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Android Communications Handhelds Upgrades Technology

Fraunhofer IIS Demos Full-HD Voice Over LTE On Android 99

Posted by timothy
from the smell-o-vision-lite dept.
MojoKid writes "Fraunhofer IIS has chosen Mobile World Congress as the place to present the world's first Full-HD Voice mobile phone calls over an LTE network. Verizon Wireless has toyed with VoLTE (Voice over LTE) before, but this particular method enables mobile phone calls to sound as clear as talking to another person in the same room. Full-HD Voice is already established in several VoIP, video telephony and conferencing systems. However, this will mark the first time Fraunhofer's Full-HD Voice codec AAC-ELD has been integrated into a mobile communications system. Currently, the majority of phone calls are limited to the 3.5 kHz range, whereas humans are able to perceive audio signals up to 20 kHz. The Full-HD Voice codec AAC-ELD gives access to the full audible audio spectrum."
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Fraunhofer IIS Demos Full-HD Voice Over LTE On Android

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  • can you hear me now? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by noh8rz2 (2538714) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:33PM (#39160061)
    wow this sounds really cool. I think it's so lame that as technology improved in the past 15 years and we went from landlines to cell phones, we took a huge step back in audio quality. Kind of like the step back from CDs to MP3s. I hope this catches on - do both parties need to use it? Perhaps it will be directly implemented in Skype or something.
    • by King InuYasha (1159129) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:36PM (#39160079) Homepage

      Four parties need to support this for it to work: the caller's handset, the caller's mobile network operator, the recipient's mobile network operator, and the recipient's handset. If all four support the Full HD Voice codec for IMS-Voice (aka VoLTE), then it'll be used. Otherwise, it'll fall back to AMR-WB or AMR-NB.

      • It's worth it, though -- horrible audio is why I don't own an iPhone, just an iPad and an old dumbphone. Cellphone audio quality is simply horrible; whoever decided that the utter crap they call audio was "good enough" deserves to be taken out and shot. And considering how good audio compression is these days, there's very little excuse for it. Yeah, there are several points that have to support it, but we've seen lots of things added to the phone network, decent audio quality could easily have been one of

        • by fluffy99 (870997)

          Actually the iPhone has pretty good audio. The speakerphone and room mic work very well compared to several dumb phones I've had. I still have a dumb flip phone because I don't need anything more than that, and I prefer a smaller flip that fits my head and pocket better..

          • by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:11PM (#39160249) Homepage Journal

            No. It really doesn't -- I've heard them many times, and the telephone audio sounds pretty much like every other phone, like over-compressed trash. The very minimum for "decent voice audio" requires *everything* between about 300 Hz and 3 KHz to reproduced accurately. That's the old POTS analog phone standard, by the way. And it would be lovely if it were more like 100 Hz to about 6 KHz - tons more nuance available with that kind of range.

            • I'd agree the iPhone does not have "really good audio".

              However it does have MUCH better audio than super cheap phones, my wife has one and I've tried a few others. I also thought the iPhone sounded "bad" for phone calls until I used them...

            • by fluffy99 (870997)

              Cisco has a white paper pushing the G.722 codec which is a 16-bit sampling from 150Hz to 7kHz.
              http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/voicesw/ps6788/phones/ps379/ps8537/prod_white_paper0900aecd806fa57a.html [cisco.com]
              Keep in mind, part of the reason for the white paper is that they want to sell their newest 79xx series VOIP phones.

              • Keep in mind, part of the reason for the white paper is that they want to sell their newest 79xx series VOIP phones.

                True, but those phones have been around for at least 4 years now. In fact, the whole 79xx-range is being phased out, in favour of the 69xx and 99xx series. G.722 does sound very crispy though. Made a test call back then on two phones supporting it, and I remember being amazed at how clear the sound was. I did not expect it could and would make such a difference. In speakermode, it was almost as if the person was sitting next to me.

      • When Fraunhofer IIS instroduced MP3 back in the 90', old establishments also ignored them.
      • by icebike (68054) *

        Well, actually, given the bandwidth capability of LTE there is nothing of a challenge here.
        Any mobile voip client can deliver crystal clear voice quality dramatically better than cellular.

