& cplSiteName &

Is HD Voice Really Heard 'Round the World?

Sarah Thomas
8/15/2013
0%
100%

The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has put out a curiously optimistic forecast on HD voice, claiming that the high-definition technology is already widely available and will soon be mainstream.

That should be HD music to your ears, but I'm having a hard time believing it.

According to the industry association, 83 operators have commercially launched HD voice services on mobile networks in 61 countries, 84 percent more than supported it a year ago. In 17 of those countries, two or more mobile networks offer it. This is important to note because seeing the full benefits of HD voice requires support on both the network on which the call originates and that to which the user is calling.

That's part of what makes HD voice so tricky. It requires support at the network level and device level, and it requires both handsets and both networks to support it. In case that's not specific enough, operators can support different radio standards of HD voice that might not interoperate anyway. So, if you have a HD voice phone on Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), not only can you not necessarily get a crisper call when calling a Verizon Wireless user, but maybe not even when calling another Sprint user if he's on a Samsung Corp. -built base station and you're on an Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) one. (See Sprint Delays HD Voice Launch to Q2.)

The tech uses Adaptive Multi Rate Wideband (W-AMR) technology to amp up the quality of the call, a codec that must be baked into new handsets, along with two microphones and noise-canceling software. The GSA says that the number of compatible devices has increased by 53 percent in the past six months to 245 phones from 17 manufacturers. However, it does point out in the fine print that some of these phones are operator specific or not available on all HD voice networks or in all markets or may require the W-AMR codec to be activated…

I am impressed with the number of operators and handsets supporting HD voice. It's certainly more than I thought, but numbers doesn't necessarily make a service viable. We are still a ways away from fulfilling the true potential of HD voice.

A lot of operators are looking to deploy it at the same time they roll out voice-over LTE (VoLTE), although the two technologies are not interchangeable. In fact, the GSA says that 76 of the operators that have deployed HD voice did so on 3G networks. Only two have it on LTE. VoLTE won't be common until next year or beyond, and the same goes for HD voice.

Even so, it is an important technology to keep an eye on. Sure, no one makes voice calls any more, you say, but maybe they'd start again if the quality makes them more palatable. HD voice promises to do that -- some day, soon, just not yet.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(23)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
simpki
100%
0%
simpki,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/19/2013 | 1:47:33 PM
Re: HD voice standards
VoLTE allows for AMR-WB codecs which exceed the 12.65kbps rate most widely used over CS voice on UMTS/GSM worldwide...so yes, it ostensibly will have better voice quality insofar as UE is designed to do the decode without a significant battery draw (my guess is only Apple will get this right at first...they seem to be the only company interested in using quality dedicated silicon where needed).

Interop between carriers is what GSA (and the entire tech news press) misses the boat on every time. Carriers' interconnections must support the new codecs and bitrates.

Another point that gets missed in every article: carriers must not be too conservative on downshifting to AMR-HR or even AMR-FR during peak usage periods. An inconsistent experience makes HD voice all the more frustrating when it's supposed to be the gold standard vs. best effort OTT traffic. I find that with T-Mobile's implementation (the only one I've tested), a cell loses its ability to pass HD calls at a very low congestion threshold. When they were first deploying AMR-WB (I broke the story for DSLR!) they allowed the phone to select the codec. Now the phone must accept whichever codec the network hands it during call setup.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/19/2013 | 12:20:34 PM
Re: HD voice standards
Good point, F,Alpizar. OTT apps that work on the mobile network should only continue to gain more traction on LTE where the experience is better. But, I think the operators having a solid HD voice or VoLTE experience would bring a lot of customers back to their voice platform or stop them from leaving in the first place. It's the path of least resistance and has quality of service baked in. Depending on how they price it, it could be more economical too.
F,Alpizar
50%
50%
F,Alpizar,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/17/2013 | 10:03:00 PM
Re: HD voice standards
What about OTT options? If the carrier allows a good ip connection, or if you use wif, applications like skype or viber have a very good voice quality. Also if you user SIP, it will allow the codec that you would like to use. As in fixed connections the important thing will be the availability of good quality broadband. Also, for the rest of the world, here we barely get voice communication, due to poor coverage or saturation on populated cities. Here I think OTT will leap over HD voice, when we get the bandwidth, if ever...
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/16/2013 | 3:52:50 PM
Re: HD voice standards
I am TRUEly sorry for my poor word choice. I meant that implementations of HD voice today are not the full HD experience in the same way that carrier aggregation is full LTE-Advanced. Given that it requires both networks and handsets to support the same variation of it, the quality could be even better if all those things were in place. That's not to say it's not better with the HD voice they have deployed now, but ubiquitity and interoperability would fulfill the full promise.

