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February 26, 2013

HD Voice News Out of Mobile World Congress

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

HD voice is being heard more clearly (OK, bad pun) from Barcelona and other locations this week with a number of announcements ranging from new handsets to faster and more powerful chipsets.

Nokia (News - Alert) announced several new handsets supporting HD voice -- no surprise there, since Nokia is one of the primary patent-holders of the wideband AMR-WB codec enabling HD voice service on mobile networks. The Windows 8 Nokia Lumina 720 and 520 smartphones and the 301 feature phone all support HD voice, even if Nokia is using the term "HD audio" instead of the GSM standardized term "HD voice."

The big deal here is the Nokia 301 feature phone being offered outside of the U.S. market for the low-low list price of 65 euros -- almost $86. The "3.5G" feature phone supports HD voice, (i.e. no touchscreen, no apps) has a 2.4 inch color display, Bluetooth, but no Wi-Fi or NFC or wireless charging and storage via MicroSD card only. It sounds like an unsexy phone until you get to the standby battery life -- 888 hours on 2G, 936 hours on 3G networks. That's 39 DAYS of standby life on a 3G network! Maximum 3G talk time is six hours, with 20 hours of 2G talk time.  

France Telecom/Orange and other carriers have been counting on low-cost HD voice phones for emerging markets, teenagers, and other people who don't have them, so the Nokia 301 comes at an opportune time as service providers invest in Africa and Asia.

Going deeper into the parts and pieces of phone handsets, Audience, D2 Technologies, DSP Group (News - Alert), and ZTE all have come out with technology tied into the implementation and delivery of HD voice. Audience announced its earSmart eS325 processor with support for using three (3) microphones and such goodies as superwideband voice support of 24 kHz and Audio Zoom; you'll find more on the Audience (News - Alert) announcement here.

D2 Technologies announced its vPort and mCUE software will be running on NVIDIA's (News - Alert) i500 Icera LTE modem to deliver voice over LTE (VoLTE) and SMS over LTE (SoLTE?). D2 and NVIDIA are also going to collaborate on a reference design for their respective products incorporating RCS, Wi-Fi calling and IR.94 video calls using D2's API for IMS features.

DSP Group has licensed and incorporated the CEVA-TeakLite-III DSP to power its HDClear solution in its DBMD2 chip. The DBMD2 System on a Chip (SoC) enables enhanced noise cancellation and maximizes automatic speech recognition (ASR) accuracy, filtering out background noise to isolate voice for conversations and machine processes.

Adding to the VoLTE discussions this week, ZTE has demonstrated HD voice call handoff between 3G and LTE (News - Alert) networks over Hong Kong mobile carrier CSL's networks. The call demonstration used ZTE's SRVCC (Single Radio Voice Call Continuity) technology to move calls between CSL's operational 3G and its "pre-commercial" 4G networks without dropping them. You'll hear more about SRVCC this week as well, as carriers work on moving calls between LTE and existing networks -- it's a tough problem.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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