Sprint’s rollout of HD Voice has been very deliberate so far, but in the next few months it will ramp up its efforts, upgrading its entire network with new high-quality voice technology. At the Oracle Industry Connect conference on Tuesday, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the Sprint’s whole footprint would be HD Voice capable around July 1, LightReading reported.
HD Voice produces much higher-fidelity voice calls and it’s already made its way into many VoIP applications. While the mobile industry is single-mindedly focused on data these days, the handheld computers we carry around are still phones. Voice quality is still an important, if secondary, consideration for most consumers, but as Gigaom Research’s Colin Gibbs has pointed out, the quality of voice has actually suffered in recent years as carriers focus on their data networks.
Getting to HD Voice isn’t an easy path, though. Communications networks are by nature two-way, and unless all of the elements in that chain support HD Voice technology, you’re still making the same plain old phone calls. In order to make an HD call both you and the person your calling need to have a HD-Voice phone — of which Sprint has about two dozen — and both of you need to be connected to cell sites that support the technology.
Hitting that combo of factors will definitely be a lot easier once Sprint’s entire network gets the upgrade. Sprint customers will notice call quality improvements as they call one another, and that’s no small thing considering how many mobile subscribers are on family plans. But calls to most other carriers and to landlines will still have regular voice quality. Also, as FierceWireless explained, there are multiple differing HD codecs being adopted by different apps and telecom players, meaning the quality between different HD calls could vary wildly.
So far the rollout among U.S. carriers has been slow. T-Mobile has turned up HD support on its HSPA networks nationwide, but AT&T and Verizon have been slower to adopt the technology, which could by why Sprint is getting more aggressive on HD after falling behind on its initial rollout schedule.
Sprint is juggling a lot right now. It’s trying to fend off the other carriers as it rebuilds its 2G and 3G networks, rolls out its LTE systems and deals with the aftermath of shutting down Nextel. Meanwhile, it’s laying off a good portion of its staff and seeing a big shake-up of its executive ranks as its new corporate owner SoftBank becomes increasingly critical of its performance. On top of all that, Sprint’s new chairman, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is aggressively lobbying regulators to allow Sprint to buy T-Mobile.
Among all those distractions, Sprint needs a win, and it looks like Sprint is betting HD Voice is it. I would expect Sprint to milk its nationwide launch of the technology for all it’s worth this summer.