Sprint's Hesse: HD Voice Goes Nationwide in July

BOSTON -- Oracle Industry Connect -- Sprint CEO Dan Hesse revealed in his keynote here Tuesday that the operator is ready to launch its HD Voice service across the US in July.

HD Voice increases the clarity of a voice call across seven octaves, as opposed to the four octaves that many current smartphones support. Sprint seen some delays to the service, which it first expected to have available in 2013, it is so far only deployed in a few markets like Kansas City. (See Sprint Commits to Tri-Band, HD Voice Phones, Sprint Bringing Spark to Kansas City, and Sprint Delays HD Voice Launch to Q2.)

"Voice is still the killer app," Hesse told the crowd.

"Some of you may have experienced [HD Voice], we've launched in a few markets," he said. "We'll launch the entire country around the first of July."

Deep Dish
Having spectrum band options allows Sprint to offer a 4G pizza, 'with extra toppings,' Hesse explains.
Having spectrum band options allows Sprint to offer a 4G pizza, "with extra toppings," Hesse explains.

Hesse also took the time to try and explain Sprint's "Spark" 4G update plans. "I'm told this is a technical crowd," he said.

As the image above shows, Sprint is using its Clearwire-derived 2.5GHz spectrum for LTE speed and capacity. The 1900MHz 4G portion gets more coverage and capacity, while the 800MHz LTE signals go a long way for better coverage. (See Stephen Bye: Sprint's Network Visionary and Igniting the Future: Sprint Spark.)

Hesse says that Sprint can also eek more range out of 2.5GHz LTE TDD spectrum with "8 transmitters and 8 receivers in one box" (8T8R) at the cellsite and MIMO (multiple antenna arrays) on the device.

Combining this with carrier aggregation -- bonding unrelated radio channels for a fatter pipe -- could give Sprint 120MHz of spectrum to play with in the second half of 2015, Hesse said.

"That's two big channels of 60MHz," he adds. "We're talking 18 months away."

The company expects that this update could lead to device download speeds of 150 Mbit/s to 180 Mbit/s.

Hesse told them that this is what justified the company's buyout of long-time partner Clearwire, access to 90MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum across the US. "You need these super big highways and that's why we spent all the money for Clearwire," he said. John Saw, former CTO of Clearwire, and the man behind the company's LTE strategy, has just taken over as chief networks officer at Sprint. (See John Saw to Become Sprint Network Boss.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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mjgraves 3/26/2014 | 3:46:02 PM
Re: What about VoLTE? My understanding is that VoLTE and 3G (HSPA/HSPA+) implementations of HDVoice use the AMR-WB familiy of codecs. That means that the baseline performance is 50 Hz - 7 KHz, not unlike what you experience with G.722 on a wireline network today.

The difference between narrowband (G.711/G.729/AMR) and wideband (G.722/AMR-WB) is substantial, definitely worth the effort.

The difference between wideband and "super-wideband" (G.719, SILK, some modes of Opus or AMR-WB+) may not be a dramatic for the purpose of voice.

Some time ago I was asked to give a presentation at Astricon about the implementation of Polycom's Siren codes in Asterisk. That presentation included some recorded comparisons between narrowband, wideband and super-wideband in several languages. They can be found online here:


KBode 3/26/2014 | 1:05:07 PM
Re: What about VoLTE? Yeah that's something I don't understand and perhaps it's something Dan knows. My understanding is that HD voice is sort of VoLTE light. Is that wrong? I know the interoperability is going to be a headache for VoLTE for years still, so is HD Voice just the next best thing until then?
Sarah Thomas 3/26/2014 | 11:44:47 AM
Re: What about VoLTE? That's a great question. They are different codecs, but my understanding is that all VoLTE is HD, so you'd think they'd be the same. But, if they are, why bother with HD Voice? Why not just work on VoLTE? I guess the fact that 3G will be around a long while longer could be the main reason.
Kruz 3/26/2014 | 11:17:32 AM
Re: Competitive advantage? Benefits from HD voice are numerous:

Studies in Ericsson Consumer Labs showed that 96% of customers were quite satisfied with their calls and 21% had longer calls with HD voice. HD voice can also help introduce enhancements in voice Recognition and Conference Calling offerings for enterprises.

The best case that illustrates the benefits of the introduction of HD voice is Megafon Russia where it was released in q4 2010 and had a direct impact of 37.4% on voice revenues.
Kruz 3/26/2014 | 11:03:15 AM
Re: Competitive advantage? Quality is still a key concern for OTT players and operators have the advantage of security, prioritization and service offerings with HD voice.
KBode 3/26/2014 | 9:21:23 AM
Re: What about VoLTE? How discernable is voice quality between this implementation of HD Voice and what VoLTE would offer? Is the human ear even capable of telling the difference after a while? I'd love to sit down with both implementations for a test somehow.
Sarah Thomas 3/25/2014 | 7:47:44 PM
Re: Competitive advantage? It requires a lot of different network elements and devices to be upgraded to get the full value of it, but when you do, it is a nice advantage. Bad voice quality is still a really big problem. HD Voice fixes that. 

I think VOIP is a threat to voice, just not a big enough one to light a fire.
Sarah Thomas 3/25/2014 | 7:46:43 PM
Re: What about VoLTE? I'll be there, and I'll ask the question if it doesn't come up! :)
DanJones 3/25/2014 | 5:36:24 PM
Re: What about VoLTE? No clue on VoLTE that I could see, although, they've been rolling it out with the Spark updates.
Kevin Mitchell 3/25/2014 | 5:09:04 PM
Re: What about VoLTE? Come to the VoLTE session at CCA Thursday. Sprint is speaking
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