The five biggest problems HD Voice faces in 2010

Note: Ooma is a sponsor of HD Voice News

HD voice is by no means a “slam dunk” in 2010.  There are five significant problems the HD voice ecosystem of players need to address before victory can be declared and wideband calling is as at least as ubiquitous as VoIP calling.

However, four out of five problems needed for HD voice to become widespread do not involve any technology at all, but a willingness to be more open and cooperative.  And meanwhile, the fifth (and first as listed below) problem can be solved with the application of existing technology and solutions.

1) Interconnectivity/HD voice peering

End-users want to dial a single phone number and just have HD voice work. Period. End of story.  Having seamless HD voice calling regardless of provider is the number one challenge for 2010.

In this writer’s ideal world, a full-up demonstration of HD Voice peering would take place at InterOp in Las Vegas in April, with calls being made between 8×8, ooma, and numerous business VoIP providers – with Cablevision’s network thrown in for good measure.

However, the road to interconnecting HD voice islands has just started.

XConnect (www.xconnect.com) seems to have a scalable, off-the-shelf, ready to use solution for HD voice/G.722 peering in its Global Alliance services.  The company is conducting a free trial to take place between April to June, but XConnect needs to take the next step and present clear business case justifications to get service providers to stay onboard after the trial.

Voxbone’s (www.voxbone.com) iNum solution is an interesting alternative for those who don’t have dedicated numbers already tied to the PSTN, but it’s not a scalable alternative for established enterprise users.

Another route to interconnectivity could be the IP Peering Alliance, but no information about its progress beyond Alteva and SimpleSignal hooking up in late October has been reported.  A website and a broader list of participants would both be appreciated.

Sprint’s PIN network also presents an opportunity for HD voice interconnect – if the company can hurry up and figure out what it wants to do above and beyond vanilla VoIP traffic exchange.

2) Education and re-education

Plenty of work needs to be done to educate everyone – consumers, businesses, consultants, government, associations – on the advantages of HD voice over existing technology.

Ooma has just broken the ice on the consumer side of HD and it is likely the company will be doing more to continue to educate the masses on the clear benefits of HD voice over existing services based on 1937-era PSTN standards.

From discussions with IP phone handset vendors at IT EXPO and other forums, it is clear the vast majority of VARs and channel partners don’t “get it” when it comes to HD voice offering superior quality and experience over stock G.711/PSTN service.

Channel partners and VARs need to understand that 1) HD voice is something much better than PSTN and vanilla VoIP 2) It does not impose a penalty on the network when compared to G.711 and 3) There’s no price penalty in hardware (i.e. it doesn’t cost extra) – for that matter, it is difficult to find a newly manufactured IP phone in 2010 that doesn’t support wideband.

A small number of channel partner/VARs and others have an active skepticism to HD voice because it sounds “too much like Skype” or “too good” or some other knee-jerk reaction because calls sound so much different, say vendors.

3) Ecosystem communication

Both vendors and service providers need to start talking more and more openly about HD voice and what is being done to further the service.  There are a lot of sidebar email conversations taking place right now that need to become public discussions on blogs, forums, websites, and in the media – both trade and national.

4) Clarity in message

The HD voice community needs to harmonize its descriptions of what the technology is. One set of catch phrases repeated five times is better than five different sets of catch phrases repeated once.

For example, HD voice —

a) has “twice the sound” of a regular PSTN call
b) Is five times better than a regular PSTN call
c) Delivers FM quality sound, as compared to AM sound on a PSTN call
d) All of the above

Soon there will be as many and varied definitions for HD voice as there are for unified communications.  This is not a good thing.

5) Organization

There’s been plenty of talk around setting technical verification standards, developing service marks for interoperability and the like over the past 7 months, but little concrete action adopted by all.

A more formal trade organization akin to the WiFi Forum is needed to provide formal structure and accountability to set goals.  Such an organization is also necessary to provide coordinated planning in effectively addressing the other four issues listed above.

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