HD Communications Project

As part of the preparation for the fall HD Communications Summit, Jeff Pulver has put up a video clip promoting HD Voice for phone calls. It goes over the familiar arguments:

  • Sound quality on phone calls hasn’t improved since 1937. Since most calls are now made on cell phones, it has actually deteriorated considerably.
  • The move to VoIP has made it technically feasible to make phone calls with CD quality sound or better, yet instead VoIP calls are usually engineered to sound worse than circuit-switched calls (except in the case of Skype.)
  • Improved sound quality on phone calls yields undisputed productivity benefits, particularly when the calls involve multiple accents.
  • Voice has become a commodity service, with minimal margins for service providers, yet HD Voice offers an opportunity for differentiation and potentially improved margins.

The HD Communications Summit is part of the HD Connect Project. The HD Connect Project aims to provide a coordination point for the various companies that have an interest in propagating HD Voice. These companies include equipment and component manufacturers, software developers and service providers.

Among the initiatives of the HD Connect Project is a logo program, like the Wi-Fi Alliance logo program. The logo requirements are currently technically lax, providing an indicator of good intentions rather than certain interoperability. Here’s a draft of the new logo:

HD Connect Draft Logo

Another ingredient of the HD Connect project is the HDConnectNow.org website, billed as “the news and information place for The HD Connect Project.”

It is great that Jeff is stepping up to push HD Voice like this. With the major exception of Skype almost no phone calls are made with wideband codecs (HD Voice). Over the past few years the foundation has been laid for this to change. Several good wideband codecs are now available royalty free, and all the major business phone manufacturers sell mostly (or solely) wideband-capable phones. Residential phones aren’t there yet, but this will change rapidly: the latest DECT standards are wideband, Gigasets are already wideband-capable, and Uniden is enthusiastic about wideband, too. As the installed base of wideband-capable phones grows, wideband calling can begin to happen.

Since most dialing is still done with old-style (E.164) phone numbers, wideband calls will become common within companies before there is much uptake between companies. That will come as VoIP trunking displaces circuit-switched, and as ENUM databases are deployed and used.

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