Orange launches HD Voice in the UK as mobile phone networks remember that phones are supposed to make good voice calls as well as surf the web
Earlier in the week I was interviewed by Reuters for a piece they were planning to run on the launch of HD Voice by Orange. The interview is now live on the Reuters site and I’ve embedded the video above.
The launch of HD Voice is an important milestone for the mobile phone industry in the UK. It is the first significant effort we’ve seen to improve the audio quality of mobile phone voice calls since 1995, and following successful trials in Eastern Europe, we know that HD Voice is a viable and cost effective way of cleaning up voice over 3G.
However, there are some points to consider before you go rushing down to your local Orange shop to buy a new handset:
1) You need a HD Voice-enabled handset at both ends of the conversation in order to experience the service (in the same way you need an iPhone 4 or the new twin-camera iPod Touch at each end of a call to experience Facetime video calling).
2) The selection of HD Compatible handsets on sale is very small right now, and your iPhone or Android smartphone does not currently support the service.
3) Orange is the only network in the UK currently offering HD Voice. Even if you have a HD Voice-compatible handset on another network, you won’t get HD Voice calling as the network itself must also support the protocol at the base stations (it is only a software update that is required at the base stations, but it is still a costly and time consuming job to deploy it).
4) HD Voice will not solve the biggest problem associated with poor call quality – and that is bad signal. In metropolitan areas where signal coverage is good, you will likely have a good HD Voice experience. In areas with marginal coverage, such as in Hook, Hampshire where my office is, voice calls, even with HD Voice, will still suffer from drop outs, distortion and other clarity issues.
It is interesting to note that Orange was the first network in the UK to launch EFR, a technology that was designed to improve (albeit slightly) the quality of conventional 2G GSM calls. It did make a noticeable difference, but calls were still a long way off that of a good landline.