AT&T, Sprint Confirm HD Voice Plans for 2013

AT&T and Sprint plan to offer HD Voice in the coming months. T-Mobile is still unique, however, in offering an HD Voice iPhone 5.

High definition is coming to handsets. AT&T has confirmed its plans to roll out the technology later this year.

"HD Voice is part of our voice over LTE strategy," AT&T senior vice president Kris Rinne said April 1 at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit in Sausalito, Calif., All Things D. reported later that day.

T-Mobile announced plans to offer HD Voice back in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, and has since rolled it out nationwide. To take advantage of the technology, however, both parties need to be on an HD Voice-compatible phone, which on T-Mobile right now means the Samsung Galaxy S III, the HTC One S or the Nokia Astound.

Come April 12, however, T-Mobile will finally begin selling the iPhone 5. And, more, an HD Voice-capable iPhone 5.

Call it compensation for the length of time that the nation's fourth-largest carrier went without the iPhone—the absence of which has been called the single greatest reason subscribers leave a carrier—but Apple is giving T-Mobile an upgraded model with not only HD Voice but access to additional spectrum bands.

"I've been telling you that when the iPhone 5 comes to T-Mobile it will be different," T-Mobile CEO John Legere told the press at a March 26 event.

T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Michael Sievert said more specifically that the iPhone 5 will have "50 percent more bandwidth than on AT&T."

Legere added, "The experience on this iPhone is going to be beautiful from day one ... It's going to be phenomenal."

Sprint, too, has HD Voice Plans.

Sprint spokesperson Kelly Schlageter told FierceWireless that Sprint will launch HD Voice "commercially in the next few months. It will not roll out nationwide right away, rather it will roll out market by market over a period of time.

Verizon has said it will offer the technology late this year or in early 2014.

What is HD Voice? T-Mobile has explained that the feature uses Wideband Adaptive Multi-Rate (Wideband AMR or WB-AMR) audio technology and the result is "more true-to-life voice quality that's fuller and more natural-sounding with significantly reduced background noise."

Wired's Alexandra Chang offered a nice, slightly more in-depth explanation. "Instead of limiting a call frequency to between 300 Hz and 3.4kHz," she wrote, "a wideband audio call transmits at a range of 50 Hz to 7 kHz, or higher. That's much more in line with the human voice, which transmits audio between 75Hz and 14 kHz."

T-Mobile, in an explanation on its site, adds that the technology not only improves sound quality but makes it easier to distinguish voices on a conference call, understand speakers with accents, hear faint talkers and have a better experience when other parties are on speakerphones or somewhere loud.

Again, all of this only applies when both parties are using HD Voice-capable phones. Until then, even with the networks rolled out, you can expect to keep hating the sound of a speaker phone.