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How to give your telco a competitive advantage.

The scenes are all too familiar. You are on the phone with an old friend and she thinks your voice sounds different. "Do you have a cold?" she asks. "No," you grumble, "we must have a bad connection." Or, while standing in line for a white chocolate mocha a colleague asks for your e-mail address over the phone and you grimace, knowing that you will have to repeat yourself at least three times in front of all of the other patrons just to spell something as simple as your name. The high-pitched consonants in your name are misunderstood, leaving you to sternly state "BMCMA. No, I said M like Mike"--all while receiving glares from the other coffee drinkers.

The reason high-frequency consonants and low-sounding vowels get missed is because of the limited 4 kHz voice path plain old telephone service (POTS) provides. In fact, many of the differentiators in human linguistics, human voice and the energy emitted from our vocal cords are found in the 4 kHz to 18 kHz range--the exact frequency range telephones lose.

What Gets Lost?

Beyond simple vowels and consonants, plain old telephony loses the meaning our voice can emit. The many emotions humans convey through the simple variances of our voice is destroyed. The inability to understand the other person's intentions or emotions causes us to lose human intimacy during the phone call, and misunderstandings quickly occur. Additionally, productivity and man hours are lost. Newer telephony providers offering cellular and VoIP services could have offered higher quality calls years ago, but because the POTS standard for encoding voice has been the standard for call quality since 1959, we've let poor call quality remain the standard.

There Is Something Better

The bandwidth limitations and technology obstacles our companies faced with analog lines in the 1950s are no longer a problem. Increased bandwidth to the premise and many new voice standards allow providers to offer a service known as High-Definition (HD) Voice. HD Voice, sometimes referred to as wideband audio, is a set of telephony standards that allow telephones to transmit up to 48 kHz of audible frequency. The call quality is absolutely incredible; the first time I heard a conference call with HD Voice, it reminded me of the first time I watched HD programming on TV. I did not really know the quality was missing until I saw it, and I knew I could never go back.

The standards are available for use today. Cellular standards like 3GPP and 4G have the needed bandwidth and provisions for offering HD-quality telephony. Many new wired standards also have provisions for HD Voice. Using packet cable or SIP as a medium, telcos can begin to offer HD Voice with audio codecs called G.722, G.722.1 or CELT. Many LEC softswitches already support these HD audio codecs, so you may already have the capability to begin offering HD Voice with call quality as high as 48 kHz.

Once telcos begin to offer HD telephony services, subscribers must have handsets that are enabled to hear the highquality voice. Fortunately, there are many new cordless phones that incorporate a CAT-iq standard that has the necessary provisions for HD Voice. By leveraging a handset that utilizes the CAT-iq standard, companies can begin offering an end-toend HD Voice-quality telephone call. Your PBX customers have not been left out either. Many IP PBXs support HD Voice.

Change the Way Your Members Think

Rural telephone companies with a customer-service focus can set themselves apart from their competitors by offering new, cutting-edge products to their customers. HD Voice may just be the tool your product portfolio needs. I already can visualize a billboard that informs passers-by and future customers that their homegrown cooperative now has the best and highest-quality telephone service available nationwide: HD Voice.

Let's make it happen.

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Brian McManus is product development engineer at Project Mutual Telephone Cooperative Association. He can be reached at bmcmanus@pmt.coop.

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Title Annotation:Perspective
Author:McManus, Brian
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:660
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