I just had a call from Alex Harrowell (of Telco 2.0). Alex was on the floor of the Mobile World Congress so there was a lot of background noise and he was calling from a mobile device, specifically a Nokia N900. What's more, he was using Wi-Fi, something that's been highly marginal at previous MWCs. But this call sounded much better than the typical mobile phone call ! It was excellent.
The difference: Alex was using the Skype client for the N900, so our call was Skype-to-Skype, Barcelona to Boston, and thus it used wideband audio, a.k.a. HD Voice. Yes, there was background noise from the conference floor, but Alex's voice was completely clear and stood out from the background noise. Also, the background was distinct enough that I felt like I was on the floor with Alex.
Mobile HD voice is significantly better than most traditional phone calls and much better than any other mobile call.
With the announcement that Apple is no longer blocking VoIP applications on the iPhone over 3G, it's likely we'll see Skype and others show up an ever increasing range of mobile devices.
Mobile operator provided HD Voice might eventually reach a wider range of mobile devices than Skype over Wi-Fi or 3G, but mobile operators better get cracking. Otherwise, they might just be left in the dust.
Here are my notes from last week's HD communications Summit, i.e. my twitter stream condensed. I've followed that with a copy of the day's schedule just in case the original on-line version disappears. :)
Welcome - Daniel Berninger, CEO, FWD and Executive Director, HDConnect
Jeff Pulver - CEO, pulver.com - "Accelerating the Conversion to HD"
Step 1 - The HD Technology Roadmap
Alan Percy, Director Market Development, AudioCodes
Jan Linden, VP Engineering, Global IP Solutions
Mike Eastman, VP Sales, WYDEVoice
Case Study: Lessons Learned from SD to HDTV
Robert Graves, Chairman, ATSC Forum
HD Innovations Panel - Part I:
Moderator - Robert Messer, President, ABP Tech
- Tobias Kemper, VP, Nimbuzz
- Alan Percy, Director Business Development, AudioCodes
- A. Ryan Heidari, Director Technical and Product Marketing, Qualcomm
HD Innovations Panel - Part II:
Moderator - Ben Lillenthal, founder and CEO, VAPPS
- Jim Toga, co-founder and VP Engineering, Vivox
- Tim Panton, CEO, PhoneFromHere
- Richard Romagnino, VP Business Development, VoiceAge
Step 2 - Triggering End User Demand
Jeff Rodman, co-founder, CTO Voice Division, Polycom
Rick Krupka, VP Business Communication Services, Uniden
HD in Action Panel:
Moderator - Daniel Petrie, CEO, SIPEz
- Joyce Kim, VP Marketing, Global IP Solutions
- Jeff Rodman, co-founder, CTO Voice Division, Polycom
- David Beckemeyer, CEO, Televolution
Field Report: HD Voice in the Enterprise
Chris Fine, VP, Goldman Sachs
Step 3 - Toward a Fully Functioning HD Ecosystem
Josh Bottum, Director Business Development, Cisco
Mike Rude, VP Business Development, DSPGroup
The HD Value Chain Panel
Moderator - Michael Stanford, WireEvolution
- Michael Jablon, VP Digital Phone Strategy, Time Warner
- Tony Stankus, PM Emerging Technologies,Gigaset Communications USA
- Mike Storella, Director Business Development, snom
HD Carrier Interconnection Panel:
Moderator - Candice Malmstrom, Dir of Marketing, FreedomVoice
- Kevin Groth, VP North America, XConnect
- Rodrigue Ullens, CEO, Voxbone
- David Frankel, CEO, ZipDX
Step 4 - The Path to HD Mass Market Adoption
Alla Reznick, Dir Product Management, Global Advanced Services, Verizon
Thomas Lemaire, Director Business Development, FT-Orange
Julian Spittka, Product Manager and Sr. Engineer, Skype
Mobile HD VoIP Panel:
Moderator - David Bluenstein, co-founder, The Hatchery
- Brough Turner, Chief Strategy Officer, Dialogic
- Diego Besprosvan, CTO, MailVision
- Mahesh Makhijani, Director Technical Marketing, Qualcomm
Perspectives on HD Tipping Points Panel
Moderator - Doug Mohney, Editor in Chief, HDConnectNow
- Anatoli Levine, Dir Product Management, RADVISION and President, IMTC
- Richard Buchanan, Chief Marketing Officer, Ooma
- Ben Arnold, Sr Research Analyst, Consumer Electronics Association
Wrap-up - Jake MacLeod, VP and CTO, Bechtel Communications
I'll be speaking near the end of the day, on a panel called Mobile VoIP. My point is not that VoIP matters - VoIP is just a technology - but mobile is significant and will drive the tipping point for HD voice.
