Sprint won't be supporting HD Voice on the iPhone 5

Sprint won't be supporting HD Voice on the iPhone 5

A brief chunk of today's iPhone 5 event was dedicated to the new smartphone's support for "wideband audio" phone calls. What wideband audio offers is phone calls with audio that's been less compressed than your typical cell phone call. The average cell phone emphasizes the mid-range where most of your voice pitch resides, and heavily compresses and thus distorts the higher and lower ranges. Wideband audio still applies some compression, but it's not as harsh on the upper and lower frequencies, offering a wider range of pitch and thus more lifelike sound. It also enhanced noise cancellation and makes it easier to differentiate what you're listening to.

Unless you're on Sprint, which apparently won't support wideband audio on the iPhone 5. According to a statement given to Phone Scoop by Sprint, the Now Network won't be offering their HD Voice service (the marketing name for wideband audio voice) on the iPhone 5.

No specific reasoning was given why Sprint won't be one of the claimed twenty carriers globally that will be supporting wideband audio on the iPhone 5. Sprint does offer HD Voice on the Android-powered HTC Evo 4G LTE, though like Sprint's LTE network, only select markets will have HD Voice support by the end of the year.

We don't know what other carriers might offer support for wideband audio on the iPhone 5, but considering the dozens and dozens of carriers that will offer the device, it's disappointing to only hear the number twenty. Verizon's own HD Voice tinkering has been done using VOLTE (Voice Over LTE), which Apple doesn't support. AT&T hasn't tinkered with HD Voice yet, but they'll be doing it over VOLTE as well.

Sure, we don't make phone calls as often as we used to, but when we do we'd love for them to be sounding better than they currently do.

Source: Phone Scoop

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Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, Army musician, armchair pundit, and professional ranter.

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Reader comments

Sprint won't be supporting HD Voice on the iPhone 5

14 Comments

I wish they did offer this on att. So what they are saying, Talking to your friends on the phone will sound more like they are in front of you instead of hearing that eary "phone voice"?

This is a problem with Apple creating their own chip. When Qualcomm makes a chip (e.g. Snapdragon S4) they include all the new tech. I'm guessing that the iPhone5 chip doesn't support CDMA 1xAdvanced. CDMA HD Voice codec only runs on 1xAdvanced. The CDMA carriers *want* to support 1xAdvanced because it can *triple* the amount of voice calls on a channel. So, instead of AT&T having to be greedy with their bandwidth as stated above, Sprint and Verizon want to update to 1xAdvanced since it is better for their spectrum use. Oh and this is on the same CDMA frequencies that go back to the beginning. People hate that CDMA is mainly US, but for the companies that adopted it, boy has it payed off! AT&T has had to do a heck of a lot of band juggling from analog to TDMA digital to WCDMA digital to LTE digital. CDMA? Same frequencies with hardware upgrades and they are just now adding LTE to additional frequencies.

And to think... Qualcomm was told that CDMA was impossible and it would never work.

While I don't doubt that the big three in the US all will not support this (as I assumed during the keynote when it was announce "with carrier partners") - and not that AT&T and Verizon have really earned this, but shouldn't we wait for them to officially state they won't be supporting it before we vilify them?

I also agree that this could be due to Apple designing their own chip, but isn't the radio a Qualcomm chip as well? An if the chip is an Apple exclusive, could this be a way around the threatened legal action from Samsung?

Plus, Apple designs their own so they control every aspect and don't have to rely on limitations others do. Overall, I think that benefits us all.

EDIT: I meant to say I wouldn't doubt they would NOT support. Corrected now.

I know. Crazy. They let me out of my padded room yesterday to find out about the iPhone 5, and I ran away. They can't catch me!

I didn't think the iPhone 5 had a separate radio chip. Didn't they announce that it was all integrated CDMA/LTE/SoC like the Snapdragon S4?

I thought I'd just I'd chip in a little here to enlighten the community about HD voice.

HD voice over cellular is not a new feature at all; its been around for over 8 years as a cellular standard. In the GSM/WCDMA/HSPA family, it exist as the AMR-WB codec while in the CDMA/1x-EVDO/1x-EVDV family, it exists at QCELP codec. Both codecs achieve similar results but they're also incompatible standards (because they reside on incompatible cellular networks).

HD voice over cellular is truly stunning if you're privileged to experience it (I have) but it has never really taken off despite the early buzz that heralded it. The reason is because the codecs require both carrier support and device support. But the Carriers never implemented it because they couldn't figure out how to charge for it. They also claimed that there weren't enough devices supporting. On the other hand, the devices manufactures did not see any business justification to license the tech for their devices citing also a lack of carrier support for the tech. So it became the proverbial chicken and egg situation.

It's a very good thing that Apple has decided to support the codec in the iP5 but more importantly, that they have signed up 20 carriers to support it. Hopefully, this should make the tech go mainstream and force other carriers and device manufacturers around the world to support it. The reason Sprint will not be supporting HD voice on the iP5 is because its based on the AMR-WB codec which is the version for the more prevalent GSM/WCDMA family and Sprint cannot support this codec.

I fully expect other device makers to support the codec in their subsequent phones and more carriers carriers to support this over the next 2 years. I also expect the CDMA carriers (like Sprint) to implement support for QCELP and negotiate for device makers to support it (may be more difficult for them cos the CDMA 2000xxx standard is being abandoned). But LTE is going to become the ubiquitous cellular standard of the future even though cellular voice is not yet implemented over it (just data). When voice is implemented over LTE (VoLTE), all codecs will be supported, AMR, AMR-WB, QCELP, H.323, SIP, etc.
One thing about HD voice, though, is that if you place a call to someone whose network doesn't support HD voice then both networks will negotiate a lower codec (very likey GSM-HR/FR, or AMR-NB) so you don't enjoy HD voice though your device and carrier support it.

So from reading this and other comments above, when verizon goes mainstread with VoLTE next year, the iPhone 5 will not support it? I guess we would have to wait for the next version to possibly support it?

I dunno... I have a feeling that CDMA for voice is going to be around for quite a while. With 1xAdvanced, cell companies can handle a heck of a lot more voice traffic (3x more). Voice over LTE is brand new. I have doubts that LTE will have the signal penetration that CDMA has. Verizon and Sprint have been and are continuing to upgrade their CDMA hardware.

CDMA, like GSM, will be around for a few more years...at least five more for even the earliest carriers who will phase it out first and even up 10 more years for others but it will surely disapear. LTE (and faster versions of it) on the other, will become ubiquitous - like GSM is today - within 5 years. I have no doubt that Verizon and Sprint will update their CDMA networks in the very near future to support the QCELP (HD-voice for CDMA) but it just normally comes 1st to the GSM carriers because that standard is more prevalent globally than CDMA.

It not just the codec. From everything I read, Sprint will only supports HD Voice over 1xAdvanced. The iPhone has support 1xAdvanced transport before it can ride the codec on top of it. Since they built their own chip, they would probably have to license the codec and 1xAdvanced from Qualcomm.