The Uptake of Wideband Speech Codecs in Fixed Line Networks Is… Glacial

One big advantage of ‘alternative’ voice solutions such as Skype and many others is the use of much better voice codecs that make a huge difference in practice. Many mobile network operator voice systems have been upgraded over the years to support Wideband-AMR. In practice I get a lot of WB-AMR calls while people use the same mobile network as I do. The rate of adaption is quite good as people quite frequently get themselves new devices that support the feature. The fun stops, however, as soon as I call someone on another network. For years, nobody thought it a priority to add gateways that support wideband codecs. A bit of a shame.

Many fixed line phone connections have also been converted to IP over the years and usually also support a wideband codec. The problem here is that in order to enjoy the speech quality of a wideband codec, not only the line but also the fixed line phone has to be upgraded.

It seems, however, that most people keep their fixed line phone for a much longer time. I recently had a look at the call log of my router to see how many of my calls to and from my fixed line phone at home are wideband and which still used the narrowband codec. The result was quite devastating. Except for calls to and from family members which were done with a wideband codec I could only occasionally find a wideband call. And occasionally is already a very optimistic, I’d say 95% of the calls over my fixed line at home still use the old narrowband codec.

In addition to people not upgrading their fixed line phones, another reason for such a low percentage of wideband codec use is that interconnections to other national and international fixed line networks also don’t support wideband codecs. Also, except to one mobile network, gateways to other mobile networks in Germany still only support narrowband according to my fixed line router’s call log. Quite a shame really, nobody seems to put some energy into this.

Yes I know, who still needs fixed line telephony anyway. Well, I still do.

4 thoughts on “The Uptake of Wideband Speech Codecs in Fixed Line Networks Is… Glacial”

  1. There is a nice website where one can hear the difference between WB-AMB and NB-AMR. The difference in staggering.
    I also like this commercial from AT&T:
    You can also encode your favorite song to NB-AMR to hear how it would sound over the phone with some audio converters such as Fair Star Audio Converter.
    I can’t say for sure as I don’t have two smartphones at hand to check, but I think you can observe the codecs used by bringing up the service mode menu in a smartphone. For instance, on the Samsung Galaxy S4 the menu can be called up by typing *#0011#

  2. This is what is accelerating the death of international calls and revenues as well, where your voice is slashed and squeezed on its way through intermediate carriers who compress as much as they can and makes the call horrible. In the end, calling using WhatsApp provides a much higher quality.

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