“The service works, and it delivers a very clear user benefit. The calls are undoubtedly clearer and sound much more like a natural human voice. And unlike some of the wackier smartphone apps, this addresses a real need that mobile users care about; who hasn’t had to abandon a mobile call because one end couldn’t understand what the other was saying?
“What’s more, the new service is a great example of what the telecoms industry is good at. It’s standards-based, so it can eventually be rolled out by every network and handset seller, and to everyone. When it’s there, it just works – no-one has to learn any new kinds of behavior or install any new software. And it’s about the quality of the connection, which is the bit of the user experience that the network operators still really do control – unlike many new services these days, which are really delivered by either software companies, internet companies like Google or hardware sellers like Apple.
“The caveat, though, is that this attractive and useful new service is probably not going to make the mobile operators any money – at least, not directly. It’s hard to see how it would be possible to charge for a service that will only work some of the time, and for reasons that the users can’t control or predict. To start with, a HD voice user will only enjoy a higher-quality call if both parties have an HD-enabled phone – so calls to fixed line users, or to users with older phones, will still be in low-fi. And until some tricky issues with inter-connection and inter-operability are sorted out, both callers will have to be on the same network. So the chances of actually experiencing the improved quality are not very high – it’ll just be a nice thing that happens sometimes, rather as poor-quality calls are nasty things that happen sometimes.”