Orange HD voice – when will the whole world go HD?

Mobile operator Orange has hit the headlines today with the launch of its HD voice service. Trials for this service, which uses the Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband codec (AMR-WB – otherwise known as  G722.2), began in June this year in the south of England.

The service is initially only for Orange HD handset to Orange HD handset.  This is quite easy to do as “on-net” HD calls using the same codec don’t require transcoding and also do not therefore enter into the black art world of interoperability. 

HD voice has been the subject of discussion amongst the VoIP community in the UK this year.  A fair few vendors (Cisco, Broadsoft, SNOM, Polycom, YeaLink to name some) already support the codec and it is perfectly feasible to operate a simple enterprise HD voice network. I am not aware of any businesses actually using HD Voice though I’m sure that there must be a few case studies around.

The problems arise whan you want to talk to handsets that do not support HD voice.  To do this a network must provide support across many more elements other than just the handsets.  This includes gateways to the PSTN,  media servers and conference bridges.

There is a whole new cost dynamic involved with this. Each of these elements will have codec licensing costs and due to the likely additional processing power requirements of this codec will probably support a reduced number of simultaneous voice channels driving up the cost per channel.

On the plus side HD Voice does apparently keep people talking longer so revenues should increase – though obviously not if all calls are free “on-net” as is often the case with both mobile and voip.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a HD voice fan and I think the technology has much to offer but it will be some time before it becomes truly mainstream. Fair play to Orange though for taking the initiative.  Read their press bumpf here.

If you want to know more about the codec there some stuff on Wikipedia. Peering house and network operator X-Connect is driving industry adoption – you can find them here or drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch.

PS when I got in this morning I couldn’t find the announcement on the Orange news website so I looked at Everything Everywhere but I couldn’t find anything anywhere:).

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