Europe Almost a Full Mobile HD Voice Zone

By Doug Mohney September 23, 2013

Earlier this week, MTS announced it is rolling out HD voice on its network in Belarus. The announcement is the latest one filling a large HD voice map across the continent, with the next big issue is how fast IPX operability can be universally implemented for seamless end-to-end HD voice calls across mobile carriers.

In August, BITE launched HD voice in its subsidiaries in Latvia and Lithuania. Ukrainian carrier Kyivstar also launched service in parts of the country, including Crimea, Chernovsy and some areas of Kiev. Last week, Telenor Serbia launched HD voice, with parent Telenor boosting the voice quality through the company blog.

One of the more interesting parts here is looking at the mobile carriers making the announcements. MTS is the largest mobile operator in Russia with over 102 million subscribers, with licenses to operate in Armenia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.  Kyivstar is the largest mobile operator in Ukraine with over 25 million subscribers. Meanwhile, Telenor has HD voice service in Montenegro, as well as Serbia, its home territory of Norway, and its dtac subsidiary in Thailand.

HD voice service started strong in Western Europe and now nearly covers the entire region with the surge of announcements throughout Eastern Europe. Albania, Estonia, and Sweden appear to be the only European countries not offering HD voice at this time, with two carriers in Sweden currently testing Voice over LTE (VoLTE). In addition, a significant number of countries have at least two carriers offering HD voice service.

The next threshold to cross for seamless HD voice service is interconnection. Orange has made it clear that it is working on connecting its subsidiaries, followed by or in parallel with connecting to other carriers. Last year, Orange announced was moving calls between Romania and Moldova. Comments in earlier press releases said Orange planned to start moving HD voice calls between other carriers in 2013. 

Certainly Orange and Deutsche Telekom either have established or are in advanced tests to move HD calls between each other. The two companies already share one network in Europe – the UK's Everything Everywhere service – with presumably more RF network sharing to take place in the future, based upon past joint statements.

Broader IPX exchanges are also starting to come into play with the move to LTE. A number of carriers in the Netherlands have set up a country-based exchange while BT, Orange, and others promote the virtues of their respective IPX services to move HD voice calls and support LTE roaming. It appears carriers are still in the earlier stages for IPX, trying to figure out if they can peer with other carriers rather than pay for services and/or make money by operating an IPX as a service for smaller carriers.

The irony, or perhaps sadness, here is that it appears Europe and Asia are likely to have seamless HD voice calling established before U.S. carriers, due to a combination of U.S. carriers’ continued technical difficulties on turning up VoLTE and no urgency in establishing interoperability without trying to squeeze every last dime out of such agreements.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Editor

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