HD Voice Progress - Stop the FUD Already

By Doug Mohney August 19, 2013

Last week, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) announced HD voice service is now available on 83 mobile networks in 61 countries around the world. It's tangible progress towards a better sounding mobile world, but there are a lot of people who seem to be confused about what HD voice is and where it is going.

HD voice is a service that goes on top of existing networks – it is not some unique creation requiring new hardware or standards. One article I read said HD voice requires certain RF standards – a fascinating assertion considering the service currently runs on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE networks without new radios to be introduced. The only exception to this would be Qualcomm's CDMA 1X Advanced technology for HD voice, a niche solution given the world's adoption of GSM and move to LTE. Even with 1X Advanced, HD voice is a service choice trade-off the operator can make between either a higher number of quality voice calls or a larger number of narrowband voice calls in the same RF spectrum.

Image via Shutterstock

"Deploying cross-network national interconnectivity for HD voice calling will fuel further growth as will enabling international roaming HD voice services,” said GSA President Alan Hadden – can't argue with that. BT, iBasis and Orange appear to be the leaders in promoting IPX exchange services to facilitate HD voice call exchange.   It's fair to say with 83 mobile networks today, there's enough critical mass for carriers to start connecting up in earnest over the next 12 to 18 months.

LTE network and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service deployments between now and the end of 2014 will end up accelerating both IPX agreements and HD voice usage. While AT&T and Verizon get most of the attention for network size and number of customers, IPX is vitally important for LTE data roaming – a necessity for travelers and revenue for carriers.  If carriers don't get IPX connections going for LTE, they won't get revenue from roaming. And once the IPX connections are in place, HD voice should just happen with VoLTE because it's just another data app with QoS woven in. HD voice calls between VoLTE and 3G networks amount to a bit more effort, but not a big deal.

All of the issues above are network and carrier issues – not handsets. GSA lists 245 handsets supporting HD voice today, including plenty of Android models, the Apple iPhone 5 and Microsoft Windows Phone. Nokia has pushed HD voice support all the way down to entry-level phones targeted for developing markets such as the Nokia 301 feature phone. If have an Apple iPhone 4 or 4S, you can get HD voice with the appropriate jailbreak release.

I've been covering the HD voice ecosystem since 2009, so I feel comfortable in agreeing with GSA on the progress of HD voice on mobile networks around the world. The proverbial glass is at least half full and the water level continues to climb every month.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Editor

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