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Wideband Voice And Free World Dialup

For the past few weeks I’ve been hunting for a soft phone with specific wideband voice capabilities. I’ve found a couple but there arises complications.

Wideband-capable hard phones usually support G.722, G.722.1 or G.722.2 (aka AMR-WB) codecs. There are other codecs out there that support wideband voice coding. Speex is the one most often cited. However, Speex support in hardware is extremely limited. So Speex implemented in a soft phone is not going to help me evaluate interoperability with hard phones.

Early in August Polycom released their G.722.1 (Siren7) codec under a royalty free license. This is part of their effort to promote the use of wideband voice. The press release detailing this move is here.

It then occurred to me that FWD offers a soft phone called the “Pulver Communicator.” I contacted Dan Berninger to inquire about wideband support in that software. He responded:

I am a big fan of pushing wideband codecs. We hope to get FWD communicator a wideband codec upgrade this Fall.

He goes on to say:

As a side note, our experience has been somewhat disappointing regarding audio quality of at least our Grandstream phones supporting G.722.    It appears the quality is limited by the entire audio design (in particular, microphone and speaker in handset).  The audio quality is only as good as the weakest link.

That FWD will be extending its soft phone to facilitate wideband voice is great news.

His comment about the hard phones also make perfect sense. I’ve only once tried a Grandstream phone, and it was the ubber-cheap BudgeTone BT-101. At the time decent hard phones were in the $200+ range, even so the availability of a phone under $80 was unusual. However, as usual, you get what you pay for. My impression was that the BT series was fine to toying around with VoIP but just too shoddy to actually rely upon.

A draft of my recent review of the Polycom SoundPoint IP550 and IP650 included images comparing the IP650 and the older IP600 in side profile. These images were dropped in the final edit.

Here you can clearly see that substantial changes have been made to the portion of the chassis that houses the speakerphone. The cavity in which it resides has been enhanced to ensure it can handle the improved frequency response of the wideband codecs. The transducers themselves (speakers & microphones) have been improved as well although this not visibly apparent.

To be sure, there’s more to wideband voice than just the codec. Dan’s comment implies that people have been using FWD with wideband capable hardware. I had presumed that such as possible. He at least confirms that fact. That’s encouraging.

So perhaps FWD Communicator will end up being the soft phone that lets me pursue my line of experimentation. That would be great. It would be another good reason to support FWD in its present evolution.

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