Horrific Cell Phone Calls Are About to Get Crystal Clear

Thanks, in part, to 4G
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2010 10:08 AM CDT
Horrific Cell Phone Calls Are About to Get Crystal Clear
That call will sound a lot less crappy ... in two years.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

(Newser) – Cell phone quality keeps improving—the apps! the sleek design!—in every area except one: voice quality. For those who have been plagued by infuriating things like annoying delays that cause both people on the call to talk at the same time, take heart, writes Scott Woolley at Fortune: It's all about to change. By late 2012, your cell phone will sound as crystal clear as your landline does. And then it will get even better. Here's what's happening:

  • The 4G systems being deployed shrink the delay from "annoying" to "imperceptible"—basically, from two-tenths of a second to three one-hundredths of a second. Compare that to landlines' basically unnoticeable delay of one-tenth of a second.
  • Lack of capacity is also a big problem these days. Think about how the quality of a song compressed into 128 kilobits per second sounds ("quite good") compared to 32kbps, and consider that cell calls often get packed into just 8kbps (20kbps is landline-ish). But US cell phone call use has plateaued, at about 2.2 trillion minutes, meaning expanded capacity can be dedicated to improving quality.
  • But there's bad news, notes Woolley. All that 4G network goodness is geared toward increasing data capacity, not voice quality, which is why we won't hear better calls this year, or next. "But it will happen." Click here for more on how one group is pushing to help.
(Read more cell phones stories.)

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