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Get ready for HD audio

by Scott Bicheno on 10 March 2010, 13:00

Tags: Fraunhofer

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True 4G

While the focus at MWC 2010 was, as ever, on the visual, giant German research organisation Fraunhofer was quietly introducing a technology that may become ubiquitous in the LTE (4G) generation of mobile phones.

The technology is called the Audio Communication Engine (handy acronym there) and it's being positioned as HD audio, to represent the step forward in quality Fraunhofer claims it offers over current phone audio offerings. Specifically it promises much clearer voice quality, echo-less hands-free use even without a headset and no delays.

Fraunhofer has some pedigree in this sort of thing, having invented MP3 technology back in the 80s. To find out why it thinks we need HD audio, we spoke to HP Baumeister, a product manager at Fraunhofer IIS - the audio and multimedia arm. He explained that LTE is an all-IP technology and that the world is increasingly moving towards IP communications.

"Once LTE rolls-out in a big way there's a high likelihood that operators will want to differentiate via a better audio experience," said Baumeister. He explained that nearly all operators currently offer what is effectively a 2G audio experience, which is based around speech codecs that don't represent other sounds very well.

We ventured that most people probably don't feel an overwhelming need to upgrade the audio quality of their phone calls and Baumeister conceded that this is one of the challenges Fraunhofer faces. This, presumably, is one of the reasons it produced the tongue-in-cheek video below, to illustrate what's on offer.