In creating this list, I wanted to specifically highlight those companies who did significant HD voice projects and/or promotion in 2009. As with all subjective lists, others may dispute who is on the list and the sequence/ranking of companies. Everyone wants to be #1 if they can get it.
— Doug Mohney, Editor-in-Chief
1) France Telecom/Orange
This service provider has to be on the top of anyone’s list for HD voice. As reported in September 2009, France Telecom (FT) had around 500,000 (half a million) HD voice broadband subscribers and every handset shipped to a broadband customer is an HD voice phone, so this number will only increase over time. The company also swung its weight behind the DECT CAT-iq wireless standard for delivering end-to-end G.722.
With mobile HD voice service in Moldova and the announcement of service coming to the UK in 2010. France Telecom has shown leadership as the first carrier to widely embrace HD voice as a competitive advantage and the logical next step in the evolution of telephony.
2) Cablevision/Optimum Lightwave
This regional cable company/MSO has been unafraid to be on the leading/bleeding edge of high-end services for its customers. It’s move to offer a hosted HD voice service to businesses foreshadows what other cable companies and Verizon will ultimately offer.
8×8 has been quietly rolling out HD voice via a firmware upgrade for its Aastra phones. Once everything is turned on, the company will have around 50,000 G.722 end-points, the largest single group in North America. Add in its recent deal to resell into the federal government on a Level 3 contract and those numbers are certain to increase over the next 12 months.
4) Alteva and Simple Signal
One small step for two businesses, one potentially giant leap for HD voice peering/interconnectivity. The two companies announced the IP Peering Alliance in October and the ability to seamlessly exchange HD voice and videocalls between themselves.
But does it scale? How fast will it scale? Only 2010 will tell. In October 2009, IP Peering Alliance committees reportedly formed to develop technical and business models for expansion. Be nice if they put out another press release around IT EXPO to update progress. – maybe announce a few more participating service providers.
5) Global Crossing
The company runs around 5600 HD voice end-points internally, is currently operating a dedicated HD voice conferencing bridge for at least one top Fortune 500 customer, and plans to offer an automated HD voice conferencing bridge for its customers. GC also has some very smart people working on their VoIP/HD infrastructure.
Polycom was plugging HD voice before HD voice was cool. This year, Polycom migrated all of its product line to support HD voice (OK, Avaya was first, we get that, but HD isn’t something that Avaya has made a big priority in the past). In addition, Jeff Rodman, the “Ace of Phones,” continues to offer a consistent presence and message – a point which others may wish to consider.
Love it or hate it, SILK and the phrase “Super Wideband Audio codec” is here to stay. Vendors are looking at adding SILK to existing hardware, but “free” (no royalties) doesn’t mean free (integration, ongoing support). Transcoding vendors, however, love having another codec to support, especially since G.722 is the de facto standard in the enterprise and (non-Skype) broadband worlds with AMR-WB rolling along in cellular deployments.
With little fanfare, Voxbone has steadily built up a portfolio of support for HD voice, including it in its iNum 883 PSTN/VoIP numbering service by providing G.722 support, transcoding between G.722 and SILK, and has a deal with phone.com to give the service provider iNum numbers. Given the steady stream of announcements, expect more HD voice love from this firm next year.
AudioCodes waived the flag a lot in the first half of 2009, touting an all-HD product line ranging from transcoding to softphones and from IP desktop handsets down to the silicon inside of them. In addition, the company hasn’t been shy in gathering and publishing relevant HD voice statistics at industry events.
Without the Aastra Hi-Q firmware upgrade in September, 8×8 isn’t in the HD voice game. Other vendors either offer (Cisco) or plan to offer (ADTRAN) HD voice firmware upgrades to handsets that can support wideband, but Aastra’s looks to have the broadest impact moving into 2010.