based networks.

They are further integrating their middleware into IPTV allowing integrated IMS so an SMS message can be received and responded to on a TV screen with a remote control. This is a great trend for those of us who long to see our weekend e-mail spam while the ball game has a commercial.

Other exciting applications will make TV more interactive allowing users to open up instant message sessions.

The end-game for Siemens is to create an ecosystem enabling a killer development environment. The end-game for Siemens is to create an ecosystem enabling a killer development environment. This is the company’s passion as when you develop a killer environment you allow small creative companies to develop killer applications.

Siemens thinks the network should allow people to code applications and then allow anyone to get to them. Harald goes on to say that the Googles, eBays, and Vonages are creative in coming up with ideas, meaning that these sorts of companies can potentially benefit greatly from IMS.

“I feel the application server in IMS is the most strategic portion,” he says. “The goal is to put applications on the server and make them available throughout the network.”

“This is a difficult thing to digest as applications typically range in the one to two month development time range while voice has an 18-month cycle.” He continued, “That is the challenge and it can be done.”

Harald tells me that Siemens has up to 16 divisions depending on the country. Some of these divisions are medical, power generation, building technology, etc. They further have a program called Siemens One and it goes across the divisions allowing them to be sold as a packaged solution and offered to clients. They are always looking to combine software into telephony. Another notable quote is, “There should be no distinction if I switch my computer at home or the office.” The same goes for the PDA.

He feels that applications and content are king and voice is just a very small portion in the future of telecommunications.

“Applications have to act in real time. Partners can be anywhere while connected to a gaming session.”

Other comments worth mentioning are as follows: Routers were not created with carrier-class reliability but applications need to be real-time. Today people are used to 99.999% reliability so the backbone needs to improve.

“Telecom companies have to make their business model for IMS work. On the other hand, cable companies have content but need a mobility partner.”

In addition the company has done extensive surveying of customers with the goal being to determine what customers are willing to pay for. This is being done to help service providers understand where the IMS ROI is.

The surveys were done around the world, and in the U.S., some of the most popular applications in order of popularity are mobile e-mail, music, TV, enriched voice calls, gaming, group communications, and file sharing.

I asked what he thinks about comments referring to IMS as walled gardens.

He replied that customers will just see applications. GPS becomes the telephone, etc. They don’t care about this; they just care about applications. Applications are king; Verizon, AT&T and the MSOs have to make this happen.

New entrants like eBay, Vonage, and Skype will create new telephony behavior and they may be the new telecom companies of the future.

He can’t disclose what Google is working on but he says it is mind-boggling.

“How will enterprise be affected,” I asked?

Siemens is creating the mobile enterprise allowing the enterprise to be part of the telephony network. With OpenScape you can create a buddy list he says so your companion knows if you are available on your cell, home phone, etc.

Open Scape is telephony, IM, presence, and collaboration and it makes workflow and business much more effective.
Developers will be able to reach not millions, but billions of devices more rapidly than ever before.
I asked, you don’t need IMS for this right?

“Every product we create is IMS ready to use throughout the telecom environment. These applications have to be compliant with open standards such as SIP.”

From there we went into a discussion about the state of wireless and the different networks such as WiMAX, CDMA, GSM, etc. According to Harald, “all the networks are coming together and need to interact with one another. IMS is going to collapse or converge this into one network.”

This interview was very exciting for me as it showed some real-world examples of what IMS will bring the world. IMS may not be perfect but it is certainly a framework that will allow application developers to get applications into the hands of customers rapidly.

This is not unlike the promise of the communications ASP from years past. It is obvious that service providers can’t bring out every application themselves, which is why it is exciting to see that there will be ways for the small developers of the world to come out with cutting-edge applications and rapidly roll them out and more importantly get paid for them.

I don’t mean to oversimplify or overhype this technology but IP Multimedia Subsystem solutions remind me of the advent of the personal computer. In other words, a platform that can run all sorts of applications. The draw of developing applications for the PC platform is the ubiquity of the PC. Imagine a new platform that has the ability to reach all TV users, Internet users, and mobile device users. Furthermore it can tie these different devices together seamlessly. Developers will be able to reach not millions, but billions of devices more rapidly than ever before.

What can drive a market and ROI faster than opportunities this huge?

This is part of the promise of IMS... It is the opportunity to generate revenue on a massive scale. Therein lies the reason the IMS market will continue to grow and benefit consumers, service providers, and everyone else in the mix.

Rich Tehrani is President and Editor in Chief at TMC.

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