Global Crossing is currently implementing HD voice conferencing for a very few of its elite (i.e. the guys who spend lotta money) customers on a one-off, customized basis, but the company expects to offer a productized hosted HD audio product in the near future.
“We have around two and a half types of customers who want HD Voice,” said Global Crossing’s Bill Haskins, Director of Unified Collaboration solutions. “There are those customers who are aggressive deploying wideband IP technology — very large companies but very small in number, two distinct Fortune 500 clients. We told them don’t deploy HD unless you have a conference solution. Another small set are Fortune 500 companies who are looking for a wideband experience, but don’t have a cohesive VoIP deployment. They have pockets of users doing creative things around soft clients; one is working with a specific open source wideband client. They’re looking to do conferencing and leverage G.722.
“The half-customer is an emerging group with a specific UC strategy,” Haskins continued. “‘I like OCS, can I start leveraging it, is there logic for leveraging a wideband solution in a UC deployment in a hosted collaboration environment?’ They want to use it for C-level or customer facing communications and use UC conferencing for inside of their cloud or a subset of users, if that makes sense.”
Currently, the companies asking about HD are those who “pump a lot of minutes, people we want to cater to,” said Haskins and have a specific need for HD voice in conferencing. Currently, the solution is a customized bridging solution for G.722 calls that requires a “highly technical” operator on-demand to ensure things go well. “These are big cats who are pushing a specific need, they want to put the C-level on first. There are a lot of top-level meeting, they want the highest touch on those calls.” Such customers are served with a one-off solution specific to their requirements.
Haskins expects other service providers to join the movement to HD voice within 12 months as demand picks up and by that time Global Crossing should have the ability to deliver a more automated G.722 conferencing capability. “From a collaboration point of view, G.722 is extremely important to me. It’s a differentiation for our conference product, catering to top quality,” he said, noting that such a product is a value-add to the collaboration lineup the company offers.
Conferencing and HD voice fit hand-in-hand. “For true serious deployments, how often are business calls are two parties only? You need a collaboration solution in there,” said Haskins. HD and wideband codecs will restoring the quality of experience to conferencing.
Interesting, Latin America might be a breakout point for HD conferencing. “There’s an evolving infrastructure there,” said Haskins. “Skype on iPhone is better than PSTN transport. How do I leverage that to compensate for fixed line or cell networks out there?”