Light Reading

Mobile Voice is Dead. Long Live Mobile Voice!

Tim Kridel | Contributing Analyst
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Tim Kridel | Contributing Analyst
Repost This

Like pundits and entrepreneurs such as Bob Egan and Jeff Pulver, I wound up in telecom by dabbling in ham radio as a teenager. Those experiences were good introductions to radio frequency (RF) engineering, the FCC, and other mobile basics. But talking with people halfway around the world as propagation waxed and waned wasn't enough to prepare me for cellular's frequently abysmal call quality.

Sure, PCS eliminated analog cellular gremlins, such as static and crosstalk. But as anyone who's felt the need to say "Roger that!" or "Over!" can attest, there's still a lot to be desired. If there weren't, EE wouldn't be spending £275 million (US$447 million) next year to improve call quality, and Sprint wouldn't be crowing about 60 Mbit/s and HD Voice in the same breath, to name just two recent examples of how operators are looking to breathe new life into mobile's original killer app.

What's the business case? Part of it is research showing that when calls sound better, people talk up longer -- 45% more, in some cases. The more they talk, the more they spend on a service that's already one of the most profitable for mobile operators. That's one key finding from the new Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider , "Mobile Call Quality: Does Better Really Matter?."

It also helps that HD Voice is an incremental expense because it leverages what operators are already spending to deploy VoLTE. "Operators get HD Voice pretty much as a freebie," Qualcomm says.

HD Voice is currently available from more than 83 mobile networks in 61 countries, so there's no shortage of real-world research to see if the improvement is noticeable enough to influence purchasing decisions. Orange, for example, surveyed its HD Voice customers, and 86% said it will be a criterion for their next purchase, and 76% are ready to buy a new phone to get HD Voice. The final stat shows why handset vendors should take HD Voice seriously.

But can operators charge more for HD Voice? Probably not. As one infrastructure vendor put it: "One thing that seems to be pretty clear, and what I've been seeing in my discussions with them, is that they're not going to be able to charge a premium for HD Voice. They're going to have to use this as differentiation: 'Besides providing the best data network in the country, we also provide clearer calls' or 'the best voice experience.'"

That differentiation will wane because the more operators that roll out HD Voice in a given market, the more it becomes table stakes. But it doesn't necessarily undermine the long-term business case for HD Voice and other call-quality improvements. For example, they enable better-sounding ringback tones and gaming, which could help increase revenue from those services. Improved call quality also could increase revenue by spurring additional wireline displacement in both the consumer and enterprise markets. In today's hyper-competitive mobile market, few operators will turn their back on any source of incremental revenue.

— Tim Kridel, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider

This report," Mobile Call Quality: Does Better Really Matter?," is available as part of an annual subscription (6 issues per year) to Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit:

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Blogger
12/30/2013 | 8:45:45 AM
More VoLTE debate
Here's some more debate on the VoLTE issue....
User Rank: Blogger
12/19/2013 | 2:54:35 PM
Free HD voice
Interesting post, Tim. I definitely think operators can charge for HD voice. They weren't giving a discount when it was crappy! How long do you think it'll be before we see the full benefit of it (at the handset and network level) in the US? Sprint is saying mid-next year, but that seems ambitious.
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
The success of NFV and SDN will depend on service assurance, big data, end-to-end orchestration, and a centralized catalog.
The move to 100G in long-haul networks is driving the integration of DWDM transport and OTN switching, finds Heavy Reading.
Service providers are being challenged to enable a digital lifestyle for their corporate clients as well as residential customers.
Big data analytics is creating a multi-billion-dollar revenue opportunity for service providers.
The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) has emerged as one of the leading candidates for network functions virtualization (NFV).
Flash Poll
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyes Big Technology Shifts

4|16|14   |   03:02   |   (4) comments

US cable engineers are facing a lot of heavy lifting in the coming years, notes Light Reading Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick.
LRTV Custom TV
Maximizing Customer Experience & Assuring Service Delivery in an IP World

4|15|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments

Steven Shalita, VP of Marketing, NetScout Systems, Inc., discusses the challenges cable/MSO operators face in assuring the delivery of new IP-based services. Key points include the value of proactively managing performance, and using rich analytics and operational intelligence to better understand service and usage trends, make smarter business decisions and ...
LRTV Documentaries
Bye-Bye DVD: Consumers Embrace Digital Video

4|10|14   |   04:17   |   (7) comments

Veteran video analyst Colin Dixon, founder and principal analyst of nScreenMedia, says research shows 56% are using digital video already.
LRTV Documentaries
Video: TW Cable Puts Multicast Gateways to the Test

4|8|14   |   04:13   |   (1) comment

Tom Gonder, a chief architect at Time Warner Cable, explains how its trial of multicast gateways is impacting IP-based video plans.
LRTV Custom TV
Managing & Monetizing Big Data in Operator Environments

4|7|14   |     |   (1) comment

At Mobile World Congress, Gigamon's Director of Service Provider Solutions, Andy Huckridge, and Heavy Reading Analyst Sarah Wallace discuss the 'big data' issues facing carriers and operators today.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Data Center Energy – Build Your Data Center in a Modular Way

4|7|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments

Dr. Fang Liangzhou, VP Network Energy Product Line, shared his thoughts about the challenges for data centers during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Agile Network Solution – An Overview of Huawei's Agile Network Solution

4|7|14   |   2:31   |   (0) comments

Ajay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing, Networking Product Line, gives an overview of the Agile Network Solutions during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s eLTE Voice Trunking, Video and Data Applied for Railways

4|7|14   |   1:38   |   (0) comments

Gottfried Winter is the Sales Director at Funkwerk, a German specialist in GSM-r terminals and a long-time partner of Huawei. At CeBIT 2014, Winter talks to Light Reading about this partnership and the integration of enhanced voice trunking, video and data functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
LeaseWeb Speaks Highly of Huawei's Datacenter Products

4|7|14   |   1:37   |   (0) comments

Rene Olde Olthof, Operations Director LeaseWeb, talks about the next data center transformation during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Documentaries
Comcast: Reshaping the Cable Network Architecture

4|3|14   |   07:11   |   (8) comments

Shamim Akhtar, Comcast's architect and senior director of network strategy, explains why the cable company is moving to a more distributed network architecture.
LRTV Custom TV
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger at Mobile World Congress

4|1|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger speaks to Heavy Reading about the value of virtualization spanning from the data center to service provider networks to mobile devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Analysts' Impressions of Huawei SoftCOM at ONS 2014

4|1|14   |   1:11   |   (0) comments

After visiting the Huawei booth at ONS, Lee Doyle of Doyle Research gives his appraisal of Huawei's SoftCOM solution.
Hot Topics
BlackBerry Invests in Healthcare IT Startup
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/15/2014
Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/16/2014
T-Mobile Petitions Operators to Kill Overages
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Cisco & VMware Are Apple & Google of SDN
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/14/2014
Mobile Apps Susceptible to Heartbleed, Too
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed