Voxeo On HDVoice: Walking The Walk While Giving The Talk

Yesterday Dan York, in his role as Director Of Conversations at Voxeo, gave a webinar* on HDVoice. Dan’s presentation included a good basic introduction to wideband telephony. He cited the well known limitations of the legacy PSTN before moving on to highlight the wideband capabilities of Voxeo’s new  Prophesy and Prism product offerings.

This session was part of the companies Jam Session series that introduces new capabilities to developers. To put it simplistically, Voxeo is a tool-maker. The offerings of the tool-makers typically lead the services that we eventually see in the larger consumer space. That makes the tool-makers very important. That the tool-makers show both imagination and leadership is critically important.

Some time ago when this webinar* was announced I openly, but half-jokingly, asked whether the session would be simply about HDVoice, or actually conducted in HDVoice? It was largely a rhetorical question, for in preaching the wisdom of HDVoice to the masses you must reach them where they presently live & work….via the PSTN. I’ve attended many webinars about HDVoice that were conducted exclusively in narrowband.

Since Voxeo is a tool-maker they had perhaps an unusual opportunity to not only talk-the-talk, but also walk-the-walk. That is, if they are to be offering service in HDVoice why not make their webinar available in that manner for those who have already gone down that path some distance? I posed that question openly.

It was in fact the announcement of this session that got me looking at the disjointed relationship between Citrix’s GotoMeeting and HiDef Conferencing divisions. It seems to be an absurdity that there’s effectively zero synergy between these services. I will avoid any further digressions in their direction. Suffice it to say that their tool-makers lack imagination.

The morning of Dan’s presentation I was pleasantly surprised to see that, while they were primarily relying upon the GotoWebinar service, they had in fact put up a separate wideband conference bridge, accessible via a SIP URI. Given the availability of that bridge I knew that there would be a few of us, VUC regulars, who would join in that manner.

As far as I can tell there were several Voxeo staff, Tim Panton and myself on the wideband bridge. As an experiment I tried joining via various means. I couldn’t get my Polycom hard phones to receive audio, there seemed to be a NAT issue. However, I was able to use Bria for Windows, which I had set to only allow the baseline G.722 wideband codec.

During Dan’s presentation I started to question whether the call was actually occurring in wideband. Seeking some kind of measured confirmation, I recorded a portion of the call. I loaded that recording into an editor that could show energy distribution by frequency. As I had suspected, while the call legs were in G.722, the actual mixing of the call media was still happening in narrowband.

After Dan’s session finished a few of us stayed on the conference bridge to perform a few simple experiments. Dan played a short piece of music into the call to serve as a definitive example of wideband source material. Quick evaluation of that recording again confirmed that the conference bridge needed a little tweaking.

This was not at all unexpected as the whole idea of setting up the parallel wideband bridge was a kind of ad hoc thing. After all, the new  Prophesy and Prism products remain in beta test. I think that it was a truly great thing that they even made the effort.

Tim pinged Chris Matthieu of our finding. Within a few minutes they realized what was happening, made the necessary configuration change and reset the conference bridge. From that point on we had true, wideband audio.

We experimented with using the Blink soft phone to connect using SPEEX at 16 KHz & 32 KHz, as well as G.722. All worked flawlessly.

It’s truly commendable that Voxeo went to the trouble to walk-the-walk while giving-the-talk, even before the launch of the products. Hopefully Voxeo’s new HDVoice capabilities will inspire developers in new and interesting ways. That the toolset available to developers is expanding can only be a good thing.

Disclosure: Voxeo is a sponsor of the VoIP Users Conference.

*I simply despise the word “Webinar!” It’s an abomination, but it seems that we’re stuck with it.