There’s a fashionable hype lately all around HD Voice, up to the point of “marrying” it with other technologies that make a lot of sense to us “techies”. But I must ask a “dirty” question: where the hell is the incentive for the consumer market?
HD Voice does improve voice quality. I’ve used it at work. It sounds differently. You don’t want to go back to the crappy systems we have today on our mobiles and in our homes.
But… will you pay more for having HD Voice on your phone? I wouldn’t.
I am currently paying less than $20 a month for my home phone service through the local cable operator here in Israel. I wouldn’t like to be charged extra, even if it will enable me to hear better.
Others might, but here comes the old chicken-and-egg game: you can’t enjoy this technology unless the people you communicate with have it. So who’s going to be the first to buy these brand new phones? And with whom will they talk?
Orange hit the news last week when they launched HD Voice over 3G in Moldova. And they did that with a single mobile handset – not a line of handsets. What exactly is Orange’s incentive here? What do they plan on gaining by launching such a service? I’d say that like any mobile operator, it’s the threat of mobile VoIP, which is a bit far-off, but requires them to innovate. Going “pure” VoIP doesn’t make sense for a mobile operator before LTE (and even then, it would be a risky step to take).
For a mobile operator, adding HD Voice means an overhaul of its network (or at least reconfiguration), a need for new handsets, a need to sacrifice more bandwidth for each call. It’s not something you do every day.
Where it really makes more sense is cable operators. Jeff Pulver depicts it best in his call to the cable industry:
If I were involved with a cable company, I would have categorized his talk as an early wake-up call and understand the worldwide Cable industry was put on notice to be on the lookout for other incumbent operators who have both a broadband offering and wireless offering to follow in the footsteps of France Telecom / Orange and use HD Communications as a platform to retain and grow their customer base.
Cable operators have nothing that differentiates their service today. Adopting HD Voice, which is easiest for them, can give them a necessary advantage against satellite based television service providers:
- Where bandwidth is scarce on the wireless networks of cellular operators, it is abundant in cable.
- Where competition from other technologies is virtually inexistent in wireless, it is fierce in wireline.
The incentive is there for cable companies. Less for mobile providers.
Oh – and I wouldn’t bet on consumers to push for HD Voice – I’d wait for a service provider to offer it as a service his competition lacks. Only then will consumers notice it.