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The evolution of SIP- and IMS-capable mobile handsets:

The end-user battleground for IMS services & disruptive new entrants

By Dean Bubley, June 2006

The report

Disruptive Analysis’ report, “The evolution of SIP- and IMS-capable mobile handsets” is the most comprehensive review of the market for next-generation IP-connected cellphones, offering detailed analysis and recommendations.

The noise level around IMS is huge. But up until now, almost all attention has been focused on IMS network deployments and SIP applications. The phone itself - the "User Equipment" in IMS industry jargon - has almost been ignored. Once again, the telecom industry seems to have under-estimated the complexity of getting the phones "right" before investing billions on new infrastructure. Not only that, but the gap is likely to be filled by "open" or "naked" SIP-enabled mobile phones, which will enable 3rd-party providers - such as Internet VoIP and IM specialists - to exploit a huge mobile user base with their own on-handset software applications.

This ground-breaking study provides extensive argument and rich quantitative forecasts of the future of IMS- and SIP-enabled mobile phones. It assesses operator and "disruptive" usage cases, looks at a wide range of handset types and software architectures, and considers practical issues around standards, user experience and integration. It profiles the leading suppliers of IMS and SIP handset software.

The market size and segmentation data covers handset type (eg smartphone vs featurephone), SIP/IMS implementation (eg "Naked SIP", "Closed IMS" etc.), regional market sizes and wireless bearers (cellular, WiFi, UMTS, CDMA, WiMAX etc).

Based on a huge research effort spanning 300+ interviews and meetings with key providers of handsets, software, network services, semiconductors, operator infrastructure and corporate networks, the study provides actionable, substantiated insights into the "End User Battleground" for SIP and IMS services - the handset itself.



  • Although many operators are deploying IMS networks now, it is highly likely that IMS phones will be late-to-market, and suffer from poor user experience.

  • There is little consensus on the answer to “What exactly is an IMS phone?”

  • Existing standards are too protocol-focused and are insufficient to define how IMS phones should “behave”, e.g. how IMS & non-IMS applications interact.

  • Handsets with basic IMS capabilities (often operator-proprietary) will start to ship in small quantities in late 2006 and 2007, although it will be 2009 before 20%+ massmarket penetration is reached, with more standardised handsets.

  • Concepts of handset-based “combinational services” and downloadable IMS applications are not yet practical. User interface design and interoperability between multiple vendors’ phones require much more effort & development.

  • A good IMS user experience will need handsets capable of full multi-tasking – something which is outside the capabilities of most current phones.

  • These problems should be overcome eventually. In 2011, it is forecast that there will be almost 500m IMS-capable phones shipped globally.

  • Despite hype around fixed-mobile convergence, WiFi will be present in less than 10% of IMS-capable mobile phones by 2011; most will be cellular-only.

  • SIP – an essential basic subcomponent of IMS – is much easier to implement than a full IMS software framework. SIP-capable phones are already shipping.

  • There are many interesting non-IMS applications of SIP on mobile phones, such as VoIP, Internet IM, enterprise IP-PBX access, or interactive games.

  • In total, 787m SIP-enabled mobile handsets will ship in 2011, of which 40% will be smartphones. Europe will account for 50%+ of SIP handset volume shipments until 2010, although Japan and Korea lead, in penetration terms.

  • SIP will be adopted more slowly on CDMA handsets than GSM/UMTS ones.

  • “Naked SIP” phones, on which 3rd-party applications can exploit the SIP stack, will grow rapidly in importance, with 48m shipping in 2006, more than 220m in 2008 and 500m+ in 2011. This is a huge threat to mobile operators.

  • Naked SIP will be enabled by smartphones OS’s, virtual machines like Java, and the inclusion of “exposed” SIP in many featurephone platforms.

  • Although some devices will support both naked SIP and operator-oriented IMS applications, there will be 1 billion more naked SIP handsets shipped, than operator-only “closed IMS” phones,  between 2006-2011.

  • Internet brands, enterprises, 3rd-party developers and competing service providers will exploit the opportunities from the 1.6 billion “naked SIP” phones that will ship between now and 2011, using on-handset software clients.

  • Some operators will attempt to block “parasitic” 3rd-party SIP applications, by “locking” handsets or intercepting network traffic. These attempts will seem clumsy and vindictive, and will likely drive churn and customer disloyalty.

  • Mobile operators’ visions of stopping threats from Internet-based brands, 3rd-party VoIP and other services, by locking-down IMS networks and only permitting customers to access IMS-based services, are totally unrealistic.

  • A large number of specialist firms are emerging to supply SIP and IMS software for mobile phones. However, many will struggle with integration of their clients into existing OS and application software on handsets.







Published June 2006

180 pages

Summary contents

Highlights & Full Table of Contents & Figures - Download as PDF

Press release

Inquire or buy - please email


Published June 2006

180 pages

Highlights & Full Table of Contents & Figures (PDF)

Press release

Inquire or buy


For more information about obtaining a copy of the report, or contributing to future research in this field, please email information AT

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