MWC: Orange To Trial HD Voice Service In UK

British mobile operator Orange is planning to conduct three-month trials of its mobile HD voice service in the UK, as well as launching eight new HD handsets

Orange has announced plans to roll out its high-definition mobile voice service across Europe this year, with a set of three-month trials beginning in the UK in the spring. The operator made its announcement on the first day on Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

HD voice technology employs the WB-AMR (Wideband Adaptive Multi-Rate) speech codec, which uses a frequency range of 50-7000Hz. This produces much better speech quality than standard “narrowband” mobile voice transmission, which uses a frequency range of 300-3400Hz. Orange claims the technology will create a feeling of proximity between phone users, “almost as if callers are actually in the same room”.

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“As far as Orange is concerned, voice is not just a commodity. With mobile HD voice, we are delivering true customer innovation – one that will genuinely enrich and transform our customers’ lives,” said Olaf Swantee, senior executive vice president for global mobile business at Orange. “HD voice is the future standard for mobile communication and, by being the first to innovate and deliver a new mobile voice experience, we provide a compelling and differentiated proposition which sets Orange apart.”

Orange first launched its HD voice technology for fixed-line services in France two years ago, before introducing it in Poland. The operator announced it was extending the service to mobile handsets at an event in Moldova last September, and the company now plans serve mobile users in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain, as well as trialling the service in the UK.

Over the Christmas period, Orange took the opportunity to tout its upcoming “crystal clear” HD voice service, after rival operator O2’s suffered embarrassing network failures in London – which it blamed on the increasing use of smartphones. Orange boasted about its network infrastructure, saying it currently provides high speed 3G coverage to more than 93 percent of the UK’s population – more than any other UK operator.

Orange also announced at MWC that it is backing up the HD voice initiative with the addition of up to eight new HD voice-enabled mobile handsets during the first half of this year. However, the company has not yet revealed any manufacturing or pricing details for these new handsets.

In an interview with Total Telecom, Orange’s senior vice president of mobile multimedia and devices, Yves Maitre, revealed that the company’s long-term aim is to transfer all its devices in HD by the end of the 2011.

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