I don't think you have to tell the people using HD voice anything. They'll hear the difference and not care what you call it.
DougMohney
50%
50%
DougMohney,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/16/2013 | 3:43:42 PM
Re: HD voice standards
"It's not true HD voice"? There is a poor word choice. Could you explain what is "true" HD voice is supposed to be?

It sounds like you are saying "True HD voice" is when everyone on every network in creation has HD voice and HD voice calls are magically connected everywhere.

People who have been dealing with HD voice for the last four years would say "true HD voice" indicates call quality, designated as something that has twice the twice the audio delivery of a PSTN narrowband call.

Those folks understand HD voice has NOTHING to do with RF network technology delivery ;you can get HD voice call (audio) quality via AMR-WB via 2G, 3G/HSPA networks, and on a (limited number today) of 4G LTE networks. You can also get HD voice quality on broadband networks through G.722 and OTT clients, but that's an explaination beyond the scope of this discussion.

HD voice interoperability is happening within and between some carriers already. Orange announced interop established between Moldova and Romania with a roadmap to connect all of its subsidiaries in 2013 and start connecting other carriers for call exchange in 2013-2104.  Orange also appears to have some sort of quiet HD voice call exchange going on with DT, since the two share the EE network in the UK, so calls made by either an Orange or DT customer are magically HD voice.  You could argue this is splitting hairs because it's the same NETWORK, but since Orange and DT have vowed to share RF networks, they're going to have to interoperate across Europe.

In addition, a number of carriers are working out IPX call exchange to support transparent HD voice calls from network to network. BT and iBasis seem to have leadership in this area, BT with its efforts and global infrastructure, iBasis because it has a number of Tier 2/3 carrier signed up.

So, do you want to tell the people already making HD voice calls in-network on those 83 operators that they don't have "True" HD voice? That doesn't really make sense, does it? It's not ubiquitous HD voice, therefore it isn't "true"?

 

 
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/16/2013 | 3:00:57 PM
Re: HD voice standards
Thank you for the feedback, Doug. What is the 3G HD voice experience like in European countries if you're calling someone on a different carrier? The fact that only 17 countries have 2 or more mobile operators that support it suggest that, while it might be better than 3G, it's not true HD voice.
DougMohney
50%
50%
DougMohney,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/16/2013 | 10:31:19 AM
Re: Fragmentation
Apple is not supporting AMR-WB unless you buy an iPhone 5 or later model.  It has had the opportunity to introduce support for the 4/4S at any time since the rollout of those phones, but has not done so.

It is not clear if it will support HD voice under Qualcomm's 1X Advanced; I suspect Sprint certainly thought so... but an iPhone 5 on Sprint's network does not support HD voice "at this time." 

It is likely (but not guaranteed, given Apple's fickleness) that the iPhone 5 will support VoLTE via software upgrade in the future.

Carriers will have to interoperate to exchange HD voice calls; it is already starting to happen outside of the U.S. via IPX.  LTE deployments will only accelerate this since anyone buying a nice shiny LTE phone wants it to roam and carriers can't afford to make LTE a step-backwards experience (carriers also want to make money on LTE data roaming, the last great bastion of profits in a world slowly moving towards flat-rate voice on international calls...)
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/16/2013 | 12:53:07 AM
Re: Fragmentation
The natural turnover of phones lends itself to your argument of getting near universal HD Voice device support, and the iOS issue can also be resolved with an update which gets deployed on iOS fairly quickly. But the issue of lack on universal capabilities and experiences of HD Voice from device to device will affect its value, aside for the intercodec issue which can be resolved per my previous comment.

That said I applaud the fact that carriers are making a significant move to finally improve the voice experience and I applaud the carrier communities lack of "conservatism" on the issue.
DougMohney
50%
50%
DougMohney,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/16/2013 | 12:45:07 AM
Re: HD voice standards
"HD audio" is a horrible term since Intel and car stereo manufacturers have co-oped that particular phrase.....

 
DougMohney
50%
50%
DougMohney,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/16/2013 | 12:41:20 AM
Re: Fragmentation
For mobile, HD voice device level support (AMR-WB) on the codec level already out there, been out there in most Nokia phones since 2009. More recently, baked into Android for a couple of years, and in Windows 8 Phone.

