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November 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 11
Packet Voice Over Wireless

All Egg, No Chicken

HD voice seems like a chicken and egg problem: why would anybody get it when they can't use it because nobody else has it?

Actually there are at least five dynamics at work that mean HD voice will deploy relatively quickly – probably within the next three years.

First, all the major business phone system manufacturers are adding wideband to their IP phones. This means that internal calls in enterprises will increasingly be in HD.

Second, enterprise-grade cell phones are increasingly being equipped with Wi-Fi, and (with software from companies like DiVitas Networks and Varaha (News - Alert) Systems) used on-premises as extensions to the PBX. Wideband voice on these phones is a simple software upgrade, so even enterprises that don't replace their phone systems within the next three years will gain a substantial proportion of wideband-capable endpoints.

Third, with the advent of VoIP trunking, there is a compelling financial incentive for enterprises to directly peer or federate with each other to eliminate completely per-minute call charges. This is facilitated by services like XConnect (News - Alert). Once enterprises are linked in this way, calls between them can be in wideband.

Fourth, the enterprise islands of HD voice are not just linking by federating; they are subscribing to voice service providers like Alteva (News - Alert) that permit wideband calls between their corporate subscribers (just like federation does), and these service providers federate between each other through services like the Voice Peering Fabric.

The fifth factor is the codec. Because it is royalty-free, the commonest wideband codec in enterprises is G.722, but it runs at a fixed bit-rate, so it is unsuited to variable-bandwidth connections like wireless and the Internet. Standard variable bit-rate codecs like AMR-WB normally have complicated royalty schemes. Skype (News - Alert) recently opened up its SILK wideband codec to third parties, yielding a modern variable bit rate super-wideband codec that is royalty-free. Within 3 years it will be on all the endpoints mentioned above, providing clear-sounding wideband connections with no transcoding in the network. (Disclosure: I am working with Skype to speed up this process).

The egg is about to hatch. 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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