        Its not unusual for me to start a call on cell, ask if the end-user has a direct Voip address and switch to that. I use CsipSimple on android, but there are no shortage of clients, and free voip accounts are everywhere. Even inbound (DID) land-line to Voip numbers can be had for free if you shop around, and DOD voip to l

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:38PM (#39160087)

      Skype currently uses the SILK codec, which should give similar quality.

      Skype was also involved with the IETF working group to produce a new codec (called Opus) which is also high quality and will hopefully see more widespread adoption than this AAC-ELD codec.

      Would be interested in seeing some comparisons between Opus and AAC-ELD, especially since Opus can do both voice and music due to its hybrid nature.

      • by mspohr (589790)

        I can tell the difference between the audio on my cell phone calls and my Skype calls. The Skype calls have much better quality.
        I can use Skype over 3G from the South Pacific to the US and the quality is fantastic... better than a local call. The only problem is a bit of lag due to the distance.

      • by jmv (93421) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:57PM (#39160481) Homepage

        We actually wanted to compare Opus and AAC-ELD, but there was just no way to actually get an AAC-ELD implementation. The best we were able to do is to get an AAC-LD implementation from Apple. See this demo page [xiph.org] (scroll down) for the comparison we did between AAC-LD and CELT (which is now part of Opus). In the very few modes we had access to, CELT (Opus) was clearly superior to AAC-LD. I've no idea how much better AAC-ELD is.

      • Skype currently uses the SILK codec, which should give similar quality.

        It doesn't matter what Skype uses, it's sunset technology of minor relevance to the larger landscape now that it's owned by Microsoft. Can you spell "Hotmail"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What's especially funny about mp3 is how all the tools who listen to it don't know or care that there are superior oss codecs. I'm surprised flac or ogg haven't usurbed mp3 tbh.
      • The only tool is the person who cares what someone else uses or cares about.

        • by Anonymus (2267354)

          I don't care what other people use, I just care what vendors are selling. There is no way in hell I'm ever paying money for an mp3. I've purchased flac albums several times, however.

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:35PM (#39160371) Journal

        Saying that FLAC is better than MP3 is like saying that an M1A1 is better than a smart car. If you care only about getting something from point A to point B undamaged, then yes, it is. If you care at all about efficiency, not so much.

        As for Ogg Vorbis, I suspect the patent FUD spread by Fraunhofer pretty much sealed its fate as far as commercial vendor adoption was concerned, which in turn has limited its uptake by the general public.

        • As for Ogg Vorbis, I suspect the patent FUD spread by Fraunhofer pretty much sealed its fate as far as commercial vendor adoption was concerned, which in turn has limited its uptake by the general public.

          The fate of ogg is far from sealed. It has grabbed a dominant position in video game assets and is the tech of choice in many other contexts. Wisely, Frauenhofer has not made a peep about its troll patent portfolio. Anybody who uses ogg instead of mp3 today when they do not have to is an idiot, but no denying there is a good supply of such idiots.

          • Anybody who uses ogg instead of mp3 today when they do not have to is an idiot, but no denying there is a good supply of such idiots.

            I'm guessing by your context that you meant that the other way round?

            I've found that I can't ABX AoTuv 5.7 (and 6.03) vorbis as far down as -q 3. That's an average bitrate of roughly 115kbps. Not too shabby at all. lets me fit an extra couple dozen albums on my ancient rockbox'd ipod video compared to lame, which I use at -v 4 (~150kbps).

        • Nobody needed to use MP3 as the standard. But the majority did. When you paid for a license to MP3, you bought into the standard. At that point, just how much better or worse the codec was compared to all other alternatives is a moot point after the fact.

        • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @11:03PM (#39161809)

          Saying that FLAC is better than MP3 is like saying that an M1A1 is better than a smart car. If you care only about getting something from point A to point B undamaged, then yes, it is.

          Okay, I get your point, but you picked a rather unfortunate comparison.

