IEEE Network • November/December 2009
0890-8044/09/$25.00 © 2009 IEEE
owadays, multimedia services are presented in
multiple analyses as the key point for future
communications. This trend, together with the
confluence of different types of services, termi-
nals, and networks into a unique next-generation network
(NGN), will allow the incorporation of wideband applications.
NGN is a packet-based network able to provide telecom-
munication services to users and make use of multiple broad-
band quality of service (QoS)-enabled transport technologies,
and in which service-related functions are independent of the
underlying transport-related technologies .
Currently, the most relevant NGN standardization initia-
tives (European Telecommunications Standards Institute
[ETSI] and Third Generation Partnership Project [3GPP])
are focused on the regularization of these emerging infras-
tructures . 3GPP has defined a first approach to the
NGN architecture in the mobile world through the IP multi-
media subsystem (IMS), which is now considered the stan-
dard for real-time multimedia communication services.
However, ETSI Telecommunications and Internet Con-
verged Services and Protocols for Advanced Networking
(TISPAN) is working on the adaptation of IMS to offer
these kinds of services through fixed access networks. This
solution will contribute to overcome all the restrictions of
service delivery in current platforms, avoiding the use of
proprietary solutions and the lack of competence in the
field of open service platforms.
NGN is based on an open architecture of standardized lay-
ers with guaranteed QoS, security, mobility, and flexible ser-
vice platforms; therefore, it appears as a suitable option for
achieving pan-European communication, since it is presented
as an integrated solution that can bring users the benefits of a
seamless and solid user experience regardless of their loca-
Mass market uptake of new services offered by such a plat-
form requires interoperability between operators. Only a
small number of network equipment providers are actually in
a position to really offer an end-to-end integrated telecommu-
nications solution applying the NGN specifications. Each of
these providers has its own proprietary solution, and they are
not prepared enough to be interconnected to equipment from
different providers since they apply different implementations
of the standard. Also, the specifications themselves are diffi-
cult to keep track of, as several major specification bodies are
involved, producing hundreds of documents.
Due to these facts, even simple a priori tasks such as a
basic call or a client registration are far from being out-of-the-
box features, requiring hardware and software adaptations
that may or may not be technically feasible. Once basic net-
working interoperability is achieved, additional challenges
such as integration with existing systems, multivendor service
layer interoperability, and mobility of users and terminals
must be addressed too.
Different research programs have appeared in order to
Javier M. Aguiar, Carlos García, and Henar Vega, Universidad de Valladolid
Álvaro Martínez and Tamara de Vega, Telefónica I+D
Philippe Bouillé, France Telecom R&D
Antoine de Poorter, Ericsson Spain
This article presents an open and functional architecture based on a next-genera-
tion network solution in order to seize its converged nature to guarantee interoper-
ability among different platforms and terminals. The defined architecture is an
integrated solution for end-to-end communication of various IP multimedia subsys-
tem platforms marketed by different vendors, belonging to several operators locat-
ed in different countries across Europe and supporting multiple terminals and
technologies in order to experiment with a new broadband telephony service for
the residential environment. This work addresses, in particular, the interoperability
problems of name resolution and implementation of the Session Initiation Protocol
Interface at the terminal as a key use in such a scenario. Also, several advanced
services are developed and tested within the proposed architecture as a proof of
concept of the IMS capability for quick service creation and deployment. The archi-
tecture proposed contributes to the reduction of obstacles and barriers among the
European countries in order to adopt NGN architectures, allowing a new type of
communication that is more complete and flexible.
Multimedia Services Interoperability in
Next-Generation Networks for the
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
encourage studies and projects related to interoperability and
large-scale NGN deployments. One of these initiatives is
Cooperation for European Sustained Leadership in Telecom-
munications (CELTIC), the cluster focused on communica-
tions integrated in the international cooperation program
EUREKA. The objective of this initiative is the development
of pre-competitive comprehensive integrated communication
system solutions that will be the core of the CELTIC Pan-
European Laboratory, enabling trial and evaluation of service
concepts, technologies, and so on.
