The mobile telephone industry is joining the HD wave as Orange announces today that it will make high definition calls available in 2010.
The HD voice service, which will require customers to buy new handsets, promises to make callers feel as if they are in the same room. France Télécom-owned Orange is the first mobile phone company to announce a British HD voice service and it hopes the clearer calls will usher in a new standard throughout the industry.
“HD Voice really does inject a level of innovation into mobile phone calls, making it sound as if callers are actually in the same room. Once people have tried it, they won’t want to go back,” said Tom Alexander, Orange UK chief executive .
Orange plans HD voice trials in the new year and a nationwide introduction later in 2010. It is working with handset manufacturers to develop devices that can support the new service.
HD voice provides better audio quality thanks to a wider speech bandwidth. Explaining the service, Orange says: “High definition voice doubles the spectrum devoted to the spoken voice, making it possible to transmit all the nuances of the human voice.” It also fades background noise to provide clearer conversations and even if only one of the two phones in a conversation is HD-enabled, the sound quality will still be significantly better than it is now, the company claims.
The Orange announcement comes just days after rival network O2 apologised to customers who could not make phone calls because its London network was overwhelmed by smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone.
Analyst Ben Wood, at telecoms consultants CCS Insight, said Orange would be looking to use its HD voice service to tap into reports of customer frustration with O2. “This underlines our belief that quality and performance will be key battlegrounds among the UK network operators in 2010,” he said.
“The iPhone has emerged as the catalyst to a renewed focus on network quality, performance and coverage; HD voice is another tool in that battle. Orange is bound to use this to compete with O2” Orange launched the world’s first high definition voice service for mobile phones in Moldova in September. It chose the country because its network is state of the art, having only started in 2008.
The British launch follows two years of “considerable investment” in its mobile network, says Orange. It has sought to differentiate itself in Britain’s fiercely competitive mobile phone market by flagging up its wide high speed 3G coverage. When Orange started selling the iPhone last month, ending O2’s two-year long exclusive grip on the handset, rather than try to secure new customers on price it attempted to lure customers on to its network on the promise that it has better coverage than any of its rivals.
Prices for its HD calls have yet to be set and it is not yet known whether they will cost more than standard calls or if Orange will use the higher quality promise to differentiate itself from rivals. In Moldova the cost of calls did not change when the HD service launched