New TIA Standards For HDVoice Over Analog Jacks

HDVoice News RJ-11 Wall PlateDoug Mohney of HDVoice News recently noted that The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has issued a series of new standards documents in reference to wideband audio over analog connections. These new standards specify how HDVoice may be implemented with regard to analog telephone, speakerphones, headsets and related terminal equipment.

Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like…formal specifications for delivering wideband voice over traditional FXO/FXS connections.

This is more than just a curiosity, and could be very valuable to the widespread adoption of HDVoice outside of the mobile space.

Let’s consider the case of the Cable Companies. It’s been noted that their “Digital Voice” customers are well positioned to benefit from HDVoice. Cable companies have gained many residential and SMB voice lines in recent years, enough to cast Comcast as the third largest Telco in the US.

Since their voice traffic is IP-based they could deliver HDVoice, at least for calls occurring entirely within their own network. Given IP-Based peering that could be expanded to include calls to/from other providers as well.

However, the customer premises equipment (CPE) presents a problem. All of the Multi-function Terminal Adapters (MTAs) and ATAs that they have deployed present only an analog FXS jack for connection to a traditional telephone. This combination is not HDVoice capable, or so goes the common wisdom.

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Cable Labs has put a lot of effort into developing standards around DECT and CATiq. It was thought that a new generation of CPE would include a DECT/CATiq capable base radio, allowing voice customers to add cordless handsets. Comcast’s rather lack-luster HomePoint was an example of this sort of thing.

With a million or more CPE deployed the cost of moving to a next generation of CPE is daunting. There was much doubt that HDVoice would provide the revenue necessary to justify such a transition. So the Cable Co’s have been stalled in their implementation of HDVoice.

Other players considered that the existing installed base of CPE might be field upgradable to handle HDVoice. Intel’s PUMA chipset was a key enabling technology in this regard. In mid-2010 Arris Corp, a maker of MTAs, demonstrated that their products could support HDVoice to the analog jack.

Of course, any HDVoice-capable analog jack only makes sense when mated to a similarly capable analog phone. Oddly enough, wideband audio was at that time more readily supported by very old hardware, like a Princess phone, than by anything newer.

Princess phone

The simple old Princess phone is a purely analog device. While it may not be optimal for wideband audio, there’s nothing about it that specifically precludes such capability.

In contrast, most new phones in stores are electronic. They have analog-to-digital conversion processes with sample rates designed for use on traditional, narrowband analog lines. These are simply not wideband capable.

However, modern electronic telephones, given flexible hardware designs, may be adaptable to support wideband audio via analog connection. For that initial demonstration Gigaset stepped in, providing a C610A-IP SIP/DECT system that was adapted to support HDVoice via it’s analog line jack.

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Gigaset later reported that any of their SIP/DECT systems could be upgraded to support HDVoice via the analog line with only a firmware update. Gigasets that are IP-capable can receive the necessary firmware update. That means that existing SIP/DECT models could extend their HDVoice capability to their analog port.

For the CableCo’s this combination allows for the deployment of HDVoice without incurring the cost of replacing all the existing CPE. Just rollout some new firmware and sell the customer the new, HDVoice-capable analog phone. Hopefully that phone would be something more compelling than the Thomson-made device that was part of Comcast’s failed HomePoint offering.

These new standards also provide a foundation for someone to extend the functionality of the traditional ATA to include wideband audio. ATA’s still form the basis of most of the Over-The-Top telephony delivered by hundreds of independent ITSPs around the globe.

Beyond the obvious, there are some novel opportunities to be considered. Google Chat uses the GIPS-developed iSac codec to pass HDVoice. How great would it be if the ObiHai series of SIP & XMPP capable ATAs could deliver HDVoice to something like a Gigaset?

Mass rollout of HDVoice to consumers remains most likely to occur first in the mobile space. The ability to deliver standards-based HDVoice via the cheapest possible wired port drives down cost, further enabling HDVoice rollout in other areas of consumer telephony.

I wonder If an old X101P or TDM410P card can be rigged to bring HDVoice into an Asterisk server?