Sprint Says HD Voice Now in 100 Markets

NEW YORK -- Sprint CEO Dan Hesse says that the operator's high-definition Voice service is now available in 100 markets in the US and is ready to go nationwide in the middle of the year.

Sprint has previously seen delays with HD Voice, but it has revealed launches in a few markets. Hesse's latest comments track with what he said in March about a wider launch in July for the CDMA-based service. (See Sprint's Hesse: HD Voice Goes Nationwide in July , Sprint Commits to Tri-Band, HD Voice Phones, Sprint Bringing Spark to Kansas City, and Sprint Delays HD Voice Launch to Q2.)

HD Voice increases the clarity of a voice call across seven octaves, as opposed to the four octaves that many current smartphones support. The system also reduces background noise on calls.

Viewing HD Voice

Sprint implements the EVRC-NW (narrowband-wideband) codec for HD Voice. It uses dual-microphones and an upgraded voice coder (vocoder) on the devices. The HD upgrade also requires new software at the mobile switch for a "transcoder-free stream" over the network, according to Stuart Patt, a spokesman for Sprint. The HD stream is about 6 or 7 Kbits, according to Patt.

The operator uses its 3G CDMA bands at 800 MHz and 1,900 MHz for HD Voice. It expects 20 million customers to have HD Voice-enabled phones by yearend.

Light Reading tested out the difference between a Sprint HD call and a standard call on a Verizon handset at the event. Sprint ran a call over the handsets, and Patt switched between the two. We were assured the test was 100% live. The HD Voice call sounded more lively, with a bit more treble and bass and a less tinny sounding end on the caller's voice.

Sprint says that more than 20 devices can now support HD Voice. The HTC One M8 Harmon Kardon edition will be HD Voice compatible device when it launches May 9.

Sprint users will need a HD Voice-compatible device to take advantage of the sound upgrade, and Sprint's flavor of HD Voice cannot be used across different carrier networks.

Patt suggested that -- even given the somewhat limited nature of the service at the moment -- the improved voice quality could be a incentive for people or families buying on Sprint's "Framily" plan.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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