If you think everyone is happy about the number of codecs available for mobile and broadband services, think again. A 3GPP working group is working away to develop a replacement for AMR-WB that would be able to deliver HD voice in about 5.8 Kbps of bandwidth and "superwideband" (SWB) quality sound starting at 13.2 kbps.
Speaking at a US Telecom event on November 15, Qualcomm Labs director of Product Marketing, Ryan Heidari (News - Alert) discussed 3GPP work toward a standardized EVS (Enhanced Voice Services) codec. EVS would be able to deliver 7 kHz wideband voice and over 16 KHz superwideband sound for voice and music delivery. The codec is being defined with a number of modes ranging from HD voice delivery at 5.8 kbps to optimized delivery of stereo music from 13.3 kbps to 128 kbps.
EVS is clearly aimed as a drop-in replacement for both cellular networks and VoIP applications, with better performance at lower bandwidth rates. AMR-WB can deliver HD voice starting at 12.65 kbps while EVS WB will do so in 5.95 kbps and offer SWB starting at 13.3 kbps. Carriers would have the option to either gain more capacity out of existing spectrum while keeping high quality voice calls or gain SWB for a little more bandwidth.
EVS is currently working its way through the 3GPP standards process with expected finalization in 2013 and commercial availability in 2014. Heidari said there are 13 different companies participating in establishing the standard -- a fact that made me flinch, given the headaches involved in the establishing a licensing pool. A number of companies incorporating AMR-WB -- the current standard mobile HD voice codec -- into soft clients and core network applications have remarked about inconsistent terms and painful work in getting licenses from individual patent holders. If EVS is to gain rapid adoption in the marketplace, its backers would do well to create a streamlined and consistent way for being able to license the codec for all users -- not just device manufacturers.
When it hits the market, EVS will have to square off against the open-source Opus codec and Fraunhofer's (News - Alert) branding and establishment of its AAC "Full HD Voice" codec family. Heidari said Opus had no one to provide indemnification for patent infringement. Fraunhofer's licensing of AAC will offer some market challenges to EVS, since licensing of the codec for one use gives the licensee access to all of the AAC codec family. AAC is already incorporated into Android (News - Alert) and Apple's iOS operating system, so there is an already established (and growing) base for Fraunhofer's "Full HD Voice" codec.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman