France Telecom / Orange to blanket Europe with mobile HD voice

France Telecom has dramatically upped the ante in the mobile HD voice arena.  Orange will now launch mobile HD voice service in France, Luxembourg and Spain in 2010, adding to a list that already includes Moldova, the UK, and Belgium.   In addition,  Orange confirmed that the UK customer trial for mobile HD voice will start “from Spring” and run for three months.

Olaf Swantee, senior executive vice president for the Orange’s global mobile business, said: “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. By being the first to innovate and deliver a new mobile voice experience, we provide a compelling and differentiated proposition which sets Orange apart. High-definition voice is the future standard for mobile communication.”

The announcement – describing new deployment plans as an acceleration — was made in a press release on February 14, just before Mobile World Congress (MWC) kicks off in Barcelona on February 15.  Other European carriers are expected to announce their mobile HD voice plans during MWC, and a mobile HD voice (i.e. AMR-WB)  interoperability/peering coalition announcement is also said to be on deck.

Back in September 2009, Orange announced the first operational commercial mobile HD voice service in Moldova — a fact that was alternative cheered by advocates and mocked by skeptics. At the end of 2009, Orange announced it was planning a UK rollout of mobile HD voice.   Belgium was also on tap for getting HD voice service in 2010.

A France Telecom slide presented at the HD Voice Summit at 2010 CES in January had suggested France would receive mobile HD voice in 2010, but a spokesperson later said that “There is no certainty it will happen in 2010.” Apparently, the internal party line at FT has been clarified and the company’s home nation will get mobile HD voice this year.

Pricing for the HD voice service, as well as supported handsets “will be announced” at the time of launch in territory.  It is likely that both Nokia and Sony Ericsson will be on the handset list since one Nokia model is already in use in Moldova and Sony Ericsson has announced two “mobile HD voice ready” phones in its GreenHeart line.

Interestingly, HD voice delivered on broadband seems to be falling behind mobile HD voice within the France Telecom universe.  Orange’s release notes that the company was the first operator to deliver HD voice in France and “shortly to be rolled out” to Poland and Spain.

Other Mobile World Congress news of note:

HD voice companies to look for at Mobile World Congress

WYDE Voice beefs up international sales

GIPS releases iPhone video chat/HD voice package

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