Within this environment appears the Multimedia Commu-
nication Service (MaCS) project [3–5], on the results of which
this article is based. The aim of MaCS is to attain pan-Euro-
pean communication between NGN terminals and platforms
coming from different providers and using different technolo-
gies, achieving a suitable level of interoperability.
This document introduces an architecture that provides
multimedia conversational communication between two or
more users placed in different locations across Europe and
connected through NGN, providing a bidirectional real-time
transmission containing both video and audio. Innovation
aspects are focused on providing multimedia communication
among users of diverse networks independent of the terminal
(PCs, videophones, etc.), making communications more flexi-
ble and adapted to end-user needs.
This article is organized as follows. The next section intro-
duces the underlying architectures and technologies of the
architecture proposed, while the following section is focused
on the interoperability issues. We then present several innova-
tive multimedia services that make use of the interoperable
features provided by the platform. In the following section
some test results are discussed. We then deal with the
strengths of an IMS-based system. The final section presents
major conclusions related to this work.
Vendors have implemented their own versions of the standard
IMS architecture, with often conflicting interpretations of the
specifications. These conflicts arise as a natural result of their
aim for differentiation. This aim often leads them to refute
standards if the vendor approach suits their objectives signifi-
cantly better. Few cooperation efforts have been launched so
far in order to effectively achieve interoperability; among
them, the IMS Plugfest Events organized by the IMS Forum
as well as some private consortia such as the Open Services
Partner Alliance (OSPA) or the Rich Communication Suite
Initiative (RCS) can be mentioned.
The added value of the CELTIC initiative lies in the pre-
competitive development of an integrated communication sys-
tem solution, at the core of which lies the CELTIC
Pan-European Laboratory. Thus, the main priorities of
CELTIC are the trial and evaluation of services, technologies,
and terminals, together with the analysis of business models in
order to have a direct transfer of these results into marketable
products and applications. Hence, this emergence of interop-
erable and pre-competitive networks and products will
increase the maturity of the market.
Within this environment, the MaCS Project has contributed
to the creation of this laboratory, offering a platform involving
various operators and manufacturers from different countries
across Europe. Through this platform, the project offers an
open and functional communication system based on next-
generation architectures (and particularly IMS), ensuring
interoperability between the different agents and appropriate
performance of advanced multimedia communication services.
Figure 1 shows the communications environment that has
been built within the MaCS Project. Different laboratories
Figure 1. Pan-European laboratory.
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
located in various countries have been interconnected in order
to allow testing of the services developed.
As introduced previously, the MaCS architecture developed
for the implementation of the multimedia services is based on
the architecture proposed by ETSI TISPAN, which in turn is
mainly based on IMS. The MaCS architecture includes several
modifications depending on the network features and the spe-
cific requirements of multimedia services . This architecture
has been deployed by several operators using different ven-
dors’ equipment in a pan-European communications network,
addressing the interoperability issues arising — particularly
IMS client interface and name resolution — within the MaCS
Project lifetime. Figure 2 presents a global overview of the
MaCS architecture proposal, identifying the correspondences
of the entities proposed with those depicted by ETSI TISPAN
in its network architecture specification.
The main elements composing the MaCS architecture are
briefly described as follows:
• The network attachment subsystem (NASS) is mainly in
charge of the following functionalities:
–Dynamic provision of IP addresses and terminal configura-
–IP level authentication.
–Authorization and access configuration based on user pro-
• The admission and resource control platform (ARCP) is
basically in charge of admission control (interacting with
the NASS) and port management functionalities. ARCP is
reached from the access network through the multimedia
access gateway (MAG).
•The call session control function (CSCF) includes the func-
tionalities of three IMS core elements:
–The proxy-CSCF (P-CSCF) is the user access
point in the IMS subsystem.
–The serving-CSCF (S-CSCF) is in charge of ses-
–The interrogating-CSCF (I-CSCF) is the intercon-
nection point between networks from different
The CSCF is the logical signaling entity connect-
ed to the end user’s terminal in the signaling path.
It provides the user with access to the service
provider network, and some of its functions include-
acting as a registrar server, controlling sessions of
registered users for the support of services, and
proxying Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) mes-
sages. Moreover, the CSCF interacts with service
platforms, communicating with different servers
such as the conference server (CS), the application
server (AS), the media server (MS), and the pres-
ence server (PS).
