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HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden

Light Reading
5/13/2010
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While network operators engage in an extended game of "Can you top this?" regarding data and video services, voice traffic has become a virtual afterthought for most of the telecom industry. Not only has innovation in voice services largely stagnated, but the case can be made that the overall quality of voice calls has deteriorated since the golden age of the public switched telephone network.

HD voice technology is aimed at reversing that backslide by improving the quality of voice calls. HD voice calls carry more than twice the range of audio frequencies of conventional phone calls. The resulting clarity of sound brings callers several benefits, such as the ability to actually understand what other callers are saying. So far, however, HD voice is hardly resonating with telcos.

The latest Heavy Reading Insider, "Making HD Voice Happen: Choosing Codecs, Connecting Islands," analyzes why the HD voice market has been slow to develop, and points to factors that ultimately will move HD voice forward. More than a dozen technology suppliers are pushing the HD voice cause, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The variety of vendors is actually part of the problem: Interoperability of HD codecs is a hit-or-(mostly)-miss proposition, which means current HD voice systems operate primarily as islands, usually confined to large enterprises.

To date, the main sources of HD voice growth have been hosted and Internet VoIP providers and enterprises. But it will take the involvement of voice service providers, such as cable telephony and mobile operators, to make HD voice a mainstream service. Such carriers have at least one good reason to take the leap: It will give them a clear-cut advantage over incumbent telcos, whose TDM-based legacy infrastructures cannot support HD calls. But implementing the technology will also cost them considerable time and effort. At present, Salt SA is the only big-name carrier offering HD voice services on a broad scale.

Our view is that HD voice is not likely to show up as a significant commercial offer until the end of 2011. When it does, it could put even more pressure on incumbent telcos, especially if cable operators figure out how to use HD voice as another lure to steal enterprise business away.

— Robert Poe, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider


Making HD Voice Happen: Choosing Codecs, Connecting Islands, a 20-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.

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shygye75
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shygye75,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 4:36:17 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


It's amazing how the quality expectations for voice calls have fallen -- almost inversely related to rising expectations for data services, particularly on the mobile side. The marginalization of voice traffic in the carrier revenue equation is easy to understand. The acceptance of lower-quality service by customers is tougher to figure out. If HD voice can set the quality bar higher for VOIP service, it should find a place in operator service portfolios. But as you say, there's no revenue rush that will come of it.

optodoofus
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optodoofus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:36:17 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


Maybe operators can start to offer high-fidelity fax services too!  What a tremendous waste of time HD voice would be.  Operators will spend a lot of money and get nothing in return.  This may be the only application I can think of that is more useless than using my mobile phone as a remote control for my TV.


optodoofus

steve_carr
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steve_carr,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:36:16 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


Maybe no revenue rush, but perhaps it would stop the bleeding to Skype. Often voice quality is cited as a key benefit of Skype (beyond that its free), as if HD voice is only possible using Skype !!

shygye75
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shygye75,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 4:36:16 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


Right. And as Bob Poe points out, cable operators are the most likely mainstream candidates to deploy HD voice, especially for business services. In that case as well, the threat to telcos is revenue subtraction.

paolo.franzoi
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paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 4:36:14 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


 


I think the base problem is closed versus open environments.  The quality of many voice calls is set by one handset or another - a normal POTS phone or a cell handset.


Can you run high quality voice?  Sure it has actually been around a long time, mostly in places that wanted to remote radio stations over ISDN.  Do you really think folks are going to pay for it? If so, how much would you invest to make it happen?  Its real easy to do - just build a 128kbps CODEC on the voip port (see MP3) and voila you are done.


Cable guys would begin to get upset at that point as would the wireless guys (128K upstream on voip would begin to eat into the DOCSIS upstream if they ran a lot of voice). 


You want to get people to stop cutting their landlines?  Cut the price.  Easy enough to do.  I am sure they have some accountant looking at pricing models versus line loss an optimizing their costs.  The land line network is basically 100% depreciated or soon will be, so the only costs are operational (which are not reflective of the pricing).  They could move to the minutes model and share a price with a mobile phone.  They could do lots of things but choose not to.  So, I assume that somebody still has a model that makes them more money this way.  Heck, they could move to DSL MTAs and cut their POTS lines.


seven


 

Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 4:35:12 PM
re: HD Voice: Silence Isn't Golden


We went through this in the late '80s and early 90's with ISDN.  It was called 7kHz audio.  They were going to use the G.722 ADPCM codec on a 64kb/s clear channel to improve frequency response.  I heard a demo at Bellcore, and the sound was almost CD quality. Unfortunately,  the concept was great in principle, but from an investment, adoption, and marketing perspective, it was a total lose.  What I thought we'd learned was that installed base drag is the ultimate buzz-kill in our industry, and consumers won't pay any more for great audio than for "good enough". This during the same period when the music industry was in transition from vinyl to CD and there was a viable market in mid-to-high end consumer audio equipment. 


Plus ça change, plus c'est le meme chose. 

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