HD Voice commercial in 60% of EU countries
GSA points to steady growth worldwide for the service, with high end handsets and business features emerging
Published: 5 September, 2012
HD Voice has been a slow burner, mainly because large handset vendors have not seen it as a big differentiator, but nonetheless there are commercial services available in almost 60% of countries in the European Union, the region which has led deployment.
According to industry body the GSA, HD Voice services are commercially available on 45 GSM, 3G and LTE mobile networks worldwide, in a total of 35 markets, and the number of operators supporting the technology has risen by 40% in less than a year.
Carriers, says the GSA, are recognizing the benefits they can offer business customers, in particular, with standards-based support for capabilities like call center, information and emergency services. There are also consumer advantages including clearer voice quality and reliability, and carriers are also integrating HD Voice with offerings like unified mailboxes.
HD Voice improves voice call quality and allows some value added services. It uses a speech compression algorithm, AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate - Wideband to double the range of voice frequencies transmitted and enhance quality. Supporting handsets also features better acoustics and noise cancellation.
Orange has been the chief flagwaver for HD Voice, and earlier this year called on more operators to join the party. And Ericsson has said that vendors are feeling more pressure to support the capability as more cellcos have gone live, including Swisscom, Holland's KPN, Bell Mobility in Canada, 3UK and Telstra in Australia. Orange runs about one-third of the live networks, in many of its territories in Europe and Africa/Middle East, and T-Mobile is also a big supporter.
In March, Orange product direct Alex Nourouzi said: "We have to continue to build on the current momentum. I have told the guys at Vodafone and Telefonica that this is not acceptable: where are you?" Vodafone made its first move just weeks later, announcing HD Voice in Ireland. Telefonica O2 has been more wary, though it claims 'HD quality' voice in its TuME service.
However, Apple has not yet supported the feature, though there are high end models from most other OEMs, including selected Nokia Lumia, HTC One, Sony Xperia and Huawei Ascend models.
Greater handset support is vital, as is a global community of operators with HD and roaming, but carriers also need to do more marketing to make consumers aware of the service, as it is still rarely requested, according to researchers, though people who use it express a high degree of satisfaction.