Apple iOS been slow because, well, it's Apple and they wanted people to buy more iPhone 5s; the iPhone 4 and 4S both have the hardware chops to support HD voice, as demonstated by the jailbrake hacks floating around for T-Mobile and AT&T devices.

If you want to get more granular with requirements for HD voice, like voice processing on the device to filter out background noise and multiple mic support, well, OK, then you need a more expensive device for better quality.  But Nokia has HD voice tied into its low-cost phone targeted for developming markets, so you don't need all the bells and whistles (and cost) to get some benefit out of HD voice.

Delays in rolling out HD voice in the U.S. can be traced to carrier... conservatism? Well, that's a polite way to put it.

 

 
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
More Blogs from Que Sera Sarah
This year's finalist list includes female founders, CEOs and women deeply entrenched in the technologies that are defining the future of communications.
Take our quick survey about the realities of being a woman in the next-gen communications industry. We want to hear your stories, experiences and impressions.
Learn about five women who are inspiring others through their success, business acumen, outreach and advocacy in the next-gen comms industry.
Meet the 2017 finalists for Women in Comms' second-annual Leading Lights in the categories of Most Inspiring Woman in Comms and Female Tech Pioneer of the Year.
Today is Equal Pay Day, the day the average woman would have to work up to in 2017 to make the same amount men made in 2016.
From The Founder
Either we perform a complete 'factory reset' on the way the telecom industry creates and deploys virtualization, or we face the consequences.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
The Urgency of Commercial 5G Services

4|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


The progress of 5G has been closely monitored in the industry. At the 2017 Brooklyn 5G Summit, the sense of urgency for a commercial 5G launch had started to surface among operators.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
How Diversity Helps Comcast Mirror Its Customer Base

4|26|17   |   2:55   |   (0) comments


Diversity brings innovation, creative ideas and a way to reflect the broad spectrum of your customer base, Comcast Director of Customer Experience Jenelle Champlin says.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mobile Operators & Video

4|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ovum's Ed Barton discusses the latest mobile operator strategies for mobile video.
LRTV Custom TV
Infinera Introduces Instant Network

4|20|17   |     |   (1) comment


Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera, discusses the advancement from Instant Bandwidth to new Instant Network capabilities, which include Bandwidth License Pools, Moveable Licenses and Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE).
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Vodafone's Eubank on Sponsors, Mentors & Moving On Up

4|19|17   |   4:25   |   (0) comments


Vodafone America's Head of Operations Kimberly Eubank breaks down the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and shares why both made a big difference in her career.
LRTV Custom TV
NYC Auto Show: Are We Smart Yet?

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


The auto industry is facing some big transformations as electric vehicles, autonomous technology and connected cars are seen as the future of the industry. During the much-anticipated NY international auto show, there was an emergence of new technology and mobility service on the show floor. Aside from performance, brands like Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes and ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Impact of Video

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Mercer from Strategy Analytics discusses the impact of video on current strategies.
LRTV Custom TV
Pardeep Kohli Discusses Network Transformation & the Market Opportunity for the 'New' Mavenir Systems

4|13|17   |     |   (0) comments


In a brief discussion at MWC 2017, Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore talks to Pardeep Kohli, CEO, Mavenir Systems about the creation of the 'new Mavenir' and some of the key challenges facing operators in today's market. A key theme of the discussion centers around operator need for software-only, virtualized solutions and how they will need to adapt to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Tech Maverick Shares Her Tips for Gender Inclusivity

4|12|17   |   7:28   |   (0) comments


Wendy Hall Bohling, a corporate escapee, author and gender exclusivity consultant, tells her story of sexism, bias and progress along the road to gender equality in the workforce.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at MWC 2017

4|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress 2017, the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year, Huawei showcased its new innovations and solutions with the theme "Open Road," which focuses on cloud, 5G, operation transformation, videos and consumer-oriented products. Its campaign has been recognized by three awards given by GSMA.
LRTV Custom TV
China Telecom NFV Infrastructure on RSD

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Lynn Comp, senior director of market development of Intel, is joined by Chong Zhang, storage engineer at Inspur and Ou Li Yan, architect for technology strategies of China Telecom, for a discussion of what NFV brings.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's IMPACT Software Demo

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Khamis Abulgubein of IoT market development at Nokia demonstrates IMPACT (intelligent management platform for all connected things), a software solution with a horizontal approach to managing any device on any application.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Brazos Hall - Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution'
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
Did Verizon Outbid AT&T for Straight Path?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/25/2017
Netflix Set to Enter China
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/25/2017
First Year TIPs the Scale Toward Success
Denise Culver, 4/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.