•The AS provides value-added multimedia services,
hosting and executing services such as messaging
and session forwarding. The AS exports an appli-
cation programming interface (API), which pro-
vides a higher abstraction layer for the
multimedia service designers. The network hides
the IMS layout from the services, and at the
same time provides building blocks for service
•The service database is in charge of the function-
alities encompassed by the home subscriber serv-
er (HSS) defined by ETSI TISPAN. It is the
element containing the information regarding the
subscription of a user, in charge of the storage of
user identification (addressing and numbering), security
information, registration, and profile information.
• The interconnection border gateway (IBG) constitutes the
connection interface between different IP transport net-
works. It is in charge of functions such as packet filtering
(port opening/closing), packet flagging, resource allocation
and reservation, IP address and port translation, and net-
work address port translation (NAPT).
• The MAG is the network entity that terminates the access
connections of the access network. This entity limits the
connection of the access network, providing the aggregation
capabilities between the access network and the IP core
network, and implementing functions such as IP packet for-
warding, packet marking, and flow policing.
• The interconnection border control function (IBCF) con-
trols the boundary between the domains of two different
operators at the signaling level, interacting with the trans-
port resources and protecting the signaling information on
both sides: source and destination.
From the point of view of terminals and infrastructures inter-
connection, an important obstacle appears when managing
interoperability between IMS platforms  from different
manufacturers. This is the need for a common implementa-
tion of the IMS client interface at the terminal. To fulfill this
need, it is necessary to define a specific SIP profile in order to
guarantee both interoperability and multimedia conversational
services requirements, since SIP  has been adopted as the
signaling protocol by the IMS system.
The problem emerges due to the existence of two flavors of
the specification: some vendors may implement the 3GPP
Figure 2. Global architecture proposal and ETSI TISPAN equivalent entities
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
standard, while others may implement the one offered by the
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This causes the
necessity to make certain changes in both the platforms (to
ensure interoperability) and the clients, in order to be able to
register from any of the terminals in any of the platforms.
Therefore, MaCS has defined its own SIP profile in order to
ensure that platforms and terminals involved in the overall
architecture implement the standard at an equivalent level.
Moreover, the terminals developed within the MaCS Project
are SIP-based in order to make the most of the communica-
tions advantages it offers. Figure 3 shows the global laborato-
ry and the main SIP signaling connections.
Another key point to solve is the name resolution when
establishing calls between users located in different platforms.
A first approach is use of the Domain Name System (DNS)
specifying different domains for each platform. However, the
existence of diverse mechanisms for resolution via DNS (SRV
requests, type A registers, NAPTR) forces the administrators
of each domain to study the problem in a global way and
establish a unique method for name resolution. Thus, the
communication system deployed within MaCS adopts a hier-
archical architecture for naming resolution, with different
approaches at the IMS domain level but a common name res-
olution system on top. Figure 4 shows the final scheme imple-
mented in MaCS.
Interoperable Multimedia Services
In order to demonstrate the achieved interoperability between
heterogeneous vendor and operator platforms, different ser-
vices have been developed and tested over the MaCS pan-
European communications network. The services are mainly
focused on the residential environment, such as Multimedia
Messaging, Originating Information Presentation and Restric-
tion (OIP/OIR), Presence and Reachability Service (PRS),
and Local Address Book and Network Address Book
(LAB/NAB). Implementation of these services at a European
level has been achieved thanks to the separation between the
service, transport, and network layers presented by the NGN
architecture. This separation allows the development of ser-
vices directly on the service layer, without considering details
of the transport layer. During execution of the project, differ-
ent tests have been carried out in order to demonstrate the
The following services represent an innovation regarding
interoperability since their implementation takes place in an
international scenario and between heterogeneous NGN plat-
forms. The services developed demonstrate that the use of
NGN in an interoperable scenario effectively facilitates the
task of creating new services. These services have been speci-
fied following Unified Modeling Language (UML) and 3GPP
phase division methodologies.
The aim of this service is to use the network as the source for
multimedia information used to identify the caller, such as its
picture and avatar, instead of the terminal. In this way the
receiving terminal gets a uniform resource locator (URL)
added by the network to the session establishment message.
