updated 12:20 pm EST, Thu December 31, 2009
Orange HD calls to need new phones
Orange UK today said it would be one of the first carriers to upgrade its call quality with plans to launch "high definition" calls. The HD Voice service will use a new speech transmission format known as Wideband Adaptive Multi-Rate (WB-AMR) that allocates multiple times more bandwidth to a call than normal 3G voice without increasing the amount of data used. Orange expects calls to sound as good as if the other caller was "actually in the same room" if both are using the same technology.
The service will likely need new phones that support WB-AMR. It's not yet clear if any existing phones are upgradable to the new standard or what the first native phones will be.
Orange will start trials of HD Voice early in the new year and hopes to make it widely available later in 2010.
Few other carriers have yet to commit to WB-AMR, and in some cases may pass on it entirely. As the brand new Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard for 4G is almost entirely based on IP networing, many are expected to simply switch to Internet-based calling that eliminates the need for voice-exclusive wireless frequencies.