          1) Getting a parking space? Never an issue with the M1A1, even when all the lots are filled ...
          2) Traffic jams? Shouldn't be a problem with the M1A1 either ...
          3) Tail gaters? .50 cal machine gun and 120 mm cannon!
          4) People cutting you off in traffic? See 3.
          5) Getting T-boned in an intersection? Yeah, you might get banged about a bit, but I suspect the M1A1 will do just fine unless it's an 18-wheeler or bigger.
          6) Are the local roads washed out by inclement weather? The M1A1 will still get you there. (I even suspect there'd be no real danger in driving straight through tornadoes and hurricanes in an M1A1).
          7) Is there a foot of snow covering your local roads? Debris from the recent hurricane or tornado blocking the roads? The M1A1 will still get you there.

          It's not difficult to think up even plausible ways that an M1A1 is better for your commute than a SmartCar.

          But your point still stands.

        • Ogg Vorbis lost to mp3 because for the longest time there was no fixed point implementation of an ogg vorbis decoder, while there was one for mp3. This made the hardware to decode ogg vorbis more expensive, and hence no one made one.
          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Ogg Vorbis lost to mp3 because for the longest time there was no fixed point implementation of an ogg vorbis decoder, while there was one for mp3. This made the hardware to decode ogg vorbis more expensive, and hence no one made one.

            Incorrect. Vorbis lost to MP3 for several reasons.

            First, ubiquity - by the time Vorbis came out (and was decent), MP3 was firmly established as the format to use and there were MP3 players out. All the tools and such were in place to ript CDs and produce MP3 files, and everyone

        • "Saying that FLAC is better than MP3 is like saying that an M1A1 is better than a smart car. If you care only about getting something from point A to point B undamaged, then yes, it is. If you care at all about efficiency, not so much."

          If that M1A1 was as easy to drive and as cheap to build as the Smart, sure... and if we had a near-unlimited supply of fuel (I have a huge collection of ripped albums in FLAC, and I can't fill even a 500GB drive with it, even though it's mostly on the lowest compression setti

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            In much the same way, if we had a near-unlimited supply of disk space, FLAC would be inarguably better.

            You may not be able to fill a 500 GB drive, but most portable music players do not have 500 GB of storage. They have 1-2 orders of magnitude less space than that. Using a lossless codec, a 4 GB music player will hold (assuming 2:1 compression) just under 13 albums. That's not a lot of music. At a 128 kbps bitrate, that same player will hold over 60 albums. That's not a small difference.

            And most folks

      • Ogg may be better than the ancient mp3 codec but it falls flat compared to mp4.

        • by noh8rz2 (2538714)
          i thought mp3 was for music and mp4 was for video
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            And mp5 is for shooting.

        • mp4 is a container. not an audio codec.

          did you mean AAC?
          which AAC, quicktime, faac, nero?

          doesn't really matter. aotuv tuned vorbis beats or at worst ties any flavor of aac down to and including 96kbps.
          http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Listening_Tests#Multiformat_Tests [hydrogenaudio.org]

          doesn't truly matter anyway. aside from "killer samples", all modern codecs, including MP3, reach perceptual transparency by about 192kbps or so.

          • Mp4/AAC, of course. Generally that's what people refer to when they talk about mp4 audio. Sort of like how I knew that the guy I responded to was talking about ogg vorbis and not ogg speex or ogg PCM.

            Stock Vorbis does not beat the Apple tuned AAC at any bit rate and of course you don't have to believe the hydrogen audio subjective listening tests unless you want to.

        • Ogg may be better than the ancient mp3 codec but it falls flat compared to mp4.

          Haha, very funny Mr clueless, you are a real card.

          • Nero AAC blows it away if you go by the subjective hydrogen audio tests, and apple's AAC blows Nero away.

    • To me, the delay and loss of clear full-duplex are bigger compromises for cell phones audio-wise, and the reason I have a land line at home. Hopefully this new technology addresses those problems in addition to improving the fidelity.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      you know why it's "cool"? lte lacks voice spec.

      you know why this particular demonstration isn't cool? it doesn't include "auto handover to gsm on network change"(though afaik, that was demonstrated by someone in some lab already.. ).

      personally though, if I was choosing the spec to standardize on I sure as fuck wouldn't choose a licensed from fraunhofer codec, I'd probably just run with speex, less patent and license problems(ironically though the guys who are actually making this decision might go with the

      • I was thinking the same thing about Speex, but...
        From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

        Since Speex was designed for Voice over IP (VoIP) instead of cell phone use, the codec must be robust to lost packets, but not to corrupted ones.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          are corrupted packets really that big of a problem on these new networks though? afaik lte acts just as data network and afaik this fraunhofer solution is pretty much regular voip.

          with all this though, recodes happening to connect to end-points running another codec might be the real problem pit..

