Last week saw a major development in the evolution of mobile voice. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) released a report outlining opportunities and benefits of deploying HD voice offerings, and showed that the service is already widely available. 83 operators have commercially launched HD voice services on mobile networks in 61 countries, 84 per cent more than supported it a year ago.
What is it?
HD Voice is a wideband audio technology. When it’s used on a supported network, it increases the frequency range allowed for audio signals, and vastly improves the sound quality. “Crystal clear” is the phrase often used – and the promises HD voice offers are great.
But with operators across the world reporting declining voice revenues, and over-the-top (OTT) service providers successfully selling ‘free’ offerings, at the expense of operators’ voice and SMS services, we can be forgiven for thinking that, for operators, voice is no longer important.
Why should operators care?
So, if the revenue potential from voice traffic is diminished, why are operators investing in making HD services available?
When we’re bombarded by headlines about data services and applications, it is easy to forget that the mobile industry has been built on the basic human desire to hear a voice at the other end of the line. And, while fewer people are making voice calls today, HD voice MIGHT just change that. Maybe users would start again, if the quality was better.
Added to this, HD voice is an important point of differentiation for operators over the OTT players. Sure, free services are available – but the quality isn’t a patch on routing voice calls through your network operator. The improved quality encourages that HD offers encourages longer call durations, delivers a richer presence for conference calls and improves comprehension with people of different accents. In terms of automation, HD Voice provides a more accurate environment for voice recognition and speech detection.
But while the huge number of operators introducing services, we are still a way away from fulfilling the true potential of HD voice. Operator buy-in isn’t enough, a whole ecosystem of involvement is necessary – from operator to handset, to chipset provider.
HD voice requires support at the network level and device level, so, while HD voice services might be available via your network operator, you might not be able to enjoy the experience on your shiny new handset.
And, operators can support different radio standards of HD voice – meaning that interoperability challenges are at play. It’s no good having HD voice if you call a friend on another network, that doesn’t support the same standard. Both handsets, and both networks, need to support it.
So, what does this mean? The challenges are great – but so is the potential. We’re well on the way to seeing HD voice as a widely adopted service – and while it’s not there yet, it is an important technology to keep an eye on.