The terminal extracts from the URL the multimedia informa-
tion about the sender, which will be shown to the end user.
User identification can be performed via the terminal’s
URL, caller’s uniform resource identifier (URI), a phone
number in E.164 format, and a photo or an avatar associated
with the caller, as long as these data are available and quali-
fied by the network. If these data are not received (e.g., net-
work problems), a caller’s identification is displayed as
Figure 3. Global overview of the interconnection architecture (for two operators).
CSAS MSPS CS AS MSPS
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
The restriction of caller identification allows the caller to
avoid receiving parties getting his/her identification in any
of the ways previously mentioned, unless for some special
cases in which the receiver has a way to cancel this restric-
tion. The caller has the possibility to establish the restric-
tion of identification to be permanent (for all calls) or as a
temporary setting (the service is only invoked for that spe-
Presence and Reachability Information Service
Presence information makes reference to a user’s capacity to
know the availability of its contacts in order to contact them
through a phone call. The real communication capability
depends on network availability, compatibility between termi-
nals, and so on. Presence information allows the user to
inform his/her contacts about his/her availability to receive
calls and at the same time to check about theirs. This way a
user can indicate that he/she is away and therefore will not be
able to answer any incoming calls.
The five presence states that are normally used are: con-
nected, disconnected, away, unavailable, and a personalized
message that allows the user to indicate several circumstances
such as “having lunch” or “attending a meeting.” Therefore,
the user is able to indicate in a more descriptive way the rea-
sons for his/her unavailability.
Users can attempt to subscribe to other users’ presence
information. These other users have to explicitly accept such a
subscription before the requesting user receives their presence
information. The possible contacts can always accept or reject
another user request to access their presence information.
They can also block a user whenever they want, so this user
stops receiving presence information, generally receiving
instead a disconnected status message. In the same way, this
user can be unblocked at any moment so he/she can again
receive the initial user’s presence information.
The reachability information automates actions such as
call rejection, redirection, or missed call messaging depend-
ing on the rules established for each contact state. This ser-
vice uses a series of routing rules that can be configured via
the Web, in combination with presence information. The
routing rules include group management, so the group the
user belongs to can affect the session processing (and there-
fore the presence state showed); for example, a user with a
presence state of unavailable would receive calls from users
belonging to the VIP group, but not from users out of that
group. These VIP users will also see a presence state differ-
ent from the state the rest of the users see, given that the
reachability service can modify the presence information
LAB and NAB Services
These two services allow a user to store information related to
his/her contacts, such as name, address, phone number, email,
alias, picture, and avatar. LAB service keeps this information
locally in the terminal, whereas NAB service stores the infor-
mation in the network.
Users of these services can create new contacts, check,
modify, or delete their contacts data, and search for a specific
contact in the list. Users can also establish a session, in any of
its modalities, with one of their contacts. All the previous
operations are executed directly on the local list of contacts,
which then gets synchronized with the network list. Whenever
a user gets connected from a terminal, the network contact
list is loaded into the terminal.
Synchronization between LAB and NAB is done through
the SyncML protocol, which allows synchronization among
several databases. Its purpose is to synchronize all local
address books the user may have in different terminals, so the
user has his/her agenda information at his/her disposal what-
ever terminal is used to establish the connection.
Figure 4. MaCS name resolution scheme.
NAPTR type DNS
SRV type DNS
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
Tests conducted in MaCS have consisted of the execution of
residential services requiring end-to-end transmission of infor-
mation, in order to assess the technical challenge of intercon-
necting different IMSs from different providers. A global
number of 500 tests have been performed. Figure 5 summa-
rizes the results.
The services described in the previous section were comple-
mented with existing services in order to be able to appropriate-
ly benchmark the selected test features. The services used were:
• Instant messaging (IM), where IMS pan-European intercon-
nection implies sending text or multimedia files between
different SIP end users connected to different IMSs.
Around 100 tests have been performed, with satisfactory
• OIP and OIR: They can be seen as a multimedia evolution
of calling number ID presentation (CNIP) integrated ser-
vices digital network (ISDN) services. OIP service implies
transmission of multimedia identity from the caller to the
called party. Around 60 tests have been conducted, almost
all of them satisfactory.
• NAB: This service implies synchronization with the LAB
using the protocol SyncML 1.1. Most of the 30 tests con-
ducted have been successful.
• PRS: IMS pan-European interconnection implies the possi-
bility for a subscriber of a given country and a given opera-
tor to subscribe to the presence state of one of his/her
buddies and conversely to publish his/her own presence.
Around 150 tests have been conducted, only half of them
being successful. Those average results can be explained by
internal AS problems and SIP interoperability problems
between terminals and network.
• Multimedia management (MMM). This service mainly
implies the capability to enrich an existing session by adding
new media (e.g., adding video to an ongoing voice session).
Most of the 110 tests have proved successful. However,
some terminals as well as one of the IMS platforms used
during the test showed poor support of the reInvite SIP
method, used to modify the session parameters.
• Videotelephony between soft clients and hard SIP video-
phones. Forty tests have been conducted with only 70 per-
cent success: the problems identified were related to codec
negotiation, bandwidth managemen,t and fragmented Real-
Time Transport Protocol (RTP) frames.
The global conclusion extracted from the pan-European
IMS service tests is that the network-to-network IMS/SIP
interface is mature enough to claim that pan-European inter-
connection of IMSs is already something technically feasible.
However, interconnection of SIP videophones from different
vendors is not as straightforward. Flexibility of SIP and coexis-
tence of 3GPP, TISPAN, and IETF standards partly explain
this point. Furthermore, user acceptance tests have shown
that the ergonomics of services needs improvements (especial-
ly PRS and MMM services) and that users demand homoge-
neous service interfaces independent of the terminal used.
All of this calls for an effort of the emerging IMS commu-
nity to foster some service end-to-end specifications as well as
man–machine interface specifications for IMS terminals, in
order to avoid the emergence of isolated IMS islands with
proprietary solutions and facilitate a larger potential audience
for IMS services.
Although the services deployed over IMS within MaCS may
as well be provided with SIP soft clients on the open Internet
(one may refer to the current tendency of Internet service
providers to get their desktop communications applications
onto mobile devices), one should not overlook the innate
advantages for an operator to implement a communication
suite in an IMS environment.
IMS service architecture can be seen in a nutshell as a way
to enrich IETF-based SIP routing with (user or service) pro-
file mechanisms. Communication services over an IMS infras-
tructure, if designed with proper standardization, will bring
the following advantages to the end user: a wider user base (a
problem of current SIP network implementations is “Who can
I call?”), security (authentication, certified identities, etc.),
QoS (guaranteed bandwidth, etc.) , third party services sup-
port, possibility to use value added network-based service
enablers (presence, address book, localization, etc.) for many
services, and transport network convergence. Furthermore,
the MaCS Project has demonstrated the capacity of IMS to
create services, even very complex ones, in a short time on the
AS side, taking into account the state of the standardized API
specifications for the service platforms and the limited set of
network enablers offered by the equipment vendors at the
Furthermore, the capacity to implement authentication,
authorization, and accounting (AAA) functionalities puts IMS
in a good place to act as a SIP portal, wrapping up multime-
dia services and therefore controlling the homepage of the ter-
minal, providing an essential asset in the upcoming battle for
The MaCS architecture model provides an open and function-
al communication system based on NGNs with the final aim
of ensuring an appropriate level of interoperability between
all the actors involved in the communication process.
The main objective is to minimize the existing barriers
focusing the efforts on internetworking issues in order to
achieve an infrastructure allowing perfect cooperation
between terminals and agents located in various countries,
providing residential users with a set of multimedia services
for more complete and flexible communication.
The architecture presented demonstrates the feasibility of
an interoperable IMS network composed of several operators
and vendors’ equipment distributed through Europe by the
implementation of the first pan-European multimedia call
Figure 5. Overall test execution success rate by service.
IEEE Network • November/December 2009
based on interconnected NGN platforms. Also, several
advanced services were developed within the project, which
illustrate the quick service development — independent of
transport and network layer — promised by IMS.
In summary, MaCS settled some of the grounds for the
development of a pan-European communication platform for
the fixed networks domain based on the guidelines established
by the IMS infrastructure for the mobile environment.
