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More phones are getting HD Voice

A growing number of operators are putting pressure on vendors to include the technology, which improves voice quality

Sony Ericsson's Xperia arc S is one of a few phones to feature HD voice capability

Sony Ericsson's Xperia arc S is one of a few phones to feature HD voice capability

Quad-core processors and big screens are getting most of the attention at Mobile World Congress, but a feature that is getting more common on new smartphones is HD Voice.

More smartphones are becoming compatible with HD Voice, which improves call voice quality, as interest from operators for the technology is increasing. But even more mobile operators need to get onboard to increase its usability, according to Orange.

The improved quality it offers is possible thanks to AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate - Wideband), a speech-compression algorithm that doubles the range of voice frequencies transmitted. Phones also have better acoustics and noise cancelation, according to Alex Nourouzi, product marketing director at Orange, which all users benefit from.

"We now see a lot of operators launching; the last ones to go live were Swisscom in Switzerland and KPN in Holland, which is still a trial. So they are putting pressure on the phone manufacturers to put HD voice on their phones," said Jan Derksen, head of technical marketing at Ericsson Networks.

Bell Mobility in Canada also launched HD Voice earlier this year, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).

That pressure is helping make it a default feature on new smartphones such as the Nokia Lumia 610, Huawei Ascend D Quad, ZTE Era, HTC One X and the Sony Xperia P.

Even if the sound quality has improved, there are still things vendors can do to make it even better. For example, the plastic around the microphone can be changed to get better acoustics, Derksen said.

A product that both Derksen and Nourouzi would like to see get HD Voice is the iPhone, but putting pressure on Apple is difficult.

Today, HD Voice is live in 39 networks and 31 countries, as of Feb. 20, according to GSA. Orange has been the driver and owns about a third of the networks that are live. The other operators include Telstra in Australia, 3 in the U.K. and T-Mobile in a handful of countries.

But even more need to get onboard, according to Nourouzi.

"We have to continue to build on the current momentum. I have told the guys at Vodafone and Telefonica that this is not acceptable: where are you?" he said.

For operators, it holds the promise of users making more and longer calls, while users get better quality for the same cost.

"Users really start to appreciate the higher quality when they make calls in normal environments, like here [at Mobile World Congress] where there is a lot of background noise," said Derksen.

Nourouzi agrees: "You know straight away when you are on an HD call because you get the feeling the person you are talking to is in the same room," said Nourouzi.

Currently, no customer walks into a store and says they want an HD Voice phone, but when they hear the demo they don't want to go back, he said.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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