Opinion: HD Voice – and why Etisalat isn’t the first


Much has been said about HD Voice, mostly by Etisalat in their latest video.

Obviously, there’s marketing involved there, so let’s have a slightly less biased look at this. HD Voice, like LTE, can be done in a few different ways. The most common is something called Wide Band Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (W-AMR) technology, which transfers a significantly higher spectrum than ye usual phone call. Etisalat’s offering uses the 3G network: two phones need to be connected to 3G, and if their handsets are HD compatible, then Siripala’s your uncle, Gothami’s your aunt.

The upshot is better call clarity. Yes, there’s all the stuff about better voice conferencing for business and and so on and so forth, but the simple result is better call clarity. You can now hear your girlfriend in HD. For the first time in Sri Lanka. Isn’t that great?

Except it’s not the first time in Sri Lanka

Etisalat’s had cases where its marketing department got ahead of itself (case in point, the “six times faster” campaign that we debunked ages ago). Apparently, the same people have been inserting a great deal of advertisements and press releases everywhere. Etisalat, they say, is doing HD Voice for the first time in Sri Lanka.

I have to point out that Dialog did this ages ago. Ergo, it’s not the first time in Sri Lanka. In fact, the Global Mobile Supplier’s Association contains records listing Dialog’s implementation in 2012. So no, Etisalat, it isn’t the first time in Sri Lanka. You’re simply two years late to the party. Dialog’s offering, at the time, went largely unnoticed, partly for the simple reason that there weren’t as many smartphones back then supporting HD voice in Sri Lanka. There was also the fact that nobody really cared.

Fast forward to today, where Etisalat is heavily advertising HD Voice as the first time in Sri Lanka. One feels that at some point, whoever writes these press releases should indulge in a little bit of Google. It certainly wouldn’t help. We wonder what Dialog thinks of this. Mind you.

HD Voice has its uses

Janaka Jayalath, CCO for Etisalat Lanka added, “The call center operations industry globally is adapting HD Voice services to enhance customer experience, improve voice recognition, minimize repetition and reduce overall duration of each call.

Similarly voice biometrics, dictation, transcription, call recording, and speech analytics engines also yield more accurate results with HD Voice due to the improved sound quality,making it easier to distinguish between similar sounding words, numbers, or letters.” 


Now unless you’re indulging in voice biometrics and speech analytics engines (And over the phone? Seriously?) HD Voice is simply a nice feature to have, not an earth-shattering game-changing invention worthy of oodles and oodles or marketing cash. I don’t know about you, but I seriously doubt the majority of Sri Lanka is engaging in voice biometrics over a phone connection.

The great travesty of our time: people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

Perhaps what should have been mentioned are more practical applications, like driving while on speakerphone, where that little bit of extra quality comes in handy. By and large, our standard cellular connections are clear enough, unless you’re planning to recite Beowulf through a phoneline: outside of a few specialized cases, HD Voice is still a gimmick. Calling it suitable for out-of-world applications like speech analytics engines is akin to putting alloy wheels on a car and declaring it fit for Le Mans.

HD Voice, while being a natural evolution for current voice technology, is still simply a marketing stunt for the reason that most of Sri Lanka is still not on smartphones. The numbers are growing, and they’re exponentially higher than they were in 2012, but the average farmer with his family 1100 isn’t going to be impressed with islandwide HD Voice coverage. Add to the fact that 3G needs to be active on both ends to make use of it? Those of us who keep our phones on 2G and use WiFi for the sake of battery can yawn and safely ignore the proceedings.


  1. I’ll just keep calling my friends on 12.2 kbit/s AMR till LTE mobile devices with better battery lives are made.

  2. Before the HQ quality the 3G networks should be fixed. The time based internet packages should be removed. That would impress the user, not the HD quality. We’re more and very appy with the current voice quality. Ah well if i want better quality ill fix some expensive surrounding system to my phone.

  3. And, there’s another proven fact. Whatever the technology Dialog has, they don’t know how to market it. Though they actually have it, people might not experience it since Dialog doesn’t know how to let people feel it.

  4. I really dont understand all the techy stuff used here, but this well written & to the point. Etisalat & all the networks should concentrate on developing & upgrading their data networks out of Colombo. Especially Etisalat who may have speed but coverage sucks. What does the average smartphone user want more ? To talk to his g/f in HD ? or to be able to see her crystal clear on skype somewhere in Mannar ?? Think Etisalat !!


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