Orange wants to help make international HD voice calls more common

When it comes to high-definition voice technology, France Telecom’s Orange has been something of a pioneer, certainly on the cellular side. It trialed the technology in Moldova way back in 2009 and out of the 50-odd networks that support HD voice today, 15 of them are Orange networks.

Last October, Orange launched its first international HD voice services, allowing users of Orange Moldova and Orange Romania to talk to each other more clearly than before. Now the carrier group is extending the same functionality to third-party operators through a new wholesale offering.

This is nice, because it doesn’t make much sense having an HD-voice-capable handset and being on an HD-voice-capable network if the call doesn’t end up being in HD. And, if it isn’t being routed correctly, it won’t be.

So the deal here is this: Orange is offering to handle the all-IP routing of HD-voice traffic across multiple operators’ networks, for both fixed-line and mobile calls, through a single IP interconnection point. Bear in mind that we’re talking about the more commonly-used adaptive multirate wideband (AMR-WB) flavor of HD voice here, as deployed recently by T-Mobile U.S.A., rather than Sprint’s not-so-high-def ‘enhanced variable rate codec narrowband-wideband’ (EVRC-NW).

“Orange is the first operator to offer HD voice communications across national borders and this will dramatically improve the quality of international calls,” Orange EVP of international carriers, Alexandre Pébereau, said in a statement. “HD voice has become a must-have service for operators and service providers that will enable them to increase their revenues and offer their customers significantly improved quality of service.”

As the name ‘wideband’ suggests, HD voice works by allowing the transmission of more frequencies, making for clearer sound. While normal cellular voice uses a frequency range of 300-3400Hz, adaptive multirate wideband stretches that out at both the low and high ends to the 50-7000Hz range.

Orange is not technically the first operator to tout this sort of thing. BT, for example, has been talking up its own IP exchanges’ HD voice capabilities since early last year. However, an Orange spokesman insisted that that operator is the first to have a live system available for carriers now.

“We have done tests between Orange Armenia and another operator in Asia,” the spokesman told me. “A lot of other operators have exchanges that are technically compatible with HD voice, but that doesn’t mean they have a system up that is tested and operational.”