As the world moves to HD voice, Fraunhofer IIS continues its campaign to be the best (and last) HD voice codec anyone ever needs. The non-profit organization is promoting the availability of its Full-HD Voice AAC-ELD codec SDK as it prepares for CES 2013 this January.
Full HD voice ELD (Enhanced Low Delay) is natively supported in Apple iOS and Android, as well as OSX, with the FDK Codec library starting support at Android 4.1 and iOS 4.0. The Fraunhofer codec is already widely incorporated in professional video conference systems as well as Apple's FaceTime video chat application. It is also promoting use of the codec for incorporation into Internet-connected "smart TV" devices for audio and video conferencing.
Fraunhofer's big pitch for AAC-ELD use is it delivers full audio bandwidth up to 20 kHz, giving voice, music and background sounds equal treatment. In comparison, a stock narrowband PSTN call delivers audio bandwidth of 3.4 kHz while the de facto mobile and broadband HD voice codecs – AMR-WB and G.722 – deliver seven kHz of sound.
Needless to say, Fraunhofer is promoting AAC-ELD for the long term against two different competitors. In the mobile telephony space, AMR-WB has established itself as the go-to codec for HD voice and has the backing of mobile carriers and telecommunications equipment vendors. Opus has established itself as an open-source IETF standard and has widespread developer enthusiasm because it’s license free and easily dropped into existing soft client applications.
Against AMR-WB, AAC-ELD delivers what the organization calls "CD-like" sound quality. Device manufacturers – be they Apple or Android smartphones or tablets – have already paid licenses for the AAC codecs, so there's no additional licenses cost to implement Fraunhofer's codec in an IP environment for voice or video. The catch is getting service providers to either directly endorse and support the codec for phone calls or to move to a more open SIP architecture for calls where end-points negotiate the "best" codec. Right now, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) uses AMR-WB as its default codec as do HD voice calls over HSPA networks – and that's it.
Opus has a running start since it is effectively "free" to use. A number of soft client developers have embraced it with the big question in the room being if Microsoft decides to swing its full weight behind the codec . Microsoft might like the idea of a single codec to be used across all of its platforms, allowing it to ultimately shift away from its proprietary RTAudio codec and standardize on HD voice code in consumer and business sectors.
Don't expect to see winners overnight. The world is just starting to move firmly into HD voice with the decades old G.722 and AMR-WB, so a move to "Full HD" and Opus will take years.
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