The Landline Case for Consumer HD Voice (Carriers, Wake up!)

By Doug Mohney September 19, 2013

The cable industry and many smaller independent phone operators running voice over IP can't convince themselves that offering HD voice service is a good idea. Moving outside of the borders of the United States, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Turkcell Supercell and various other operators in European countries are delivering HD voice to consumers today. Service providers need to realize the clock is ticking on narrowband voice and they ignore moving to HD at their own peril.

Mobile network voice quality is already on a significant improvement path. (Yes, you there, stop laughing). T-Mobile US is already delivering HD voice via its existing 3G HSPA network while AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have all vowed to deploy HD voice over the next 12 to 18 months. AT&T promised it would turn up HD voice and VoLTE by the end of this year, while Verizon's latest promises put its VoLTE offering in the first half of 2014. 

Will mobile HD voice bring more "cord cutters"? Certainly, carriers are already seeing underperform on the once-vaunted triple play of voice, video, and Internet with consumers selecting a video/Internet bundle and dropping voice all together for a mobile solution. Landline voice is an ARPU issue. If mobile HD voice is a better solution, more people are going to move to it. Offering HD voice is a competitive solution to watching ARPU decline.

Let me be clear: HD voice is not a magic solution to minutes decline or landline usage. Trying to equate profits with voice minutes has been broken for years with the advent of flat-rate plans. Landline usage decline is a much more complex issue, fed by happy-happy-joy-joy stories of cord cutters. The reality is that there's still a substantial need for landline services because mobile coverage is not, and will not be, universal anytime in the far future.

Adding mobile HD service voice quality improvements to a product provides better business and contact center efficiencies. One of the primary (and time-consuming) interfaces customers have with service providers is the telephone. Customers call to get billing and technical problems fixed, as well as to add and cancel services and features. 

HD voice provides a clearer and improved means of communication with the customer. While there are no case studies, anecdotal evidence suggests the average interaction time with the customer should decrease, resulting in more calls served in a given time period and less stress on call center employees because they don't have to strain to understand what customers are saying. 

Finally, HD voice provides better data for machine processes. Everything from voicemail-to-text to voice biometrics and Siri-style personal assistants benefits from more accurate data (clear voice). More accurate data translates to faster processing and more efficiency, so customers are happy and more can be done with existing cloud services.

Will landline carriers take up HD voice sooner rather than later? Only time will tell, but the clock is ticking as mobile HD voice continues to propagate. It is difficult to make an argument over the long run that narrowband voice should remain the standard of choice in any consumer offering.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Editor

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