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AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice

Sarah Thomas
4/2/2013

AT&T Inc. is the latest to give the quality of voice calls more attention as it plans to support high-definition voice later this year when it deploys voice over LTE (VoLTE). Sprint Nextel Inc. was the first to introduce the wideband audio tech in the U.S. last year, and T-Mobile USA last week boasted of HD voice inclusion in its iPhone 5.

HD Voice requires two microphones in the phone and includes noise-cancelling software that makes voice calls clearer. It also necessitates support on both the hardware and the network. The technology is separate from VoLTE, but most operators seem to be approaching them in tandem.

AT&T's Senior VP Kris Rinne made the announcement today at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit in Sausalito, Calif., noting that "HD Voice is part of our voice over LTE strategy." At that time, Rinne said AT&T would also begin work on "advanced-LTE."

Rinne didn't elaborate on what handsets would include the tech, but it will have to be a limited offering at first. To hear the benefits of HD voice, both phones must have the technology included. In the U.S., that only includes Sprint's HTC Evo LTE, T-Mobile's iPhone 5, and whatever new devices AT&T has in mind. Sprint has vowed to fully support the tech by the time its Network Vision is complete this year but so far hasn't made any new announcements around it.

The technology has seen more support in Europe, where carriers such as Orange use it to increase voice usage on its network. It is also supported by Telenor in Norway, Smart in the Philippines, BT in the UK, SK Telecom in South Korea, and more than 40 others across Europe.

— Sarah Reedy, contributing editor, Light Reading

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ethertype
ethertype
4/2/2013 | 11:04:50 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
Respectfully disagree. 3DTV forces users to change something really fundamental about how they watch (either wear the glasses or sit in the "right" place). -áThat makes it a niche product at best, and the economics don't work for a niche market. -á

HD voice requires zero change in user behavior and comes "for free" with 4G devices and services that a lot of users are eager to buy anyway, so there's no real barrier to adoption.
joanengebretson
joanengebretson
4/2/2013 | 9:07:55 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
Hello Sarah- I recall exchanging comment posts with you awhile back about why I still have a landline phone. I would definitely like to see if HD voice is a suitable substitute. I interview a lot of people whose native language isn't English who call me from cellphones. If I was also on a cellphone with regular voice service I'm sure my ability to understand would be hampered (esp if the person is also on Skype or another VOIP service - sorry Skype). I'm skeptical about HD voice but would be delighted to find it was really as good as landline service.
milan03
milan03
4/2/2013 | 6:42:46 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
T-Mobile's AMR-WB version of "HD Voice" is already widely deployed in Europe, and Asia-Pacific, and iPhone 5 supports it.-á

Sprint uses-áEVRC-NW Qualcomm proprietary codec for legacy 2G networks, which increases capacity. It's not widely used anywhere else. Big difference.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
4/2/2013 | 5:23:17 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
I definitely don't think HD voice will attract new customers, but it's not a gimmick. It's improving a core service, voice, not adding bells and whistles to a chat service or something. I think it's more akin to HDTV -- you don't know you need it until you hear it, but once you do, it becomes critical.-á
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
4/2/2013 | 5:22:02 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
T-Mobile did brag about HD Voice in the iPhone 5, because it's the only carrier that has it. The iPhones on Sprint, AT&T and Verizon don't. But, you're right that it also has it available on the Galaxy S III, HTC One S, and the Nokia Astound since January. Sprint has had it even longer. When all the carriers support it in all their handsets, it will get a lot more interesting. Right now, both handsets requiring it is a big limitation.
abucek
abucek
4/2/2013 | 4:48:29 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
Its a gimmick, I dont see that many customers flocking to a carrier over HD voice.-á If AT&T would focus on its 3G and 4G coverage it would do better to win over customers from TMO and Verizon.-á-á HD voice will go the same route as 3D TV's no where.
milan03
milan03
4/2/2013 | 4:38:33 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
"T-Mobile USA-álast week-áboasted of HD voice inclusion-áin its iPhone 5"

I have a problem with that statement. Kinda stopped reading after that.
T-Mobile had commercially launched HD Voice during CES back in January. The AMR-WB has been live actually since November. HTC One S, iPhone 5, GS3 have been utilizing this on T-Mobile network for almost 6 months.-á

But as soon as AT&T even suggests that they'll be potentially deploying this same feature, tech blogs explode! And it's not even active, and we don't even know when is it gonna be officially launched. Not to mention that AT&T's voice deployment is largely utilized using Half Rate codec, and even that doesn't remedy their dropped calls situation.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
4/2/2013 | 3:56:35 PM
re: AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice
AT&T's approach to voice is interesting. On the one hand, it commoditizes it with launches like its Call Management API and, on the other, it's improving it. They're not necessarily counter-productive moves, but seems like it can't decide what voice is worth in a 4G world.
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