Orange UK has launched an HD Voice service, so now a mobile phone can sound as clear as a good Skype connection if the technology is available end-to-end.
The Orange service launches today, so if you rush out and buy one of the four available HD-Voice-compatible handsets and find some good 3G coverage, then you can make a crystal-clear call to those people who are similarly well-equipped.
HD Voice is part of the 3GPP standard, using a better compression technology to gather a wider range of frequencies, and all the UK's operators have it on their road maps. Orange said last December they would be deploying it in 2010, and now it has arrived.
It is a 3G technology, so calls to anyone using 2G won't be HD. Neither will calls to other networks, even those with decent 3G coverage and HD Voice services of their own - interoperability is still a long way down the line.
Neither is it particularly desirable - once the feature becomes standard in handsets then the user will just find that calls to those on the same network are better quality than calls that interconnect, perhaps prompting calls for friends and colleagues to switch networks.
Non-HD Voice calls will still sound slightly better - handsets branded HD Voice are expected to have better noise cancellation and a decent microphone, but for real clarity you'll have to be on the same network for a while at least.
You'll also have to have a specially-enabled handset, currently limited to special variants of the Nokia's 5230, X6 and E6, and Samsung's Omnia Pro which are available in Orange shops. We're also told you can drop into an Orange shop to hear what a difference it makes, when all the bits are in the right place. ®