Time to talk up HD voice

First published on Mobile World Live, 18 March 2013

There are signs that high-definition voice, at long last, is gaining momentum. According to some reports, over 60 networks are now supporting W-AMR (wideband-adaptive multi rate) technology for HD voice. More than 160 different handset models – from 16 suppliers – are HD-voice ready. The old chicken-and-egg stumbling block about which should come first – network or devices – looks to be coming down.

The arguments for HD voice seem compelling. By using wideband codecs, as well as noise cancellation techniques, operators can offer a differentiated service. It’s a no-brainer that mobile customers, given the chance, would prefer not to have their conversations drowned out by background noise. There are plenty of online demos, too, showing that the claim of HD voice enthusiasts – of being able speak to people ‘as if they were in the same room’ – is not unfounded. Continue reading

Radical network thinking at Cloud-Net Summit

A major telco planning to move mission-critical services to the cloud; a growing buzz around software-defined networking (SDN); business models of traditional network suppliers under threat. There was a lot to chew on at the recent Cloud-Net Summit in London organised by Layer123, and that was from attending one morning session only. Apparently, there were some pretty heated workshop discussions the day previously.

Of course, industry debate about how telcos can better manage and simplify their networks – and deliver a wide range of services in a more cost-effective and timely way – has been going on for years. But advances in cloud computing and storage capacity, plus signs that software-defined networking is ready to move beyond the university campus, is giving the discussion fresh impetus. It also focuses minds when an operator the size of Deutsche Telekom says it has radical plans to overhaul its network and head for the cloud. Continue reading

Operators cry wolf over investment?

A report by the Financial Times says large telecom groups in Europe feel burdened by EU regulation. So much so, claim the region’s big guns, it is hampering network investment. There is a general feeling among them that current regulatory practices, because of their unpredictability and bias towards resellers, is doing a rather fine job of discouraging investment.

In particular, telcos want regulators to stop lowering prices on wholesale copper access. Constant price tinkering, they say, is making them think twice about investing in high-speed fibre-optic access. How can they have clear visibility of the broadband business case if regulators can butt in whenever they feel like it? Continue reading

Fixing Vodafone

There was a time when the news that Vodafone Group was eyeing a takeover of Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) would have come as a big surprise. The UK-based operator once seemed determined to be thought of as a mobile-only player, shunning investments in the fixed-line infrastructure that is CWW’s speciality. But when Vodafone last week confirmed its interest in exactly such a deal, few were taken aback. Buying CWW would simply mark the continuation of a strategy that Vodafone started to implement several years ago. Continue reading

Indian hope trick

I have some sympathy for Telenor’s plight in India. After the decision of the country’s supreme court to cancel the 122 2G licences that were illegally awarded in 2008, the Norwegian telco, along with some other foreign players, has been left high and dry.

Of course, some might say it serves them right. Overlooking the obvious risks, foreign firms rushed into joint venture agreements with local companies that had acquired their 2G licences through the shady practice of first-come-first-served. Huge sums of money exchanged hands. The thinking seems to have been that, with growth prospects so high in India’s mobile market, the gamble was well worth it. Continue reading