Mobile phone technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade—we’ve gone from calling, texting and playing Snake on phones the size of bricks to razor-thin smartphones that do not only the basic functions of a mobile phone, but a lot more. We can even have our smartphones double as other devices such as MP3 players, video players, and gaming consoles, and the other possibilities are endless. Despite all the advances in mobile phone technology, call quality has been given—pardon the pun—the silent treatment.
One of the solutions to combat poor call quality, HD Voice, is available on some mobile phone carriers around the world. Fraunhofer, a German research organization that is responsible for research into technology such as Blu-ray, YouTube, 3DTV, and LTE networks, is also responsible for two of the most popular audio file formats out there, MP3 and AAC. Fraunhofer has objected to the HD Voice solution. “The idea of HD Voice is a scam—not because it isn’t an improvement, but because it isn’t nearly enough of one,” the organization said. Although HD Voice is designed specifically for for speech, which would seem perfect for a phone call, your voice likely isn’t the only thing that can be heard during a call—background noise will also join in on your phone call because of the limitations of the speech codecs being used. On the financial side, these codecs also cost a licensing fee to use, costs that would not only affect the provider, but ultimately be passed on to the consumer.
As you see in the chart above, there’s regular call quality, HD Voice, and Full HD Voice, which Fraunhofer wants to look into. Standard phone calls, the ones we’re used to, take place on an audio bandwidth of up to 3.4KHz. HD Voice, using the Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) waveband speech codec, bumps calls up to 7KHz. H.P. Baumeister, one of the researchers at Fraunhofer, describes HD Voice as a “timid step” at best, and wants to do better—almost three times better, according to the chart.
Using the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology present in Skype and other similar programs, Full HD Voice takes advantage of the codecs designed for all sorts of audio to improve call quality to around 14KHz to 20KHz. it produces calls with the full audible spectrum. There are currently five AAC formats being used for VoIP, but only two are widely used—AAC-LD is used in video conferencing, while AAC-ELD is used for Apple’s FaceTime. The full AAC offering is compatible with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and up, while AAC-ELD is present in both. Since the codecs are already present in iOS and Android, the two most dominant mobile phone operating systems, the problem of royalties and additional licensing will also be taken care of if these codecs are used.
You can find more information on Full HD Voice here.