AT&T Amplifies Its 4G Voice

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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