Will high definition or standards revive voice communications?

April 13, 2009 by Garrett Smith

Daniel Berninger penned a guest piece on Jeff Pulver’s blog this morning entitled, “The HD Connect Manifesto” which anoints high definition voice as the savior of the voice communications industry.

In reality the manifesto has little to do with “HD” and more with two enablers driven by standards:

  • Convenience
  • Interconnection

Make voice communications more convenient

Today communications is increasingly fragmented. Consumers and businesses have more choices.

Like water people tend to take the path of least resistance. This means that they will naturally gravitate towards products and services which are more convenient and easier to use. A prime example of this in the communications sector is the increased utilization of contextual forms of communications (email, IM, SMS).

While you could argue this point, the usage data shows that contextual forms of communications are a more convenient form of communications. Further proof can be seen in their increased utilization over time.

HD voice does not make voice communications more convenient – the fact that it is a standards based technology mean that it has the potential to make voice calling more convenient.

Take the dreaded phone number. Daniel points out that the adoption of SIP URI’s by a voice service provider (instead of traditional phone numbers) would provide unified framework and therefore add conveniences to a voice service.

This certainly is true, but it’s not as a result of HD voice. It’s thanks to SIP, a standards based protocol.

Make voice communications more efficient (through interconnection)

Today most VoIP service providers are held captive by those who own/control the last mile and of course the PSTN. It adds inefficiencies to their services. This allows other voice service providers to continue to compete with them. It is, as Daniel states, the “Faith in the status quo…” that keeps them ticking.

That is why the idea of an interconnected network of ITSP makes sense. Creating a separate, more efficient network from which to power high quality voice calls is a great idea.

The yet-to-be-created network would increase efficiencies leading to increased flexibility and further cost reduction for consumers. But HD voice is not driving this.

The utilization of standards based technology that makes this possible.

HD voice is great, but standards are the true drivers

HD voice is a great thing for the voice communications industry. It is does provide call quality that is superior to the PSTN, however better sounding phone calls is not going to lead a resurgence in the voice industry.

What will lead the resurgence of the voice industry is the use of open, standards based technology to make communication more convenient, efficient and cost effective – whether those standards include high definition codecs or not.


  • Thanks for considering the HD Connect Manifesto. Your Connect Manifesto makes good points, but the list has not motivated interconnection. I believe this is the case, because SIP interconnection without HD yields the same thing PSTN interconnection offers. HD interconnection yields something the PSTN can not provide.

  • Garrett Smith

    @ Daniel

    I wouldn’t call it a manifesto 🙂

    I understand your point that HD is potentially the “something else”, but perhaps because it is early and I’ve “seen the numbers” behind HD voice that I came to doubt it as a driver.

  • I think you nailed it on the head, Garrett, when you said that better sounding phone calls are not going to lead a resurgence in the voice industry. It adds another selling point, and people are impressed when they hear it, but it won’t change the game… To hear a sample of HD Voice vs. SD Voice click here: http://tinyurl.com/c3vdxq

    The file came from Polycom, I simply mashed them together.

  • When it comes to voice quality, better is certainly better. The issue has always been whether customers will pay for better quality. HD Voice at this point reminds me of my first ADSL connection; a fast link to a slow internet. Calling someone on an old cell phone makes the HD Voice feature of my Polycomm phone a moot point.

  • Garrett Smith

    @ Advantia VoIP

    That’s a great point.

    I’m certain that HD voice is the future, but in the present it’s still a tough sell.

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