Editorial: HD voice at CES 2013: Boom or boredom?

I started making plans to attend CES 2013 (The 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show, to be more precise) earlier this week.  The Consumer Electronics Association hasn’t even finalized the day long pre-show tracks, but I wanted to get a jump on the process.  I’m wondering if HD voice will be a boom or end up being under the radar.

Arguments for a HD voice boom:

1) Sprint is rolling in HD voice to the United States. 

Yes, it’s going to be CDMA initially and Sprint has had the wireless version of “Island of Misfit Toys” between WiMAX and some of the other technologies it is now phasing out. 

However, Sprint is also the only U.S. vendor currently actively touting HD voice delivery. I expect Sprint to prime the pump more in Vegas with Qualcomm and some of its handset suppliers.

2) LTE and VoLTE, ba-be

AT&T, Clearwire, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all rollout out LTE networks, with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon bringing VoLTE in 2013.  This is a big opportunity for handset manufacturers and the supporting device people to ride the wave for new products that are “HD voice compatible.”

3) Europe’s continued broadband HD voice progress

Unheralded in the States, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom have established G.722 HD voice service for their consumer bases and continue to push CAT-iq 2.0.  There are a lot of CAT-iq 2.0 devices floating around.  It is, after all an INTERNATIONAL CES, but most of the news/thrust is typically everyone trying to sell into the U.S. market…


Possible HD voice boredom

1) Lack of U.S. media enthusiasm/education

HD voice is starting to become a topic of conversation in the U.s. tech press, but my phone isn’t ringing off the hook for “expert commentary.”  Reporters seem to be grabbing the latest press release, getting a few quotes, and then shoving a web store – which sometimes is nothing more than an “echo” of another posted story.

Don’t even get me started about the differences between Skype, G.722, and mobile HD voice….

2) With one exception, U.S. wireless carriers aren’t offering any love

MetroPCS, the first U.S. carrier to roll out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has back-burnered an HD voice rollout, instead choosing to talk up Rich Communications Services (RCS).  Verizon has gone quiet over VoLTE since talking about it last year at Mobile World Congress.

3) Cable companies (still) haven’t committed to offering consumer HD voice service

For a variety of reasons, cable’s enthusiasm to deploying HD voice has dimmed.  The industry is focused on delivering (more profitable) business services and there’s an HD voice component to Comcast’s hosted offering.  Cable knows how to deliver HD voice to its consumer base, but all the bits and pieces of legacy infrastructure may have to be replaced before operators feel comfortable in putting HD voice into the home.

Cross your fingers….

— Doug

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