Changing the Game with HD Voice

December 17, 2014 Christian Michaud

The number of mobile operators offering HD voice services has grown by over 30% during last year, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). 116 mobile operators in 75 countries have commercially launched HD voice services.

That is impressive growth and recognition that high quality voice services can add value for operators. In a challenging voice market, HD voice is offering operators a way to differentiate their services and drive profitability that goes beyond simply selling more minutes.

While voice may not be the standalone revenue driver it was in the past, it is a critical communications service and something that users judge their overall service on. Users expect voice calling to be flawless and in turn HD voice has become a tool for driving customer satisfaction.

Profitability in voice is no longer about increasing average call duration but more about quality of experience and how that translates into stickiness and stronger customer relationships. HD voice tends to increase overall call duration and usage but in some cases average call duration decreases because calls can be more productive. What is important for operators is that they retain users on their platform when competing with over-the-top services and that they remain loyal to the operators’ service packages.

Despite the growth in HD voice, further driven by the planned VoLTE rollouts, delivering true end-to-end HD voice remains a challenge. The GSA’s president Alan Hadden noted: "29 countries have at least two mobile HD voice operators. Interconnection between competing networks for end-to-end HD voice calling is a priority."

While IPX provides for the IP foundation of compliant IP routing, the lack of interconnections and interoperability of HD voice needs to be overcome for operators to offer a complete service. On-net HD voice calling is relatively simple but when trying to offer a ubiquitous service off-net it becomes complex.

Codecs differ between fixed and mobile HD voice, even within fixed and mobile, and although IP adoption is growing, a full end-to-end IP call path isn’t always available. Without IP connectivity and transcoding of HD codecs, the off-net HD voice ecosystem is fragmented. To fix it requires major investments from operators as well developing internal expertise. Most operators want the benefits but find it difficult to justify making capex-intensive investments.

To accelerate their play in HD voice, operators can look for an outsourced alternative. Carriers with experience in transcoding and delivering voice services globally can help them to take their local HD voice offering and deliver it around the world.  

User expectations and the motivation for return on investment in HD voice will drive operators to partner with an experienced carrier, who can provide fast and efficient entry into the global HD Voice market.

About the Author

Senior VP, Product & Business Strategy at Tata Communications

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