After starting as the year of HD voice, 2010 ended as the year of video communication. Video in fact became so prominent that it earned a place in the title of this list. Announcements about new video communication products and services were so numerous they became routine. As the year progressed, it became clear that video conferencing/calling was no longer a luxury for the corporate and government elite, but was well on the way to becoming a commodity for the masses. Ordinary individuals will soon be making video calls with little more thought than they now give to picking up a telephone. Making that happen, however, will be a complex challenge for vendors and service providers.
A variety of other factors shaped voice and visual communication during the year. Chief among these were developments in mobile VoIP and video calling, along with an acceleration of the move to cloud-based voice services. Politics and the weather played unusually high-profile roles as well. So did the negative: Unlike last year, not all the important developments were advances – some were downright problematic. But even the negative developments had some constructive aspects. Skype of course figured prominently in many of the developments. So pervasive was the influence of the Internet VoIP pioneer that it seemed that the corporate slogan of "Skype Everywhere" applied to its appearances in headlines as well.
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Enterprises are leading drivers of HD voice use. Most large organizations have moved or are moving to IP telephony systems, and most new IP phones come with G.722, the baseline HD voice codec for desk phones, built in. HD voice offers enterprises substantial benefits, particularly in conference calls. Because their superior audio makes it easier for participants to understand one another, HD voice calls are more efficient and less tiring than conventional ones. But for the technology to reach its full potential, large numbers of users both inside and outside of enterprises have to be able to make HD voice calls to one another. And significant obstacles stand in the way of that happening.
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By now we know a lot of details about why HD voice calls are better than conventional phone calls. We've heard how the PSTN cuts off much of the audio range human conversation usually employs, making it hard to distinguish between fricatives such as s and f, and to understand people with different accents. We know that straining to fill in the words and phrases we can't understand produces listener fatigue and makes conference calls an ordeal.
All this information is evidence that the HD voice promoters have done a good job of getting the word out about their favored technology. But we don't have the same kind of information about why video calling is better than voice calling. The general assumption seems to be that everyone understands the benefit of video communication intuitively. In reality, understanding is limited, because detailed information is in short supply.
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XConnect's recently announced plan for a trial HD voice peering federation marks a significant advance in the move to HD communication. The trial, to take place between April and June of this year, will directly connect providers offering HD voice services. That will let them pass HD calls, which provide audio quality superior to that of conventional PSTN phone calls, to one another rather than just among their own customers. The trial thus represents an effort to start building a critical mass of HD-capable voice subscribers. As such, it is as much a commercial effort as a technical one.
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There were more advances than true innovations in the VoIP world in 2009. That's because some of the most important developments had more to do with commercial and political maneuvers than with technical creativity. Still, such maneuvers often helped spread the benefits of VoIP as much as did technical innovation. And collectively, the advances brought some already-evident trends into clearer focus. A key such trend is the increasing integration of voice with other applications and services. Another is the intensifying interest in HD voice. A third is the growing interconnection of VoIP services, in part in response to the possibilities that end-to-end HD voice offers. With such trends as background, here, in no particular order, are our top 25 VoIP advances of 2009.
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Polycom has added several new desk phones to its product portfolio. One brings SIP-based HD voice capability for under $200. A second works specifically with Microsoft OCS 2007. And a third provides compatibility with both video conferencing and unified communications platforms.
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HD (high-definition) voice is getting increasing attention from both users and providers of business VoIP services. It offers a number of advantages over standard voice calling, especially in business situations. It makes calls less fatiguing, and different accents easier to understand. Until now, though, smaller businesses have had trouble taking advantage of the technology. To fill the gap, Phone.com has just added HD voice capability to its hosted phone service for SMBs.
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A new study shows that Internet traffic these days mostly bypasses the top transit providers. Instead, it travels through direct connections between traffic generators. The same thing will increasingly happen with VoIP traffic – that is, it will travel directly between VoIP providers without touching the PSTN (public switched telephone network). That will bring significant benefits for users.
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High-definition (HD) voice technology has a lot of benefits. It vastly improves the audio quality of voice calls. In practical terms, it makes it easier for callers to understand different accents, and reduces the fatigue resulting from constantly having to guess whether a certain sound was, for instance, an "s" or an "f". But HD voice also has one big problem: It requires end-to-end IP connections to deliver its super-clear sound.
Continue reading "Voxbone's iNum Service Connects Islands of HD Voice" »