|Issue:||Latin America 2006|
|Topic:||IMS in Latin America|
|Title:||Vice President and Managing Director|
|Organisation:||Tekelec CALA (Caribbean and Latin America) region|
Ricardo Diaz is Tekelec’s Vice President and Managing Director for the CALA (Caribbean and Latin America) region. Prior to joining Tekelec, Mr Diaz held leadership positions in business development and sales in Harris Corporation’s government and commercial communications sectors. He was instrumental in developing and expanding the international markets for several high-tech communications product lines. Mr Diaz has lived in ten countries. Ricardo Diaz holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Master’s of Business Administration Degree from Florida Tech.
IMS, the IP Multimedia Subsystem, will drive everything over IP, EoIP. IMS, a standardised networking architecture, provides mobile and fixed voice, data and video multimedia services for current and future Internet Protocol-based services. IMS can be implemented in stages, and applications added in accordance with market demand, with more sophisticated IMS functions and applications added as required. IMS technology shifts power to the consumer, letting consumers decide what IP services they want and, with precise-bundling, how much they pay for them.
The information communication technology, ICT, infrastructure in Latin America is on the cusp of major change. Regional market consolidation, sustained GDP growth, increased technology adoption and new sources of revenue are potential drivers for huge growth potential. Small transformations are indeed already in progress. Recent figures from Pyramid Research suggest that mobile penetration is currently around 42 per cent across the whole of the continent. Brasil Telecom announced at the end of last year that it had passed the one million subscriber mark for broadband Internet subscribers. In January of this year, fixed-line operator Telemar launched its residential VoIP service with the aim of signing 20,000 subscribers by 2007. Though clearly progress, these developments can really only be seen as testing the ground for major change. Technology and wealth are still distributed unevenly – Brazil and Mexico dominate the share of telecoms revenue in the region with 34 per cent and 27 per cent of mobile revenue, and 38 per cent and 30 per cent of fixed-line revenue, respectively. Government regulation in some regions stipulates that Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP, is illegal, with facilitators facing fines of up to $50,000. However, a revolution is brewing that promises to bring regulatory reform and liberalise the market, offering equality and efficiency alongside affordable services and greater accessibility. The technology that will be the circulatory system of the everything over IP, EoIP, future is, of course, the much-hyped IP Multimedia Subsystem, IMS, architecture. IMS’ revolutionary credentials lie in its use of IP, Internet Protocol, which breaks up data into packets rather than relying on a continuous stream, analogue signal. Unlike traditional telephony, which requires a separate channel for each service, IMS carries multiple services on a single channel. IMS facilitates access-agnostic service implementation, to deliver a single service to any number of terminals. Consequently, services can be developed and delivered more quickly to a larger market. Ultimately, the architecture transfers control of what services are received and how they are received to the end-user rather than to the provider. It is, of course, important to remember that unlike the fast-paced, dramatic and all-to-often violent images conjured by the term ‘revolution’, the move to IMS will be gradual, predictable and, one would hope, completely non-violent. Indeed, operators have already begun to take the first steps deploying broadband and increasing VoIP penetration. Moreover, the lag time of IMS adoption between Latin America and more developed countries is in some respects an advantage. IMS has developed through the experience gained with European and North American implementations. This prior experience allows Latin American operators to learn from the technological and planning mistakes of their predecessors, and implement IMS applications more effectively and with greater security. Taking the lead, Brazil has more broadband DSL, digital subscriber lines, per head than the UK. At the same time, unencumbered with legacy networks using obsolete technology – networks were never built in many areas – operators can install future-proofed IP infrastructures on their first go. This does not need to be, and in fact never will be, a full IMS architecture. Nevertheless, because IMS allows operators to implement in stages, return-on-investment, ROI, is immediate, paving the way for further development to a complete architecture at some point in the future. Many Latin American operators have begun building VoIP networks that can immediately attract VoIP customers, whilst being secure in the knowledge that their investment is future-proofed and ready for the move to full IMS. One of the greatest complexities, when taking the Latin American communications sector as a whole, is the number of operators deploying different technologies in multiple ways. Resulting from both government regulation and private sector competition, this amalgamation has produced widespread inefficiency and increased cost for both operator and user. IMS, being standards-based, will bring much greater simplicity and interoperability to these networks. Over time, this will improve efficiency and decrease cost, ultimately producing a better quality IP service for a lower price. The lower price is another crucial benefit IMS will bring. Whilst EoIP services are often perceived to be expensive – IPTV, mobile gaming, music downloads – at the other end of the scale, the greater efficiencies it offers means that affordable basic mobile communications will be available for the low-income segments of the population for the first time. Philanthropic ambitions aside, in a region where 25 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, the low-income business model is one that operators cannot afford to ignore. At the same time, the contortionist flexibility of the IMS architecture means that operators can operate low-end models whilst still taking full advantage of the middle and higher ends of the market. By adding services to their infrastructure, operators can bundle highly targeted packages based on whatever their customers desire. The market is certainly available – recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan reveals that revenues for the Latin American mobile data industry totalled $594.2 million in 2005 and estimates revenues will reach $2.61 billion in 2012. As with the developed world, there is much research and debate as to what the next ‘killer app’ will be. There is already some conjecture that IPTV has the potential to reach a wide audience, although at the moment, as in Europe, the humble short message service, SMS, still remains the surprise success story. With so much riding on its use, IMS proves itself invaluable once again through the way in which it allows new services to be implemented and deployed quickly and relatively cheaply. Furthermore, in countries with such varying degrees of wealth and technophilia, it is highly likely that several distinct killer apps will develop, possibly simultaneously. IMS gives operators the opportunity to take advantage of them all and gives end users the ability to experience them. Whilst debate on new services offered by IP quite often finds itself gravitating to the entertainment industry, it is also important to remember the more serious and no less exciting social tools that will be made available. Basic mobile tele-health services already exist and MyFoodPhone in the US, for example, uses voice and SMS to help doctors monitor their patients’ diets. Now handsets are being developed that are capable of taking biometric readings such as weight and blood pressure. When these units are connected to a network infrastructure based upon IMS architecture, doctors will be able to give patients full medical examinations over a handset, simultaneously taking readings, speaking to and visually examining the patient, sending test results for processing and more. For some patients, this will be a simple luxury but for those living in isolated regions, this technology could literally be a lifesaver. IMS will facilitate the EoIP future of Latin American communications for operators and end-users alike, but what is so significant about it is the way in which it moves the industry to a customer-centric model; IMS technology shifts power to the consumer. As IMS becomes a reality, the consumers will decide what IP services they want, how they receive them and, with precise-bundling, how much they pay for them. The high end of the market will be able to videophone friends and family in other countries and watch The Motorcycle Diaries on mobile IPTV, whereas the low end will be able to receive medical advice and education through shared handsets. All will benefit from lower prices, higher quality of service and greater accessibility.