CES 2013: T-Mobile USA Announces HD Voice Service; Apple iPhone Likely

By Doug Mohney January 10, 2013

Las Vegas, Nevada, International CES 2013 – T-Mobile USA dropped a bombshell by formally announcing it would be the first wireless carrier in the United States to offer HD voice service on its HSPA network. Initial devices to support wideband audio for phone calls include Android and Windows Phone handsets, with the tantalizing possibility of the Apple iPhone 5 later this year.

HD voice provides at least twice the sound of a traditional analog phone call, providing a richer, more enjoyable experience for people and --- more importantly these days with Siri and many other processes – more complete sound data for better machine processing of voice tasks.

Globally, HD voice service is available in over 40 countries and 50 carrier networks. There is significant coverage in Canada, across Europe and South Korea, with two or more carriers offering coverage in at least 10 countries.

HD voice has had a number of false starts in the United States, making T-Mobile USA’s announcement all the more remarkable.   Verizon Wireless initially started talking about HD voice in 2011 as a part of its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) deployments, with a penciled-in service date in 2012. Industry sources say problems with call handoff between LTE and legacy CDMA networks at the heart of deployment delays won’t put VoLTE on Verizon’s network until late 2013 or 2014. Sprint said it would initially deliver HD voice by the end of 2012 as a part of upgrades to its 3G CDMA network, but the carrier quietly failed to deliver on its promises, while its VoLTE plans continue to be pushed to the right with a likely 2014 rollout.

At CES, AT&T officials said the company will turn up VoLTE sometime in 2013 without providing a specific timeframe. The carrier could turn up HD voice service on its existing HSPA network, but appears to have no immediate plans to do so.

One of the next major steps carriers are working on is IP Exchange (IPX), the ability to seamlessly move HD voice calls and other SIP-based communications, such as videoconferencing, between networks. T-Mobile’s move to introduce HD voice is likely to add speed to discussions for HD voice “roaming” within the Deutsche Telekom family of subsidiaries and other carriers.

 IPX services linking T-Mobile USA and Canadian carriers should be an area to watch, given T-Mobile’s presence in the Northwest and HSPA-based HD voice service across the Great White North. The four largest Canadian carriers all offer HD voice with service available to more than 90 percent of the population.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Editor

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