VoiceAge aims for full range of human voice on Web

Montreal’s VoiceAge Corporation, a company which has achieved ubiquity with its ACELP.net voice communication services on Real Player and Windows Media Player, is striving to match that success with its new ACELP.wide codec.

Network World Canada

has learned that VoiceAge is actively pushing the International Telecommunications Union and the wireless community to recognize ACELP.wide as the new standard in so-called “wideband telephony” for 3G digital and Internet telephony. Through its partnerships with its former parent company, Sipro Lab Telecom Inc. and the Universite de Sherbrooke, ACELP technology has already won eight standards in the past decade. According to VoiceAge, ACELP voice services are embedded in more than 240 million PCs worldwide, and 300 million cellular phones.

Wideband telephony is a term that is being used to describe the goal of transmitting the full range of the human voice across all telephony calls.

According to analyst Iain Grant of The Yankee Group in Canada located in Brockville, Ont., current PSTN (public switched telephone network) lines transmit only the “sweet spot,” or in the range of 300Hz to 3.4kHz. But VoiceAge says its new ACELP.wide codec encodes voice from 50Hz to 7kHz.

“You don’t get the warmth, or the feeling of proximity when you talk on the phone,” said Paul Goulet, communications manager for VoiceAge Corp. “But with ACELP.wide you will be able to get all the range of the human voice with no constraints.”

Since the software’s launch in mid-September, VoiceAge has announced deals to deliver ACELP.wide to both Cupertino, Calif.’s Communities.com, a creator of a real time interactive media network, and San Francisco’s Firetalk, a company offering services such as PC-to-PC conference calling, instant messaging and voice chat.

Laurent Amar, VoiceAge Corp.’s vice-president of business development, said Firetalk will also be using ACELP.net, as it offers the company instant operability to computers with either Real Player (versions 3 to 8) or Windows Media Player (1998 or 2000 versions) installed. However, he said Firetalk is eager to use ACELP.wide for its customers that are looking for improved voice connections.

“ACELP.net has been very popular for streaming applications,” Amar said. “The focus of ACELP.wide is telephone conversation, full duplex not streaming. It could be conferencing, voice chatting, any application where you have standard voice-over-IP (VoIP) you can use this technology.”

Amar did admit that the same problems that plague current VoIP calls – choppiness and delay due to latency in the Internet channel would not be solved by ACELP.wide.

“We’re addressing not network quality, but hearing quality,” he explained. “The network with time, it will grow better, but at least (speech codecs) won’t be the trouble in the long haul.”

Although Grant agreed with Amar that Internet channels are bound to get better, he wondered if ACELP.wide’s voice range can achieve true human voice.

“Even at 7kHz, you’re not picking up the full grandeur of the human voice,” he said. “For people who are less than 20 years of age, you want to push it up to 15kHz. For older people, you can get away with 12kHz.”