You’ve probably seen lots of talk here on the VoIP Insider about HDVoice, Wideband VoIP, G.722 Codec, etc. Lead by VoIP endpoint manufacturers including Polycom, Snom, Audiocodes, Cisco and others, the VoIP industry at large is gearing up to push “High Definition Voice” in a big way.

Industry analysts are also evangelizing wideband audio technology. Jeff Pulver’s HD Communications Summit recently convened on May 21st in NYC, a gathering of like-minded technology vendors and technorati pontificating on the ramifications of wideband audio and telephony.

I have experienced HD audio firsthand on Polycom’s VVX1500 and their other HDVoice capable models, as well as Audiocodes’ new 320HD, and the difference between 16K “HD” and 8K traditional audio clarity is indeed striking.

In my opinion, one factor that currently limits the proliferation of HD communications is the lack of an existing deployed base of of “wideband audio capable” endpoint devices….ie phones. There are currently a nice variety of HD capable IP phones available in the marketplace from the aforementioned vendors, but they have not been available long enough to be widely installed, yet. I have several HD capable phones provisioned in our offices but precious few clients and colleagues with whom to converse in hi def.

I began wondering if/when a mobile provider would roll out HD calling services for wireless subscribers, and came upon a piece by Daniel Berninger of Gigaom entitled How HD Voice Can Save Wireline Telecom,. As good as the HD experience is on a hardphone in the office, I can’t help but think how great this technology would be if applied to mobile devices. If given my first choice, I think I’d opt to have the benefits of HD audio clarity on a mobile call while driving in my car, or on a layover in a noisy airport, versus in the office.

With 3G here and 4G coming, the bandwidth is certainly there to support HD calling on mobile devices. Seems all that is currently lacking is a traditional carrier or mobile VoIP provider and a handset manufacturer with a wireless device that supports G.722 or alternative wideband codecs. I wonder if there are existing mobile phone devices with a large deployed base that could be made “HD capable” via firmware update?

If anyone amongst our readership has any particular insight into HD audio and the near term impact on both fixed line and mobile telephony, we’d love to hear from you.

One of the uses of VoIP that excites me the most is Mobile VoIP accessed through dual mode phones, phones capable of making out calls via both the GSM/CDMA network and Wi-Fi network. At the moment, the acceptance and availability is a bit like the short kid at the amusement park who can’t quite go on all of the rides, but knows he’ll have his growth spurt soon. This may seem like a strange analogy to use but it does make sense when you think about it.
not tall enough
Pros – These items put us at the amusement park, walking up to a massive roller coaster named after a comic super hero.
  • Wi-Fi Hotspots – More and more retail, hospitality and public spaces are offering free or low cost Wi-Fi access to their customers. My local launderette now offers free access
  • Phones – More and more phones are becoming available with the ability for WLAN connectivity, and it’s not just in the business class of phones.
  • Data Packages – The pricing on data has been very affordable with most major cell phone providers. Some of the providers are offering unlimited access for as little as $20 a month.

Cons – These put us a couple inches short of the comic book hero’s hand. We are not tall enough to ride the ride-yet.

  • Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi, although becoming more and more available, it isn’t available everywhere. Once you are on a call, you may be tied down to a certain area depending on signal strength.
  • Technology – This ties-in with the limitations of Wi-Fi; at the moment if you leave the hotspot, your call will be dropped. There is no automatic transfer from Wi-Fi to cellular currently supported by a major cellular carrier.
  • Phone Providers – Some of the major cell phone providers don’t allow you to bring unlocked devices. This means people are limited to the selections from the provider. In Europe the cellular providers are more SIM card based allowing for switching and upgrading of phones using unlocked phones.

Where this leaves us is still in the amusement park, but not able to ride all of the rides; however, with a growth spurt this will all change. The growth spurt will be aided as the technologies advance in the features available on cell phones. As more phones come standard with the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks and the relatively cheap cost of data packages, interest and use will increase. Also, the growing availability and stability of Wi-Fi signals in public spaces, combined with the advances in phone technology will allow for more stable and reliable connects.

Next: Professor Plum in the Ballroom with the Rope: The Who, Where and How of Mobile VoIP.