Fraunhofer to demo mobile "stereo CD" quality 4G calls at Mobile World Congress

Fraunhofer IIS, the folks that gave us MP3, is bragging about it plans to demonstrate “mobile phone calls in stereo CD quality” over a 4G cellular network at Mobile World Congress next week.  Mobile World Congress will have HD voice falling out of the skies, if the rumors and releases are any indication.

Today’s press release from Fraunhofer characterizes the feat as “For the first time, telephone conversations sound as clear and natural as if talking to someone in the same room” — a statement that is almost cliche’ given that numerous other vendors and service have already used the same exact words with codecs such as  G.722, SILK, and AMR-WB, among others.

All this revolutionary “new” goodness is packed around the Fraunhofer Audio Communication Engine for LTE-A (Long Term Evolution) 4th Generation cellular networks, a package of audio technologies that is being positioned to upstage AMR-WB with the ability to provide rich media content such as music and sounds being reproduced at their original quality as well.

Fraunhofer is positioning the new codec as the way for 4G network operators to provide “a dramatically improved, highly differentiated communications experience compared to current network technologies” with the the usual benchmarks assigned to other HD Voice codecs:  Conference calls will be easy to follow and much less exhausting, phone calls in noisy environments will be easier to understand.  However, the exception to others is “being on hold will sound as if listening to a concert on an mp3 player.”

Demos of the technology will be conducted between an “office setting” connected to a “car mockup” using various technologies provided by Fraunhofer.

Underlying pieces of the Fraunhofer Audio Communication Engine (ACE) include a specifically designed MPEG audio communications codec “AAC Enhanced Low Delay” to ensure CD quality audio at very low coding delays and bit rates; robust, multi-channel echo control software to reliably removes echoes, providing hands-free convenience and complete freedom to move around in a room; and a specially matched IP streaming stack and error concealment tools for delivering high-quality audio even under adverse network conditions.

What isn’t talked about in the press release are the potential licensing terms for one or all pieces of the ACE to incorporate in 4G handsets.  Nor do we get any side-by-side comparisons between the current dominant mobile HD voice codec, AMR-WB, and ACE; or between ACE and the old, boring, but everywhere G.722.

On the other hand, the transcoding guys must be very happy with this announcement, since it adds Yet Another Codec that may potentially end up in their boxes.

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