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January 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 1
Packet over Wireless

HD Voice in the Real World

It’s one thing to have HD voice capability in a device. It’s another to use it on a call. All the major cell phone manufacturers have licensed the AMR-WB codec, and they have put it in the firmware of some phones to make the ringtones sound better, but it is still almost never used for phone calls.

The wideband codec used in the most call minutes is either SILK or iSAC, since SILK is the primary codec for Skype (News - Alert), and iSAC is the primary codec for China’s QQ VoIP network. In enterprises, the most widely used wideband codec is G.722, which is embedded in almost all business IP phones. Unfortunately, business wideband is used almost exclusively for in-house calls, since businesses still mainly use PSTN trunks, and even when they use VoIP trunks the trunking provider rarely supports wideband. And even if the trunking provider supports wideband, the chances are slim that at the remote end of the call the trunking provider, the PBX and the phone all support wideband.

Four things are happening to improve this situation.

First, Broadcom (News - Alert) has followed Polycom and Skype in releasing its wideband voice codecs royalty-free. This makes it easy for phone manufacturers to embed multiple codecs in their devices, increasing the chances that two endpoints can negotiate a common wideband codec and avoid transcoding, thus connecting the islands of VoIP listed above.

Second, several VoIP service providers have gotten together to peer wideband VoIP traffic. This initiative, like the established peering operations at the VPF and Intelepeer, will allow wideband codecs between networks.

Third, several voice service providers are now promoting wideband as a differentiator. The ZipDX wideband conferencing service has been in operation for some time. More recently Ooma, and Alteva (News - Alert) have each announced wideband trunking services. There are probably many others – I have used OnSIP, which supports wideband, for many months.

Finally, wideband voice is getting more visibility at industry conferences. Jeff Pulver (News - Alert) has initiated a series of conferences called HD Comm, and TMC, the publisher of this magazine, had an HD Voice track at the fall ITEXPO, and is having another at January’s ITEXPO in Miami. IT

Michael Stanford (News - Alert) has been an entrepreneur and strategist in VoIP for more than a decade. (Visit his blog at

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