Broadcom Goes Open Source to Push HD Voice


[qi:081] Broadcom (s brcm) is hoping to lower the price of high-definition VoIP services by taking its BroadVoice codecs open source. But even if this move lowers the price for HD voice, will consumers pay even a marginal premium for a better quality call?

The Irvine, Calif.-based company’s BroadVoice family of voice codecs comprises two variants: BroadVoice32 for wideband speech sampled at 16 kHz, and BroadVoice16 for narrowband telephone-bandwidth speech sampled at 8 kHz. Both will be made available as C source code in an effort to lower the price for broadband operators looking to upgrade the audio quality of subscribers’ calls.

Higher-quality calls are a good thing, of course, and may be a selling point for service providers looking to stand out from the crowd. (Whether they can actually save wireline is far from certain, though.) But quality has often been a less-important feature for consumers, as cell phones (with their mobility) and VoIP (with their lower cost) have demonstrated. Broadcom’s move to open source may result in cheaper HD voice services, but until those prices are nearly indistinguishable from traditional services HD is likely to remain a small market.


Rollie Cole

In addition to Mr. Beninger’s points, note that we aging baby-boomers need better and better sight and sound as we age. So far, AARP and others appear to have made the assumption that older means stupider, and offer “simple, low-function” devices with big type and loud sound. But some of us consider ourselves as smart as, if not smarter, than when we could see and hear better and want high-function devices with better sight and better sound. Also, as I experience and have been told, it is not volume or size per se, but contrast with background that also matters. I have trouble with black type on dark green paper, or discussions in the midst of a crowd, no matter how big the type or how loud the individual discussion.
Delivering devices designed for better sight and sound, including both contrast and size or volume, should be better for everyone, including those that do not “need” them. Consider sidewalk ramps for wheelchairs — they are great boon for all of us with wheeled suitcases.
Also note that change is hard — so “tiny differences” are almost never worth it. We do not want/need slightly better sight or slightly better sound — we want/need dramatically better, to overcome the costs of change.
So that fact that people “will not pay for better sound” is irrelevant when talking about a tiny difference. It tells you nothing about what they will do when offered something dramatically better. My guess is that my age cohort will pay a premium to get voice that is dramatically easier to hear.

A baby-boomer waiting for an iPhone or Droid device that is dramatically easier to see and hear.

Daniel Berninger

The column suffers from a lack of imagination:

“But even if this move lowers the price for HD voice, will consumers pay even a marginal premium for a better quality call?”

This is entirely the wrong question. Imagine someone asking a similar question in 1989 with respect to processing power. Well no, people don’t pay more for additional processing power, but processing power represented the primary force driving computer industry growth over the next 20+ years.

Voice quality like processing power in the case of computers is the primary value proposition of the telecom industry. The failure to improve voice quality represents the root cause for the lack of growth in the voice industry. A telecom industry without voice quality improvements is like Intel trying pushing 286 based chips (which were state of the art in 1989) without improvement year in and year out.

Broadcom and a growing list of companies properly see continuous improvement and HD as the spark that can do for the voice business what Moores Law did for the computing business.


i do not see voice quality as something consumers would pay extra for. but it could certainly give a competitive advantage to one operator over another with the same price point.

Comments are closed.