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Orange to Launch 'HD Voice' Call Quality in 2010

Gordon Kelly


Orange to Launch 'HD Voice' Call Quality in 2010

We applaud this development, though I'd like to strangle whoever came up with the branding...

Today (yes, New Year's Eve - no rest for the wicked) Orange has announced its will place great emphasis on network call quality during 2010 with the launch of 'High Definition Voice'. Described as "crystal clear, superior sound quality" Orange claims it will set a new standard for the industry, though to be fair at times so could shouting into two paper cups attached with string.

The science? HD Voice uses the WB-AMR (Wideband Adaptive Multi-Rate) speech codec. This provides potential for far better audio quality thanks to a wider bandwidth of 50–7000Hz compared to the current narrowband speech codec of 300–3400Hz. Helpfully, WB-AMR also utilises no additional network resources.

“Orange is proud to be leading the industry into the next decade by announcing a new standard in voice innovation that will transform the mobile experience for customers in the UK," said Orange CEO Tom Alexander (pictured). "HD Voice really does inject a level of innovation into mobile phone calls, making it sound as if callers are actually in the same room. Once people have tried it, they won’t want to go back."

Silly branding apart, it's hard to have a go at any operator trying to improve the quality of calls on its network, though there are caveats:

1. You'll need an HD Voice enabled handset and there aren't any. Orange says it is "already working with leading handset manufacturers on the development of devices to be rolled out next year". Hmmmn, it'll need to be very persuasive to tempt global businesses to adopt standards for its specific network.

2. Is it unclear whether HD Voice will have any impact when cross calling between different networks. If it doesn't (and who actually knows which networks their friends/colleagues are on?) then its benefits become somewhat hit and miss.

3. Better call quality isn't the same as better coverage, but better coverage does result in better call quality so maybe it would make more sense to fix that first as everyone wins?

Still, HD Voice will make things better... when you have a compatible phone... speaking to another compatible phone... on the right network... where there is reception...

I'll go grab that paper cup.


Press Release

Eddy Hall

December 31, 2009, 9:53 pm

Hi there. Does this apply to 2G and 3G networks? What about calls from one to the other? How come it takes up no more radio resources when the default 12.65 Kbps AMR-WB mode is compared against EFR at 12.2 Kbps?


December 31, 2009, 9:54 pm

@Eddy Hall - all questions we're waiting for answers to...


December 31, 2009, 10:02 pm

"HD Voice will make things better... when you have a compatible phone... speaking to another compatible phone..." Bingo, this will take a while to take off but should do eventually as long as they don't charge more for an HD call or something else stupid..

Also its going to use more processing power which means less call time..


December 31, 2009, 10:22 pm

@xenos - Orange hasn't said anything to us about HD Voice requiring more processing power, but then again it hasn't said much about it at all (see comments above).


December 31, 2009, 10:51 pm

I just applied common sense, compressing a higher quality signal into the same bandwidth requires more compression and therefore more processing power to encode and decode in real-time.. It might not need much more I have no idea on numbers but I would imagine it would have an effect!

It's also not that simple because I'd imagine phones currently have dedicated EFR encoding/decoding circuitry, the equivalent AMR-WB circuitry could be more or less complex, probably more.. but its not always the case.

If you take the case of AM / FM radios then its much easier to build an AM receiver than FM, and DAB is more complex again, but the advantages are in the reduced bandwidth required for transmission.. exactly what's going on here!


December 31, 2009, 11:01 pm

Looks like the AMR_WB is going to be similar to how G711 codec brought improvements over g729 on VoIP side of things.

I am pretty sure there will be overheads somewhere.


December 31, 2009, 11:56 pm

Seriously, what a waste of time. Orange have got serious reception issues around London that need fixing. Money would be better spent on new 3.5G masts...

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