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Wednesday, 22 June 2011 16:42

Telstra to be first with high definition voice on mobiles

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Telstra looks set to be the first Australian mobile operator to offer high definition (HD) voice - tipped to be a popular feature and a significant differentiator - on its 3G network.

The company has scheduled a press conference for Friday 24 Jun to announce "a major development in our Telstra Next G mobile network," which iTWire believes will be HD Voice.

According to a global update on mobile HD voice published by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) Telstra is slated to introduce the feature later this year, and there is a strong business case for it. "Customers make more, or longer, calls with HD Voice, while surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice," the GSA says.

When queried recently a Telstra spokesman suggested an announcement could be imminent, saying: "Watch this space." Optus and Vodafone were unable to provide any definite answers on their plans for HD voice.

The GSA HD voice report says: "HD Voice improves the call experience and allows people to better share feelings, do business and communicate information'¦Conversation is more natural and is likened to speaking to the other party in the same room'¦HD Voice helps operators to clearly differentiate their offerings and enable high quality services to voice dependent business like call centre services, information services, emergency services, etc'¦Calls which are easier to hear and understand [and] reduce fatigue typically associated with long conference calls."

The first commercial HD voice service went live in September 2009 (on the Orange network in Moldova) and the GSA now lists 20 operators in 18 countries as offering it.

Orange now has HD voice in 11 of its networks and received the 2010 GSMA Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough Award for its HD voice offering. Alex Nourouzi, HD voice marketing director with Orange Group marketing was reported by Ericsson last month saying that, in response to customers' enthusiasm Orange planned to roll out HD Voice in all its networks.

"Our customers are happy with HD voice," he said'¦"The results [of a customer survey] seem to indicate that those who have HD-enabled phones are spending more time on calls'¦[And] we find that, once people experience HD, they are inclined to switch to a mobile phone that offers it."

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He said that users had learned to cope with poor audio quality for so long that there was no pent-up demand for better sound. "But as soon as customers hear an HD demo, they are impressed'¦It's similar to the experience of seeing HD television for the first time. When people go back to their own TV, they think it doesn't look quite right."

HD voice offers its greatly improved quality by encoding twice the audio bandwidth (50-7000Hz) of the current codecs (300-3400Hz).

However, to gain full advantage of HD voice both handsets must support it and the range that do so today is somewhat limited. The GSA has published a list of 33 in which the hugely popular iPhone is conspicuous by its absence. (Downloadable HD Voice codecs are available for the iPhone, and for Android, but these are for use with VoIP services, not with mobile operators' voice services.)

The list is dominated by Nokia devices (16), closely followed by Sony Ericsson (11). There are three Samsungs and on each from, LG, HTC and Alcatel. However, GSA says that the better acoustic performance and advanced noise reduction capabilities present in most HD Voice phones will give improved call quality even if the other phone does not support HD voice.

The GSA report offers links to samples of SD voice and HD Voice for comparison purposes. The SD one, however sounded inferior to most cellphone conversations.

 

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