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November 07, 2012

Mobile HD Voice Progressing in Asia, Africa, Middle East

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

With Europe nearly covered with HD voice service, wireless providers are ramping up deployments in  Asia, Middle East and Africa areas (AMEA). Driving adoption between the areas is a mixture of unique and common factors.

Growth in Asia appears to be organically driven on a carrier by carrier, country by country basis. Australian incumbent carrier Telstra (News - Alert) was the first and largest carrier to offer HD voice service in June 2011 on its HSPA network. Since then, Telstra has lined up a couple of Voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) capable smartphones for its LTE network for the day when it supports VoLTE. Its international division is also looking to offer IPX interconnectivity for HD voice calls across different networks.

HD voice service is also available in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and the Philippines. All, with exception of South Korea, are running HSPA networks, while South Korean providers have forged ahead with leading the way on LTE technology and services. Two South Korean service providers turned up VoLTE in August and were joined by a third in October, giving the country essentially nationwide VoLTE service.

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BT (News - Alert) believes there's great potential for HD voice service to generate revenue. BT International has opened up a second IPX IP exchange hub in Singapore to service the region and is actively making the rounds of the Asian press, saying HD voice will increase minutes and profits.

Orange, the flagship brand of France Telecom (News - Alert), doesn't have a presence in Asia, but it is planning to fill HD voice in its portfolio of African and Middle Eastern carriers. It currently counts Egypt (Specifically Cairo), Kenya, Jordan, Mauritius, Reunion, and Uganda in its listings and said it plans on launching more in the future by the end of 2012.   Tunisia, with a relatively new HSPA+ network, is a likely candidate, plus at least one of the nine African subsidiaries without HD voice support.

In the Middle East proper, Dubai mobile carrier du has upgraded its HSPA network to support HD voice and plans to support VoLTE down the road as it expands its LTE network. Etithad Atheeb Telecom, better known as "GO" Telecom, rolled out HD voice in Saudi Arabia on its WiMAX (News - Alert) network and a CommuniGate soft client on a range of devices.

One would think Israel would be a sure bet for mobile HD voice deployment, given the country's high-tech sector and companies such as AudioCodes advocating wideband voice, but there's been no hints so far of any carrier planning to offer the service.

Finally, as more carriers turn up LTE networks around the globe, HD voice is almost always a part of the package since Voice over LTE uses AMR-WB as its standard codec. The downside is that many carriers have been slow to deploy VoLTE on operational LTE networks due to concerns over seamless call handoff between existing 3G networks and LTE.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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