    • Perhaps it will be directly implemented in Skype or something.

      Skype will use Opus [opus-codec.org] in future. Opus is a low latency codec suitable for both speech and music coding built from the combination of the SILK and CELT codecs. Opus outperforms AAC (and maybe it outperforms Fraunhofer's AAC-ELD codec as well). I imagine Skype's use of Opus will be dependent on Microsoft deciding to stick with that plan. However, as Microsoft has been discovering recently that codecs which require royalty payments can be difficult to manage [techspot.com], I suppose they'll stick with the plan to use Opus as

    • It's about time someone started working to improve call quality on cell phones. I'm relieved when I call someone and get them on a land line because it means I'll be able to understand them. If both people on a call have cell phones, it always sounds like crap. That's why people talk so damn loud when they're on a cell phone. They're trying to overcome the crappy codec with volume.

      • by AdamWill (604569)

        People have been working on it for a long time. Notwithstanding a whiz-bang technology demo of a specific codec which does a good PR job of appearing a much bigger deal than it really is, it's a pretty complex problem - but G.722-based 'HD voice' has been deployed in various European countries for a few years, now. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wideband_audio [wikipedia.org] .

    • There is more than one reason to restrict bandwidth for voice calls - it doesn't just keep the cost of the call down (I am sure your network operator wants an excuse to raise the cost of your contract), it also reduces the prospects of sending unwanted noise (the wider you open the window, the more the dirt blow in).

      I make a lot of calls from noisy environments (eg on transport), and don't want to pay my network operator more money. I am sure the people I make business calls to would rather hear what I sa

      • by noh8rz2 (2538714)

        Its a phone, not a hi-fi!

        why can't it be both? why can't it be the same quality as a landline? iPhone has voice cleanup algorithms baked into the hardware; this is probably suffish for taking care of background noise.

    • It would be cool if it wasn't from patent troll Frauenhofer and scofflaw Microsoft.

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:41PM (#39160113)

    ...when the phones have shit sound components.

    Handset makers have been so focused on stuffing their handsets with cameras, MP3 playback, video playback, picture messaging and other dumb things in a features race that they only phone-in (pun intended) the basic voice calling capabilities now.

    • by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:57PM (#39160191)

      The crappy speakers and mics in most phones probably has as much effect as the processing and compression. It is true though that the cellphone frequency range does cut off too much of the lower frequencies. A codec that goes to 20k is pointless when there is no speech frequencies that high, and most people can't hear it anyway. The focus should be better lower frequency coverage, improve the dynamic range, and filter background noise.

      It's kind like pushing HD radio, when most people listen to their radios in their noisy cars with stock speakers and can't tell the difference.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        It's kind like pushing HD radio, when most people listen to their radios in their noisy cars with stock speakers and can't tell the difference.

        You've got the cause and effect backwards. People only listen to the radio in their cars, and using cheap equipment, because radio sounds pretty crappy to begin with. HD Radio has the potential to reverse both trends (but I don't expect it will).

        Don't believe it? Look up how many users Pandora / Last.fm / XM/Sirius / Shoutcast / et al., have. People clearly value

        • by fluffy99 (870997)

          It's kind like pushing HD radio, when most people listen to their radios in their noisy cars with stock speakers and can't tell the difference.

          You've got the cause and effect backwards. People only listen to the radio in their cars, and using cheap equipment, because radio sounds pretty crappy to begin with. HD Radio has the potential to reverse both trends (but I don't expect it will).

          Don't believe it? Look up how many users Pandora / Last.fm / XM/Sirius / Shoutcast / et al., have. People clearly value a radio-like service, and find the current broadcast radio situation so bad that they go for more expensive alternatives.

          But do you see XM/Sirius users upgrading the quality of audio equipment in their cars? I've heard the portable XM/Sirius radios (a few people in my office have them). I can't tell the difference in quality, and now that they have ads I don't see the advantage of a subscription radio service.

