If the Government Adopts HD Voice, Does it Matter?


One idea gaining volume these days is having the U.S. government "adopt" HD voice as a "standard" for IP communication.  Given the poor track record of government standard-setting promoting anything, I'm not a big fan.

Example one for why this won't work is the adoption of IPv6 -- the "next" Internet protocol.  Back in 2005, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandated that U.S. government agencies go to IPv6 by June 2008.   The date came and passed, followed by a new mandate for IPv6 support and then Federal CIO Vivek Kundra sending out a September 2010 memo declaring all public federal web servers be IPv6 running by September 30, 2012, with internal computers IPv6 capable by September 30, 2014.

On October 1, 2012, only 287 out of 1,494 government agencies had IPv6 running on their web sites, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  Fewer still had IPv6 domain name services (DSN) running, only 166 agencies.

Today, March 9, 2014, the latest NIST snapshot shows 437 websites using IPv6 with 903 still IPv6 out of 1285 domains measured.  Put another way, roughly a year and a month after an OMB mandate deadline, 70 percent of U.S. government website are not running IPv6.

To be fair, switching on IPv6 isn't like waiving a magic wand and there hasn't been any additional funding to get this done.  However, everyone on the planet knows IPv4 is going away. Since the mandates started back in 2005, it's been 9 years with begrudging progress. 

Implementing HD voice within the U.S. government would appear to be a relatively straightforward process, but the devil is always within the details. Would G.722 -- around since the late '80s -- be sufficient?  What about mobile standards for HD voice? How would multiple HD voice standards be expected to interoperate? Who would manage and monitor compliance?  Where would the money come from if new equipment purchases are required?

The last successful transformational technology push the U.S. government had took place in the mid-1990s.  Vice President Al Gore pushed hard for every executive agency to have access to and a presence on the Internet, resulting in a surge of federal websites and more accessible information on line.   Gore was an evangelist for new technology -- and it didn't hurt that he wanted to run for President, so he had incentives to make sure goals were met and everyone knew what was being accomplished.

HD voice, even for G.722-grade quality improvement, continues to be a hard policy sell.  Efforts to get the White House to "buy in" and endorse a move to HD voice go back at least four years without success.   At this point, one can argue that the discussion should shift beyond simply plugging a couple of codec upgrades and move to a philosophy of an infrastructure to support an upgrade from narrowband voice all the way through "100 percent natural audio" quality. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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