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David Williams
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David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
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Mobile Call Quality: Does Better Really Matter?
This report is based primarily on phone interviews with vendors and mobile operators. Most of those calls had audio quality that fell somewhere between tolerable and abysmal, and none of them were lifelike. Sometimes the culprit was packet loss; other times it was one or more people using a mobile phone to dial into a bridge. Yet all of the parties soldiered on and, so far as we know, paid their phone bill rather than withholding it in protest of a subpar calling experience. Does that complacency mean lousy call quality is the new normal?

If it does, that's bad news for mobile operators and handset vendors hoping to use high-definition (HD) Voice and other call-quality enhancements to differentiate themselves from one another, as well as from over-the-top (OTT) voice over IP (VoIP) providers such as Skype. It's possible that consumers and business users are willing to trade audio quality for mobility's convenience, just as they have with many other things, such as MP3s over CDs.

For operators, the good news is that improving call quality doesn't require an enormous investment. For example, most are already migrating to voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE), which has several features that affect call quality, such as noticeably faster call setup times and dedicated bearers that operators can use to fine tune calls. Implementing HD Voice is an incremental expense, mainly in the form of software licenses. On the handset side, device vendors and their suppliers are addressing call quality partly through the use of two or more microphones, as well as noise-cancellation technologies and better transducer designs.

The technologies used to improve call quality also benefit other applications and services. For example, they enable better-sounding ringback tones, which could help increase revenue from that service. They also complement the trend toward HD video among mobile video conferencing/ calling services. It's also possible that mobile operators could use LTE-enabled call-quality enhancements to provide mobile video conferencing/calling services that sound better than OTT services because OTT providers lack the access to network tools that only operators have.

Mobile Call Quality: Does Better Really Matter? identifies and analyzes key issues affecting the market for mobile voice products and services, including handsets, infrastructure and HD Voice licenses. The report is based on interviews with a representative sample of companies.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei1213_toc.pdf)
In both wireline and wireless, call-quality analysis typically uses mean opinion score (MOS) tests, where people rate their experience numerically from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Software frequently is used in place of humans, such as during drive tests of multiple operators. The following excerpt shows a plot of MOS results based on codec type alongside a plot that shows how call length increases as perceived quality increases. This infographic also is helpful for understanding part of the business case for improving call quality in any telecom service, wired or wireless, OTT or not.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Total pages: 11
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