As 2012 wrapped up, announcements from around the world served to underline the advancement of HD voice on mobile networks. December brought deployments in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, while Sprint failed to deliver on its pledge to turn up HD voice service on its U.S. CDMA network.
Airtel Nigeria launched HD voice service in Nigeria last week, offering the service on its 3G network over newer models of Samsung, Blackberry, Apple, HTC, Sony and Nokia (News - Alert) handsets. Parent Bharti Airtel launched HD voice service within India in February 2011. With over 240 million subscribers worldwide and subsidiaries in 19 countries, Airtel is shaping up to be a company to watch since its' One Network is offered as a "borderless" mobile network service allowing users to freely roam between subsidiaries.
DTAC, Thailand's second-largest mobile carrier and a Telenor subsidiary, started offering HD voice service at the beginning of December. The Apple iPhone 5 was featured in the rollout, with other phones to be officially certified. Interestingly, parent Telenor has started discussing HD voice and how subscribers should look for "HD voice ready" phones when it introduces service in 2013 to Norway. Telenor has been discussing HD voice service in Norway since late 2011 and appears to have several false starts in rolling out the technology in its home territory.
Orange (News - Alert) Israel /Partner officially announced turning up HD voice service at the end of December, with the Apple iPhone 5 once again being the featured phone in the roll out. Partner said it would also be supporting other handsets in the coming days, including HTC (News - Alert), Sony, and Samsung handsets. In an interesting geo-political trivia twist, you can also find HD voice service through Orange subsidiaries/licensees in Egypt/Cairo and Jordan.
Some kudos goes to the Apple iPhone 5 and its support for HD voice. Announcing the feature in conjunction with the rollout of the iPhone 5 spurred a number of service providers to launch the service -- and caused Sprint some embarrassing moments when the carrier said it wouldn't be able to support HD voice on the device "at this time." Reports indicate Apple, burned in its initial U.S. iPhone rollout on AT&T's network, does its own qualification testing for HD voice support and won't allow carriers to announce service until all the tests are passed.
Complicating matters for Sprint is a spring vow to support HD voice on its upgraded CDMA 1X Advanced network "later this year." Unless the company plans a formal announcement on December 31, 2012, this is another technology/marketing failure for the long-troubled carrier.
However, Sprint is in good (U.S. wireless carrier) company. Verizon (News - Alert) didn't roll out VoLTE (Voice over LTE) this year and MetroPCS used a non-standard version of VoLTE that only supports narrowband voice. AT&T once again falls into the category of "Who knows?", while there are indications a rebooted T-Mobile USA is starting to quietly rollout network support for HD voice.
Compare the U.S.'s track record in deploying HD voice to Canada. The top four wireless carriers in the Great White North all support mobile HD voice service, encompassing over 93 percent of the total market. It's enough to make anyone yell, "Bah, humbug!"
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Edited by Brooke Neuman