While Sprint leads the marketing buzz for HD voice in the United States, it's time to look at the other side of the HD voice coin. What companies are falling underneath the HD voice wave rather than riding it through? Some answers are surprising.
At the top of the list, I'd put the U.S. tech media. HD voice has been going strong across Europe over the past year, but Sprint throws out a single phone running HD voice on its upgraded 3G CDMA network and it appears to be a genius – despite planning not to introduce service until "Late 2012."
Verizon Wireless demonstrated HD voice via Voice over LTE (VoLTE) last year and MetroPCS plans to introduce VoLTE in the second half of 2012 – before Sprint, if we assume the timetable is valid.
Sprint isn't even the first company to introduce mobile HD voice to North America; WIND Mobile rolled out the service on its HSPA network last year and Bell Canada announced its launch earlier this year, so there's a lot of high quality mobile service floating around.
I'm betting in another couple of months we'll see all kinds of "discoveries" about the challenges of moving HD voice between 3G CDMA and HSPA/VoLTE networks, and between mobile HD voice and business HD voice domains, since there are multiple codecs and IPX (IP eXchange) issues to work through.
Expect a lot of confusion and some outright whoppers between the terms "HD voice" and "HD audio." Users are already noticing companies like AT&T market consumer and business handsets with "HD audio," but when it comes time to providing HD voice service, an uproar looms for when the disconnect is discovered between analog narrowband service and wideband HD voice service.
"It says its HD audio on the phone, why doesn't it sound like my mobile HD voice service?" is likely to be a key pain point for consumers, service providers and equipment manufacturers.
Observers of the cable industry have been grumbling about the lack of HD voice deployment among MSOs, with a recent editorial in MultiChannel News almost pleading for it. Maybe the fog will clear at The Cable Show 2012 later this month, but given Comcast's near-year-long rollout of a business cloud service, let’s not hold our breaths.
Finally, there's the ongoing question as to why mobile service providers in Finland and Sweden – homes to Nokia and Ericsson – haven't introduced HD voice service. Nokia has supported HD voice in its handsets since at least 2009, while Ericsson aggressively promoted HD voice along with France Telecom when the service first started rolling out in Europe in 2009.
"HD Voice 2012: Proliferation," a report on the HD voice ecosystem, is available for purchase through TMCNet here.
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