Orange UK trials HD voice; initial feedback positive

Having taken the low-risk option of first testing and deploying HD voice in Moldova, Orange UK has now announced trials across several major UK cities prior to a nationwide rollout.

Those that have used the new HD service claim it to be clearer, eliminating background noise and making the voice more distinct but, critically, making the voice sound much more natural. The company, which has been working on HD voice with several handset vendors for two years, said those involved with the trial would include small businesses and early technology adopters, as well as more mainstream users.

The participants will be asked to rate HD voice quality, with the entire customer experience being monitored. If HD voice is rated as successful, Orange plans to give the go-ahead for a UK-wide deployment before the end of the summer.

While it remains unclear which handsets will be ultimately provided to subscribers, the trials involve modified Nokia E72 phones and other devices. However, while HD voice requires support from the infrastructure, Orange stated that the system will adopt a new WB-AMR (wideband adaptive multi-rate) speech codec to deliver significantly enhanced sound quality while utilising the same network resources. Orange said that HD Voice offered significant improvement in the sound quality of traditional mobile voice calls due to a wider speech bandwidth of 50-7000 Hz compared to the current narrowband speech codec of 300-3400 Hz.

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