Fraunhofer, a German research company working on improving audio technology, together with 11 other companies including Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung, announced that they've developed a new Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) codec that can boost audio quality significantly.
The companies started working on the new wide-band audio codec in order to bring the same level of quality to voice calls that you hear in other media. The GSM standard uses the AMR codec, which is a speech-only codec that is limited to the human voice and shuts out everything else, including other background sounds or music. Most of the current phone services remove at least three quarters of the audible spectrum, according to Fraunhofer.
The AMR codec has a bandwidth of 300 Hz-3.4 KHz, which has recently been doubled to 7 KHz (also called "HD Voice"). The new EVS codec has a bandwidth from 14 KHz (superwideband audio) and up to 20 KHz (full band audio) and has an audio quality comparable to streaming music. EVS was designed from the ground up to work with packet-switched services such as VoLTE (Voice over LTE). Fraunhofer calls it "Full-HD Voice."
The EVS codec allows bit rates ranging from 5.9 Kbit/s to 128 Kbit/s, which allows phone service providers to optimize their networks as needed. Bit rates for narrowband and wideband start at 5.9 Kbit/s, while superwideband Full-HD Voice bit rates start at 9.6 Kbit/s.
The EVS codec includes features such as a multi-rate speech and audio codec, source controlled variable bit-rate adaptation, a voice/sound activity detector, comfort noise generation, an error concealment mechanism, a channel-aware mode, and powerful jitter buffer management.
Fraunhofer said that the audio quality of the new codec is so good that reporters could go "live-to-air" from a remote location by simply using their phones. For regular consumers, the new codec comes with benefits such as being able to listen to music from a distance, such as from a concert they're not attending, with no degradation in quality.
According to the company, the new codec could start arriving in phones within 18 months. The codec can be implemented currently in software, but it's likely to arrive in hardware in the DSP in the future in order to achieve higher performance and efficiency.