THE UK'S Orange will become the first mobile operator in Blighty to offer high definition voice services on its network.
The HD service works by encoding and transmitting more of the actual speech data being recorded, sending it over the same amount of capacity so that no network upgrades are necessary. It will initially be available on four devices from Orange - the Nokia X6, E5 and N5230, and the Samsung OmniPro - but most handsets should be updated over time to run the service.
Keen to be at the cutting edge of new developments, The INQUIRER was given the chance to try out the service on the busy streets of London yesterday afternoon.
First, to gain some context, we placed a normal call between a Nokia X6 and an HTC Desire smartphone. The result was a perfectly adequate call, albeit one that was full of muffled sentences, background noise and awkward requests to repeat sentences as certain words were lost in transmission.
Next, we tried a call between two Nokia X6 devices, both HD enabled. The call quality was almost perfect. Background noise was reduced to next-to-nothing while the voice itself was clear and concise, as if being in a room with someone.
One tester then held the phone out into the street to try and pick up as much street traffic as possible and yet barely anything came through at the other end.
"We have altered the software to only pick up the frequency in which speech is transmitted, so we can remove low noises, such as traffic from the mix," said the head of mobile voice and messaging products for Orange, Andrew Warner.
Orange was unable to provide any details about other manufacturers with which it is in discussions to carry the new service. HD Voice will be available from today at no extra cost for Orange customers using one of the four supported handsets, and Warner expects the technology to become a standard offering on all networks in around two years.
With Orange expecting the service to become an industry standard offering on new devices in the coming years, it looks as if the traditional telephone call could be in for its biggest update in the 20 years since it first went mobile. Marconi would be proud. µ
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