Feeds

Telcos tuning up for HD Voice

Your throat, but clearer. Eventually. Cost TBA

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Comment All the UK's networks are going to be rolling out "HD Voice" over the next year or two, promising to relay every nuance of our words and stop us making calls on the bog.

Orange was first up, announcing back in December that it would be rolling out the service over the next year, and 3 has started doing live demonstrations on their test network. However, no one is saying how much punters will be asked to pay for HD Voice, or why 2010 will be the year we'll all decide that the quality of our phone calls just isn't good enough anymore.

The technology has been around for a long time, and standardised too, so operators could have done this years ago if they'd wanted. Infrastructure vendors added WB-AMR codec (the standard being used) to their portfolios a long while back, and there's no technical reason why operators couldn't have created the point-to-point data connection between handsets necessary to ensure the audio isn't mucked about with en route. But until now no one has bothered, as the quality of a voice call was always considered to be "good enough".

That's now changing as operators have been busy shifting their networks to an IP core - making point-to-point connections much easier to arrange - and 3G handsets have fallen in price to the point where the incremental cost of including the WB-AMR codec is minimal.

And HD Voice is a 3G technology, so there was no point trying to roll it out without decent 3G coverage. 3 reckons it's reaching 93 per cent of people now, indoors and out, though that's been driven by data users (including the ever-vocal iPhone crowd) rather than any desire to improve the quality of conversations.

That combination of core, handset and coverage means that upgrading the voice signal isn't a big deal: it's a cheap way of adding value, and HD Voice does make for clearer calls. By capturing the lows and highs of the human voice the codec reproduces the conversation in a much more audible way.

All that additional data means greater compression, to fit into much the same radio bandwidth, but the affect of that additional squeezing isn't noticeable against the improvement in quality. That improvement is palpable; one can hear much more of what's being said, and background noises can be filtered by the brain rather than coalescing into a mush of interference.

The quality is, in summary, like a good Skype connection - and equally dependent on the kit being used. That kit isn't in production yet, so it's new handsets all round as support for WB-AMR becomes a standard feature over the next year or two.

Not that you'll be able to make HD calls even once you've got your new handset and your network has done the necessary upgrades - you'll also need to be within a 3G signal, and your mate will need to be similarly well equipped, not to mention on the same network.

Inter-network calling will come, eventually, and there'll no doubt be some sort of interoperability forum announced at Mobile World Congress next month. In fact, though, there's much less incentive for operators to connect their services than ever before - it's not that you won't be able to speak to customers on competing networks, they will just sound crappy compared to calls made to those you've convinced to join you.

What about integrating with Skype, and the fixed networks? "At some point we're going to have to do something about that," 3 told us, which bodes badly for anyone impatient for integrated quality calling.

So HD Voice will come, slowly and painfully. When you first hear it you'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality, and then mildly disappointed when you discover the exacting circumstances required don't reoccur for a year or two. In a decade we'll all be using HD Voice, but for the next few years at least it's just another sticker for handset manufacturers to put on the boxes of their phones. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.