Nobody would say mobile voice is “as good” as voice consumed on the public switched network, as reliable or consistent. Most would say mobile voice has such other advantages that users willingly put up with the lower quality of experience.

That is one reason many think high-definition mobile voice could be so important. Reports from early adopters, such as the France Telecom Orange, indicated there has been a 90 percent increase in customer satisfaction, a significant reduction in customer turnover, and higher average revenue per user after deploying HD voice.

So at least where ubiquity and a network effect can be gained, it appears HD voice can have revenue implications.

In principle, HD voice could create a “premium” positioning for voice offers the way high definition TV has done, allowing service providers to raise prices for the HD feature.

HD voice also has obvious appeal in the video teleconferencing and audioconference market. In the U.S. market, Comcast might be among the first to try and create business advantage from offering HD voice as a fixed network capability.

But there are challenges related quite often to network effect. Since an HD session requires matching endpoints, the value is only possible when both, or all parties to a call are equipped to use HD voice. That “islands of connectivity” problem is typical of all new innovations in voice or network services.

Also, over-the-top voice providers like Skype and Google Voice often can solve the network effect problem more easily, as the HD capability is a function of the software, not the endpoints. Consistent quality of experience remains an issue, though.

Some might question whether HD voice can be monetized at all, if it becomes the next generation of voice, supplied by all providers. Others might question whether consumers will value HD voice enough to pay extra for it.

The problem for U.S. service providers is the sheer size of the end point market that would have to be enabled, much as email didn’t make as much sense when systems were proprietary, or facsimile when most people did not own fax machines.

Until mostly everyone has HD voice end point connectivity, it might not be possible to fully test consumer willingness to pay, in the same way that a fourth generation device doesn’t add value if it cannot get access to a 4G network.

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