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Cable Technology Feature Article

December 01, 2010

Why Cable is Best Bet for Big Consumer HD Voice Deployments in US

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

U.S. telecom carriers are clearly behind the curve when it comes to rolling out consumer HD voice services over broadband. BT has about 2 million G.722 "Hub" endpoints deployed across its network while France Telecom (News - Alert)/Orange has about a half a million broadband end-points deployed today. f anyone is going to drive HD voice into the consumer arena, it’s going to be the cable companies.

Why cable? Over the past 18 to 24 months, CableLabs – the cable industry’s technical standards group – has been quietly publishing and refining specifications for SIP peering, ENUM, and CAT-iq. You need SIP peering and ENUM to enable seamless connection of rich media connections – i.e. HD voice and two-way video conferencing – while CAT-iq is the DECT Forum cordless standard to deliver G.722 end-to-end wirelessly.

In various public forums, cable companies have been dropping hints for months that they have been working on implementing HD voice. Time Warner (News - Alert) VP Michael Jablon was playing it coy back in May 2009, saying HD voice service would be deployed “when the business case is there” and later in 2009 made an open ended statement that within “three to five years, 100 percent of MSO phone subscribers could be HD [voice] ready” – presumably in conjunction with DOCSIS 3.0 and other hardware/software upgrades. Comcast’s CTO dropped the “HD voice” bomb at The Cable Show; mentioning it in response to a question about direct SIP call exchange between cable carriers.

And then there’s Cablevision/Optimum (News - Alert) Lightpath. The company started offering hosted HD voice service to business customers about 18 months ago, so moving along to a path for a consumer offering – which, oh by the way, would put Verizon FiOS (News - Alert) on the spot in some respects – would make a lot of sense.

Over in Europe, CAT-iq is already in demand by France Telecom, so CPE equipment manufacturers are incorporating the standard into their offerings. Since CPE offerings tended to be Chinese menu customizable – “Select DSL flavor or cable modem interface in Column A, number of ports/interfaces in Column B” -- you’ll likely see a lot of CPE gateway that is CAT-iq enabled at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), along with the DECT wireless handsets to complement them.

Finally, neither of the Big 2 (AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon) have been talking about consumer HD voice services. There have been rumors of AT&T conducing HD voice trials in San Antonio, but nothing big or significant leaking out. Based upon some of informal conversations I’ve had, Verizon FiOS isn’t even thinking about HD; a lowdown dirty shame, since a consumer HD offering would be the perfect complement and driver to Verizon Business efforts to promote and build HD voice usage in the enterprise and call centers.

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf