The IMS Forum completed its first ever "plugfest" at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab in Durham, N.H. 

Ten vendors "attended" the event, which took place in January: Ditech, Empirix, Ixia, Reef Point Systems, NE Technologies, Starent Networks, Tektronix, Tekelec, Sonus, and Valid8. The event was sponsored by Empirix, Ditech, Sonus, GlobalTouch Telecom, Trendium and VOX.

The IMS Forum said it marked the first in a series of plugfests that will run through 2008, with the goal of creating a certification process for interoperable IMS-based products and services. The second plugfest will take place in Q2 2007. A third one will take place later in 2007 at a date not yet determined.

Eventually, the Forum hopes to generate an interoperability test plan that will certify applications (and application servers) for an IMS reference architecture.

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) is a core element of the emerging PacketCable 2.0 architecture. IMS, originated by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), is an architecture designed to break down service silos and deliver a wide range of IP-based services across any form of IP access network - wired or wireless.

The initial plugfest covered tests for the core elements of the IMS architecture, including technology linked to the CSCF (call session control function) and HSS (home subscriber server) components of the network, said Manuel Vexler, an IMS Forum board member. The initial test also leveraged dual-mode (WiFi/cellular) mobile phones to demonstrate voice services, including some fixed-mobile services.

At a high level, he said, the event tested IMS multi-vendor interoperability.

"We were able to demonstrate IMS pieces working together in a simulated environment of a real-life network," Vexler said.  The test also identified where product testing would be required for the second process, which will include service/user authentication and nomadic services.

The first plugfest tested about nine different IMS core topologies. It marked the largest collection of heterogeneous IMS gear put together for testing of the core signaling aspect of IMS, according to Lincoln Lavoie, a senior engineer for the university's interoperability lab.

Cable operators are looking for IMS and PacketCable 2.0 to accelerate service launches over a converged IP system.

IMS has a dialogue going with CableLabs, but no formal relationship. "There's a high level of interest at both ends," said Vexler.