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HD Voice from Orange

Orange UK has announced plans to launch high definition voice services in 2010. HD Voice calls will be carried on its 3G network using improved speech encoding, allowing customers to experience better voice call quality.

How does it work? All radio communications broadcast most of the sound we hear, but not quite all of it. In this picture of a sound wave the area between the red lines is the bit that’s being sent, the very low or high pitched sounds at the top and bottom are cut out. Mainly this is because these sounds are virtually beyond human hearing, but it’s also done to limit the energy used and standardise the signal.

HD voice will send a little bit more over the air, in theory providing better quality sound.

The same idea was used to sell EFR (Enhanced Full Rate) phones at the end of the 90’s. It made more of a difference at the time because Cellnet and Vodafone were still using an analogue signal across most of the UK, but today the perceivable difference will be trivial.

I find it hard to see a great deal of value to HD Voice. Promises such as ‘crystal clear’ or ‘superior’ sound are nice for a sales agent to add positive-sounding blather to their pitch, but do they really add any value from a customer perspective? Of course not, call quality is already very high and public demand is for faster 3G video and data products, not voice.

It is interesting though, as once Orange start to move call traffic from 2G to 3G, it can think about dumping the 2G network entirely. Very soon the combined Orange/T-Mobile monster will have far more 2G network capacity than anyone needs, so we could see premier 3G only and budget 2G voice and text plans from the new company.

Anyway, the press release boldly proclaims HD Voice to ‘herald a new era for mobile communications’. Baloney! Orange need to offer improved services and allowances customers actually want instead of marketing 3G with platitudes.

Like to know more? press release here (opens in new tab)

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