Feature Article

August 09, 2013

HD Voice Call Exchange Between Carriers Next Priority

It has been four years since Orange (formerly France Telecom) turned up the first commercial HD voice service on a mobile network. Today, there are at least 80 networks in 60 countries running HD voice, with a wave of LTE carriers still to come. As more carriers around the world turn up HD voice, making HD voice calls between networks is still in its early days. From all appearances, Europe and Asia are ahead of the curve in exchanging high-quality voice calls.

 If you look at the July 2013 Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) map available at www.gascom.com, most of Europe and a good portion of Asia is colored in. Carriers have few reasons not to provide end-to-end HD voice calls between themselves -- other than the opportunity to squeeze competitors in the process.

Orange has three reasons to promote HD voice call exchange as soon as possible. Most of its subsidiaries offer HD voice service, so getting everyone connected provides a seamless voice roaming experience and also provides a large "pool" of HD voice calls to incentivize other carriers to connect with it. In addition, Orange and Deutsche Telekom agreed to share radio networks and other resources; the two already do so in the UK through their "Everything Everywhere" venture.  An initial HD voice interop setup between Orange Romania and Orange Moldova was announced in October 2012. 

However, Orange isn't the only company talking up mobile HD voice interop. A number of carriers have discussed IPX exchanges to move HD voice and LTE data traffic. KPN subsidiary iBasis has been quietly conducting a number of peering/exchange agreements over the last 18 months and is involved in an all-Netherlands carrier exchange as well. 

BT Global Services may be the most serious player in the field at the moment. The company currently operates two IPX hubs in the UK, Singapore and Miami. It has been the loudest promoter of its IPX services and sources indicate the company plans to add additional IPX hubs in the future.

Not to be counted out are multi-territory players such as Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, both carriers deploying HD voice and desiring to offer a seamless roaming customer experience. Bharti Airtel has indicated its plans to deploy HD voice throughout its African subsidiaries and offer a world-wide seamless roaming plan among all of its properties, so it will hold some clout.

Against this backdrop, you have the few and massive – U.S. carriers AT&T and Verizon, along with upstart T-Mobile US and struggling Sprint. There's an old cliché about quantity having a quality of its own-- certainly both AT&T and Verizon have the mobile numbers and the offered promise of Voice over LTE to be considered in any HD voice interop discussion. 

However, no U.S. carrier appears to be in a hurry to promote HD voice roaming and/or to exchange HD voice calls with any other carrier. My bet is on T-Mobile US to announce seamless HD voice calls with parent Deutsche Telekom and other European carriers sometime in the near future.

Doug will be moderating IT EXPO West sessions on HD voice and IPX exchange services in Las Vegas this month.




Edited by Blaise McNamee


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