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Skype to give away wideband audio codec

King of VoIP eschews royalties

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Skype this week said it will soon be offering royalty-free licenses to its new SILK wideband speech codec to interested third-party developers and hardware makers.

The wideband codec recently debuted as part of Skype 4.0 for Windows (with a Mac version coming in April.) With a claimed 400 million Skype users registered worldwide, the VoIP provider is apparently none too concerned about handing the competition keys to the kingdom without the usual charges.

Skype says it's offering the licenses gratis to "establish a new industry-wide standard in speech processing," ranging from web developers to chip manufacturers to mobile device makers.

SILK transfers audio between 8kHz to 12kHz - at least, that's what Skype said, but we assumed it means 8Hz; thanks to all the readers who spotted the inconsistent numbers - compared with the 300Hz to 3.4kHz signals from most telephone companies. That means the conversation will sound clearer and more life-like, assuming both ends are using the codec.

Requiring SILK at both ends (and in between) will probably be the first hurdle for it to catch on with hardware manufacturers. If there's a link in the communication chain not supporting wideband telephone, both sides get the same old lacking quality. But as Skype notes in the company blog, if you want to establish a new industry-wide standard, removing the cost is certainly a good start.

Skype says it still working out the details on handing out the SILK SDK, but the information will show up here when it does. The page also provides an email address and required information for devs requesting to get their hands on some SILK. ®

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