      • Electret microphones are cheap and can be flat across the entire audio spectrum. Speakers are much more difficult; there are fundamental physical limitations that cannot be escaped.

        The frequency response best for hifi (flat) is not the same as that which is best for communications.

    • by fred911 (83970)

      HD phone sex.

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      I'm frequently amazed at the quality of microphones in newer phones. Call quality is usually limited by the codec, not the mic.

      There are videos on Youtube taken by cellphones of rock concerts where the audio is both clear and doesn't clip. There are videos on Youtube taken by cellphones of speeches where the person filming is far back in the audience and there's no amplification, yet the recording is good enough that you can listen to the speech.

      If you had told me ten years ago that it would be possible to

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      What good is high-quality speakers when the signal received is so low "resolution"?

      Just as TV makers all leapt on the chance to call their products "HD", and users leapt on the chance to buy something indescribably "better" ("it has 1080p!" "what's a P?" "I don't know, but I've got 1080 of them!"), I'm sure phones will go the same way.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        What good is high-quality speakers when the signal received is so low "resolution"?

        That argument doesn't work because the components have actually gotten worse than they used to be, and now give a sub-quality performance even with the existing non-HD signal. From my own observation, things started to go downhill when flip-phones were becoming the most popular, possibly because more shallow components were needed to fit flip-phone casing thickness.

  • How many users/cell before this starts throttling? in the single digits?
  • by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:58PM (#39160205) Journal

    ...distribution channel for Full 20Hz - 20kHz music source. Now go figure. Do the maths

  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by digsbo (1292334) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:13PM (#39160261)
    I can make phone calls with my phone now!
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:33PM (#39160361) Homepage

    Only those who have not had high-intensity hoot and thump music piped into their ear canals for the last ten years. Most twentysomethings won't be able distinguish HD audio from a 1940s telephone. They'll buy it anyway, though.

    • There are very few people left alive who listened to something that wasn't 'high-intensity hoot and thump music' in their youth. Sorry about your lawn.
      • by digsbo (1292334)

        Sorry about your lawn.

        It's not the lawn that's the problem. It's the billions of dollars in hearing aids that Medicare and Medicaid will be expected to provide for stupid people who stupidly listened to hoot and thump music being played FAR TOO LOUD. One thing to listen to music, another to listen to it on headphones that can still be heard by people five rows away on a train, or in a car that is audible a half mile away.

    • HD voice is of limited use, but I find it works good for when you need to spell something or read a serial number, part number, etc. over the phone. It's much easier to tell apart letters like S and F over the phone when you're using a wideband codec.

      Of course, text or email is much better for things like that.

      • Never heard somebody using radio procedure over a cell conversation, eh?

        I-SPELL INDIA TANGO APOSTROPHE SIERRA SPACE DELTA OSCAR ALPHA BRAVO LIMA ECHO.

        I use it instinctively whenever I'm doing something like that over the phone, even if it's a good connection, and I ask the person on the other end to read it back to me phonetically as well. And when it's a bad connection, I'll use "words twice". It just makes sense when it's information like that, and I suspect even with "hd audio", you'll still need to do i

        • by eharvill (991859)

          And yes, a text or an e-mail is better... in theory. On my cell phone, the keyboard is a pain in the backside, and it's very easy to make a typo. And that's one of the rare phones that actually has a keyboard... it's worse with the touchscreen. If I'm in the field, it is usually faster to simply spell it phonetically over the phone, rather than trying to write a text or an e-mail on my phone. And gods help anybody who's stuck using T-9.

          You don't have an iPhone, do you? I've had one for about 3 weeks now (employer issued) and I hate the auto-correct/predictive text on it vs a Droid based device. I am much more efficient with emails/text on a Droid device vs an iPhone. No clue if either use T-9, but I'm guessing that's more of an early Blackberry function?

    • by Timmmm (636430)

      Most twentysomethings won't be able distinguish HD audio from a 1940s telephone.

      Did they have really high quality phones in the 1940s or something? Because anyone who isn't completely deaf could distinguish current phone call quality from "HD audio".

  • Just means you will get throttled faster.

    Until cell providers get a clue, we should not be developing new tech for their networks and instead stop sending them our money.

  • by Nethead (1563)

    Back in my day we called it HiFi.

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