HD television and HD radio are realities. It is ironic that the telephone, patented in 1876 – years before either radio or TV – is the last of the three to get the quantum leap in quality that “High Definition” provides.
However it is here at last, and according to a new study from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com), about 487 million mobile subscribers will use HD-enabled handsets to carry on clear, comprehensible conversations over upgraded networks in 2015.
That may seem surprising, because this market is virtually nonexistent today. Growth is expected to ramp up quickly in 2013, and then skyrocket starting in 2014. Why will growth be so sudden, and where will it start?
“The upgrade to HD voice is not especially expensive,” says principal analyst Fritz Jordan. “Newer 3G networks – those deployed since about 2005-2006 – can already use the new format and require only a software update and a changeover to HD handsets. That’s why HD voice, unlike most technologies, will first find traction in developing markets: Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. In North America and Western Europe, 3G infrastructure installed earlier in the decade must be changed to a new format.”
One HD voice pioneer is Orange. Having done some deployments in Eastern Europe already, Orange is expanding coverage into France and other Western European countries. Orange clearly hopes that the improved call quality will entice more subscribers to talk longer, and Jordan agrees: “Vodafone will be watching carefully, will notice that Orange is picking up subscribers, and will likely follow suit.”
More than 900 million VoIP users already enjoy the clear audio quality of wideband voice on Skype and other Internet applications; they will come to expect the same from their mobile services too. When it arrives, says Jordan, “Price per minute won’t go up for HD voice subscribers, but it may not erode as quickly as for subscribers to conventional services.”