When the MaCS Project started, no IMS platform was in
commercial service by a fixed operator. Nowadays, IMS is
being adopted as the only reference architecture for a con-
verged fixed/mobile network. The initial steps to interoperable
solutions taken within the project have granted leading mar-
ket positions to the partners involved for IMS deployment
and manufacturing of terminals and network equipment, and
the project has contributed significantly to the development of
commercial IMS products, new multimedia terminals, and
innovative services. Consequently, user experience will be
enriched through a plethora of advanced services that will
stimulate a new way of communication.
The present article is based on work undertaken in the
Multimedia Communication Service (MaCS) Project,
whose consortium the authors want to acknowledge. The
project was launched under the Cooperation for a Sus-
tained European Leadership in Telecommunications
(CELTIC) initiative, a EUREKA cluster program, sup-
ported by most of the major European players in commu-
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JAVIER M. AGUIAR (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds a Ph.D. in telecommunications and
telecommunications engineering from the University of Valladolid, Spain. Cur-
rently he is a professor with the Higher Technical School of Telecommunications
Engineering at the University of Valladolid, and his research is focused on next-
generation networks and services. He participated in IST FP5 (ICEBERGS), IST
FP6 (MEDIANET, SATSIX, OPUCE), EUREKA-CELTIC (MaCS, QUAR2, IMAGES,
PABlOS), and ESA (AO4694), managing technical activities in national and
European research projects, as well as cooperation with relevant companies in
the telecommunications sector. Furthermore, he has contributed in the standard-
ization field as an expert in Specialist Task Force 294 of the European Telecom-
munications Standards Institute.
CARLOS GARCIA (email@example.com) holds an M.Eng. degree in telecom-
munications engineering from the University of Valladolid, where he is also a
Ph.D. candidate. He has been involved in several national and European R&D
projects, including IST FP6 SATSIX and IST FP6 OPUCE, as well as several
CELTIC Initiative projects (MaCS, QUAR2, IMAGES) and national projects. His
research activities include service engineering, virtualization middleware, context-
aware services and applications, QoS provisioning, and applications over next-
HENAR VEGA (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds an M.Eng. degree in telecommu-
nications engineering from the University of Valladolid, where she is also a Ph.D.
candidate. She has been involved in several national and European R&D pro-
jects, including IST FP5 MEDIANET, EUREKA CELTIC QUAR2, and EUREKA
CELTIC IMAGES. Her research interests include QoS measurement and provision-
ing in multimedia communications, VoIP, and NGN architectures.
ÁLVARO MARTINEZ (email@example.com) works as an R&D engineer at Telefónica I+D
since 1999, focused on services, software engineering, IP and NGN networks,
Web and voice over IP pre-commercial services, applications, platforms, and ter-
minals applied research and development for the Telefonica Group. Nowadays,
he works in open research and collaborative European innovation projects, tar-
geting residential, SME, and community customers.
TAMARA DE VEGA (firstname.lastname@example.org) graduated in 2002 with an M.Eng. in telecom-
munications engineering from the University of Valladolid. She has been an R&D
engineer at Telefónica I+D since 2002, involved in several national and Euro-
pean R&D projects related to service engineering, IP and NGN networks, and
voice over IP applications, platforms, and terminals.
PHILIPPE BOUILLÉ (email@example.com) graduated in 1991 in
electronics engineering from the National Institute of Applied Science (INSA),
France. He has been working for France Telecom R&D since 1993 and is in
charge of next-generation services developments for the company. He has partic-
ipated in several NGN service deployment projects since 2000 and participates
actively in related ETSI standardization tasks. His work areas include NGN ser-
vices, architectures and protocols, deployment strategies, business models, stan-
dardization, and qualification.
ANTOINE DE POORTER (firstname.lastname@example.org) has wide experience,
over nearly 20 years, working with wireless telephony systems, especially mobile
systems. He has worked with analog mobile systems, then GSM, and later UMTS.
Currently he works at the Ericsson Spain R&D Main Centre as a master systems
engineer. His main areas of competence are related to network user databases,
mobile network security, mobile multimedia systems, and 3G applications.