How to Solve the Biggest Challenge to Building a Public HD Voice Network

By: Alon Cohen, EVP & CTO, phone.com Inc

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, Ari and I participated in the HD Voice Summit. As you might recall, Phone.com was the first enterprise VoIP provider to announce HD Voice support, and others have since joined the HD Voice bandwagon.

Both Ari and I feel strongly that anyone should be able to call their customers, friends, and partners in HD regardless of the HD phone service provider. To do that, however, we need to encourage HD adoption by making it simpler for HD voice providers to find and interconnect with one another. Peering fabric providers are essential here, but they’ll need help from the patent holders if they’re going to interconnect the various HD Voice islands. Let me explain.

Direct Peering
The best ways to drive HD Voice popularity is to interconnect the islands of HD Voice. This way users on different HD Voice services can call one another without having to cross the PSTN (and lose voice quality). By increasing the value of everyone’s HD Voice service, we encourage user adoption for everyone.

Companies, such as XConnect, are already building the necessary interconnect services allowing groups of partners to form federations of HD services. Particularly advantageous to this whole process is the ease of which service providers can connect with one another. Federations allow service providers, such as us, to use a single agreement for all of our peers. You’d be surprised as to how helpful that can be. Normally, we would end up negotiating separate contracts with each peer — incurring the requisite legal costs and overhead. A single agreement relieves us of that burden and makes it much simpler to interconnect with one another.

Growing these federations is so important, which is why we are looking for a company (potentially one of the peering companies) to host a list of HD providers willing to work with one another. Such a list will help providers find suitable peers and further accelerate the proliferation of cross-provider HD services. Similarly, Phone.com is open to working with partners to issue press releases about the progress and deals that happen as they happen. Publicizing such deals helps the greater community in popularizing the notion that end-to-end HD services remain possible today.

Increasing adoption of HD audio can be facilitated in two other ways as well. On a user level, every service provider that supports HD Voice is encouraged to support HD Voice Conferencing functionality. This will pressure peers on conference calls to upgrade to HD Voice when they hear how much it’s being used by other conference members.

HD Voice providers also should reach out to equipment and service providers that already support HD Voice, increasing the technology’s value for all of our customers. We are looking to engage with video conferencing companies, for example. We’re looking to enable HD Voice connectivity from our services to their video conferencing bridges, allowing video conference participants using phones to still hear the conference in HD.

The Importance of Patents
But there’s still something preventing a seamless HD network. Today, there are three leading HD CODECs on the market — G.722, Silk, and the HD Codec to be used by cellular companies, the AMR-WB (G.722.2). To interconnect the various islands, the different HD islands must be able to transcode between the Codecs or leave that process to the peering fabric providers.

The cost to the peering fabric providers may limit the number of peering exchanges who can do that and hence impede the HD Voice proliferation.

For the good of the industry and the proliferation of the technology, patent holders should give free access to their patent for peering exchanges to use those Codecs for the sole purpose of transcoding between HD services. Patent holder might give up a little revenue from exchanges, but will easily gain that revenue back from device sales encouraged by the expanded network.

Photos from the CES HD VOICE SUMMIT:

HDVoice summit

HD VOice Summit_CES