HD mobile phones to improve voice calls?

We're all used to the idea of HD TV now and have bought our HD-ready television sets in the anticipation of improved quality images on our screens. But soon we can expect to have HD telephones with improved voice call quality, being brought to us by network provider Orange.

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Orange will soon be introducing a new technology called Adaptive Multi Rate Wideband (AMR-WB), which they claim will reduce any 'hisses and crackles' heard on a telephone call.

The technology, known as a speech codec, is already being used by network providers in Moldova and Germany.

William Webb, head of research and development at the UK regulator Ofcom, said: "It is relatively easy for an operator to introduce - it's just a software upgrade... in a base station."

The technology works by compressing a voice signal in order to maximise the amount of bandwidth on a network.

Mr Webb said: "There is a commercial incentive to squash the data as much as possible.

"But you can go too far. The trick is to find the balance point, the sweet spot."

Speech codecs change the shape of voice waveforms. Instead of transmitting the whole waveform, algorithms are used to find similar consecutive sections. If two sections are found to be similar, the rest is stripped out and the signal is compressed.

The AMR-WB can include a wider range of speech frequencies and therefore results in a higher quality phonecall.

Andrew Warner, head of voice and messaging protocols at Orange, said: "We are using exactly the same bandwidth on the network.

"We are squeezing more speech information into the same channel."

Using the same bandwidth is good news for Orange customers who need plenty of bandwidth for surfing the web.

The HD voice technology has already been trialled in parts of South West England and will soon be rolled out to the rest of the country.

But it will not be used on T-mobile networks, despite the two companies recently merging.

Do you think HD voice is necessary and will it improve your mobile phone experience? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.