There's a revolution going on in voice communications, and it's all about HD Voice. Today, in the UK, Orange (press release), one of the largest mobile operators in the world unveiled their new HD Voice service that works on a small number of handsets from Nokia and Samsung that move the voice traffic over the 3G path. Those are also the first two hurdles as the HD Voice service stops working when the 3G service stops and only works on mobile phones that have the HD Voice codecs installed.
The next hurdle deals with when you call someone on another network, that hasn't implemented HD Voice, the same way or at all. But there's hope. A few months back client XConnect launched an HD Voice Peering trial for the purpose of getting carriers on board. Once the HD traffic is on the XConnect peering network their "Global Alliance" service makes sure the packets move as they started in full and robust HD to all customers of carrier members of the Global Alliance.
Standards will play the key here to both quality and consistency as other mobile operators and carriers begin to implement HD Voice into their networks. That means the need for interoperability will be key. So will be transcoding as the different codecs that can be deployed such as Skype's SILK and G.722 need to be able to talk to one another. This is one of the reasons why Google purchased former client GIPS-their expertise in transcoding, compression and codecs is key. That's why XConnect's efforts in the middle will play a significant piece of these efforts too, as will other network interconnection/peering federations which can effectively manage the peering and the services that ride atop them.
Beyond Orange Mobile, other companies like Citrix Online (another client), whose HiDef Conferencing Service, Calliflower and ZipDX are already playing and have been for some time in the HD Voice world. By having the standards in place and implemented by the carriers and operators the traffic that reaches the adoptive players will be delivered so they can bridge all the callers into HD regardless of the origination's chosen codec. That means that a caller coming in via Skype with Silk can be heard in HD by someone using another client's client, CounterPath's Bria, which when loaded with the G.722 codec also delivers HD Voice and eventually to compatible services and endpoints including Apple iOS devices like iPhones, the iPod touch and iPads once a G.722 codec is offered.
For those who have ever experienced an HD Voice call, the experience is strikingly different than a regular call. If you want to try to hear the difference, the VoIP Users Conference call that happens each and every Friday at noon Eastern time is delivered in beautiful HD audio if the caller has G.722 installed on the softphone.
Hat Tip to Doug Mohney who has been covering HD Voice and organizing panels on the subject as long as anyone around.