HD voice plans in SA

South Africans will have to wait before they can enjoy mobile HD Voice services. Vodacom said that they are still looking into the commercial viability of an HD voice service, and the other operators are mum on the issue.

Mobile HD Voice uses Adaptive Multi Rate Wideband technology (W-AMR, standardized by 3GPP), enabling high-quality voice calls in supporting mobile networks and an improved user experience.

It provides significantly higher voice quality for calls between mobile phones supporting the feature, and is market reality on numerous GSM, WCDMA-UMTS, and LTE networks today.

The GSA (the Global mobile Suppliers Association) recently announced that commercial HD voice services were launched on 45 GSM, 3G/HSPA and LTE mobile networks in 35 countries and territories.

The countries and territories which launched HD voice services include around 60% of EU member countries, Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Reunion, Russia, South Korea, Uganda, and UK.

HV voice frequency
HD Voice delivers higher quality voice transmissions by extending the frequency of range of traditional or narrowband voice calls (300 Hz to 3400 Hz) out to wideband audio ranges (50 Hz to 7000 Hz).

Local operators comment

Vodacom said that it is still looking at whether it is worth it to launch mobile HD voice services.

“We’re looking at the commercial viability and the overall customer proposition with respect to HD voice. Technically we are able to support the service,” said Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman.

Cell C said that while they do not have immediate plans to roll out HD voice, they are excited about the feature and future improvement that the new technology will bring to their customers with regards to voice quality.

“As an organisation that is committed to delivering high quality services to its customers, Cell C would like to deploy HD-voice in future. However, we believe there are still a few hurdles to overcome before HD-voice will really benefit the customer base at a worthwhile scale,” the company said.

According to Cell C, several networks, especially in Europe, have rolled out this feature on their networks, but only a fairly small part of their customer base is currently experiencing the benefits of this feature.

The reasons for the limited benefit, Cell C explained, are:

  • The penetration level of handsets supporting HD-voice is still relatively low.
  • Fixed line and mobile networks need to have the feature deployed to ensure the pool of networks and handsets is big enough to increase the number of HD voice calls. This is not yet the case.
  • For HD-voice to work, all handsets, telephones and networks along the call path need to support the feature (IP based transport network).

“When the time is right, Cell C will conduct test trials to ensure that when the rollout of the HD-voice feature starts, it is done in the most efficient way,” Cell C said.

MTN did not respond by the time of publication, and 8ta could not be reached for comment about their HD voice plans.

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HD voice plans in SA