ZipDX: A Wideband Conference Service

A couple of weeks ago I penned a post about my search for a wideband capable soft phone. A short while later I was contacted by David Frankel of ZipDX. His company offers a standards compatible wideband conference service. It seems that he’s been down the path of wideband telephony a fair distance.

In general conference services are pretty ho-hum these days. However, since adopting the Polycom IP650 as my desk phone I’m eager to explore all of its capabilities, so wideband conference bridges are on my list of things to explore. It’s not high on the list since I have discovered that Junction Network’s conference bridge is wideband capable, and we already have an account with that company.

Vapps is the conference service that’s been trying to make waves about better audio quality. Their service started out being called “High Speed Conferencing” but later morphed into “High Definition Conferencing.” The trouble is that Vapps offering is not standards based. It’s built for use with Skype.

I completely understand why they’d build their service around Skype. It saves them the problem of distributing a client application. Perhaps this partnership is part of the reason that Skype has discontinued the Skypecasts? Vapps is certainly trying to step into the gap that Skype has created.

Back to ZipDX. David was most gracious in offering me a trial account with ZipDX, which includes access to the OEM version of Counterpath’s EyeBeam soft phone. That version of the software includes support for various wideband codecs as shown in the following screen shot.

As you can see the installation provided by ZipDX defaults to G.722 only, which is ideal for my purposes. It’s also automatically set to register with their server. I added my OnSIP registration as well.

It’s also worth noting that I use a Polycom C100 USB attached speakerphone device as audio I/O on my laptop. This device is also wideband capable. The combination of this version of EyeBeam and the C100 sounds really very good.

Given that we’re still working on generator power since Hurricane Ike the C100 on my laptop has been my office phone while working on the dining room table the past few days. We’re mindful of not loading the generator unnecessarily and also a little fearful of the power that it produces. So we’re not running out full compliment of household technology for the moment. Those things that we do run on the generator do so via a UPS for surge suppression and to keep them running while they refuel the generator twice each day.

David noted in his email that there are cross vendor compatibility issues with various wideband codec implementations so ZipDX is focused on using Polycom end-points as well as the EyeBeam soft phone.

One of the more interesting things about ZipDX is that they have a publicly available example of HD Voice in action. If you can dial a SIP URI you can contact SIP:wbdemo@zipdx.com and you’ll get a conference bridge with a menu that allows you to conveniently toggle between G.711 and G.722 streams.

The example is sponsored by Showtime Networks, the source of some of the audio streams. Upon answering the bridge announces the nature of your connection; wideband or not.

There’s a simple menu of available options:

  • # toggles between wideband and narrowband codecs
  • 5 change radio programs
  • 6 clip player
  • 7 an interactive quiz using both codec types
  • 0 lists the menu options

This service is a great tool for illustrating the benefits of wideband voice. The IVR based quiz on option 7 is a really good example of how wideband can dramatically improve the telephony experience.

So it appears that I have the basic tools necessary to explore wideband voice as I’d hoped. Thank you Mr. Frankel for making this possible. And everyone else, please give ZipDX a try. You’ll be happy that you did.

* I have no connection whatsoever to ZipDX. They merely allowed me to trial their service.