So far, high definition voice, i.e. wideband audio telecom, has been enabled by most IP-PBX vendors and some VoIP service providers. There are also wideband audio telephone sets available from many providers. But mostly these systems operate as standalone islands. When you call someone outside your island, the audio reverts to PSTN quality.
The problem is IT directors are making the adoption decisions and their budgets have just been cut. Even if the incremental cost of HD voice was zero, why would they sign up for more support hassles?
Once HD voice becomes possible on mobile, the adoption decision flips to individual consumers. They make the choice when they buy their next mobile phone. True, only one mobile operator has announced support for HD voice, and they are in Moldova. But Orange is promising to extend this to their networks in the UK and Belgium and then to all of Europe.
Five years from now, most 3G handsets in Europe will be HD voice enabled and there will be consensus that mobile HD was the tipping point for HD voice.
Note: The tag on Twitter and Technorati is: hdcomms
My primary identity on Twitter is "brough" and that's where you'll find most of my comment stream for today's HD Communications Summit. I also own the Twitter handle "HDVoice" which I started to use this morning, but then lapsed. There are a few tweets there, but only a few.
I've gotten a number of insights from individual speakers and from discussions during breaks, so this has definitely been worth it. On the other hand, one complaint is the preponderance of HD VoIP and the lack of coverage of mobile HD. The most interesting speaker was Benoit de Boursetty, Director FTNA, at France Telecom a.k.a. Orange. Benoit talked about Orange's fixed (BB VoIP) HD Voice service that was launched in France in 2006 (400K subscribers) and in Spain in 1Q09.
He also mentioned their plan to deploy HD Voice on mobile in Belgium and the UK before the end of 2009. This is significant! HD Voice on IP-PBXs is growing slowly because the decision makers are the IT directors and their primary focus is saving money. Once mobile HD Voice has launched, the adoption decisions will be made by individuals. Historically, consumers have bought voice quality. Remember Sprint's "pin drop" or Verizon's "Can you hear me now?"
Took the early plane from Boston and thus arrived at the HD Communications Summit conference venue at 7:25am, before the registration booth is even open. Luckily the coffee is out.
The focus is wideband telephony, a.k.a. HD Voice or HD VoIP. It's a topic I've been promoting at least since the 1997. Some earlier comments are here, here and here. If you clicked the 3rd "here" you'll have seen how optimistic I've been at stages in the past.
Today HD Voice is finally getting traction, at least in the IP-PBX space, with actual telephone devices from at least a half dozen companies.
I'll be moderating a panel "HD Broadband Telco" at 2pm with
At eComm 2009 this afternoon,Jonathan Christensen, Skype General Manager for Audio and Video announced that Skype will open their wideband audio algorithms for public use. The blogsphere was pre-briefed under embargo, so multiplepeople have already written this up. But it's a pleasure to see Jonathan presenting things live.
Skype was the first significant company to deploy wideband audio telephony. As a result, with Skype it feels like you are in the same room as the person you are talking to. The algorithm they are releasing is called Silk. It reproduces 50 Hz to 12,500 Hz audio signals versus traditional telephony at 300 Hz to 3000 Hz.
Skype is making this codec available to third parties royalty free. That's important as many (most) audio codecs are encumbered with all sorts of patent royalties. The Silk codec is what's currently used in Skype v4 and it appears there will be a string of related announcements from partners, today and tomorrow.
In response to a question from the audience, Jonathan makes it clear that Skype's direction is to open up as much as they can, in order to seed the market and accelerate the spread of Skype.
Note: this is binary distribution, not source code or a description of the algorithm. On the other hand, Skype is hoping to get this algorithm on as many processors and chip sets as possible. As a result, they are open to working with anyone that has a business case for a port.