It’s Official! The patents on G.729 have expired

Somewhere in today’s news I was tipped to this update from SIPRO Lab about the status of the G.729 patent arrangements:

“As of January 1, 2017 the patent terms of most Licensed Patents under the G.729 Consortium have expired.

With regard to the unexpired Licensed Copyrights and Licensed Patents of the G.729 Consortium Patent License Agreement, the Licensors of the G.729 Consortium, namely Orange SA, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation and Université de Sherbrooke (“Licensors”) have agreed to license the same under the existing terms on a royalty-free basis starting January 1, 2017.

For current Licensees of the G.729 Consortium Patent License Agreement, no reports and no payments will be due for Licensed Products Sold or otherwise distributed as of January 1, 2017.”

In truth, I haven’t given much thought to G.729 since I ran a local Asterisk server. Back then, when embedded Asterisk appliances were a brand new idea, I was running Asterisk on a Soekris Net4801 with a paltry 266 MHz AMD Geode CPU. It could barely manage to transcode two calls into G.729, if I paid Digium $10/channel for the licensed codec.

That said, G.729 is likely the most widely deployed low-bitrate voice codec. It’s embedded is all manner of hardware, which means that it probably won’t be going away any time soon. With the licensing requirement dropped it’ll just be cheaper for grey route operators to deploy the codec.

That’s a pity since G.729 sounds nasty. Otherwise normal phone calls transcoded to/from G.729 to pass across cheap international long distance links are notably degraded. Cascading transcodes make matters dramatically worse.

Further, there are newer and much better options today…most especially Opus.

One thought on “It’s Official! The patents on G.729 have expired”

  1. Right when we pretty much don’t need them any more…

    10 years ago compressing audio with G.729 was a good idea, as bandwidth as still a bit scarce.
    Today unless you’re dealing with a GSM or 3G connection you likely don’t care to just use ulaw/alaw instead.
    Besides, G729A/B patents are gone. Most sophisticated codecs like G729D/E/F, are those actually royalty free already too ?
    Stop feeding the patent holders. Bandwidth is cheap.

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