Orange HD Voice service and handsets go live in the UK, we go ears-on (video)

Digg Good news for UK mobile addicts: Orange's long-anticipated HD Voice service has officially made it to the Land of Hope and Glory. Starting today, British customers can pick up a HD Voice-enabled handset -- including the Nokia 5230, X6, E5 and Samsung Omnia Pro at launch -- from Orange, and start buttering their ears with "crystal clear" phone calls while within the carrier's 3G coverage. Prior to the launch, we were fortunate enough to try out the new service on a couple of Nokia E5 prototypes in Piccadilly Circus, and boy, that was some pretty impressive stuff there -- the wider speech bandwidth really added a lot of clarity to the caller's voice, and additionally, the noisy traffic from the caller's end was well suppressed at where it'd otherwise crackle over a normal call. Perhaps the easiest way to put it is that this is much like jumping from a bad FM radio broadcast to some sweet CD audio, thus making conversations a lot easier to interpret, even if the recipient is in a noisy environment or has hearing problem (as proven by Orange's public trial). As always, hearing is believing, so do check out our sample audio clips after the break.

While Orange remains a dominant driving force behind this mobile revolution, the carrier assured us that it expects other companies to pick up this open standard. That said, it's rather disappointing that current owners of the aforementioned handsets won't be getting a software patch for the HD upgrade (we were told that no extra hardware is involved), but we can understand -- the manufacturers do need to sell new phones to stay alive in this rapidly changing market. Anyhow, here's hoping that the forthcoming flagship Android and Windows Phone 7 devices will also get a taste of this crystal clear call quality.

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· Orange becomes first operator to launch mobile HD Voice in the UK, signalling the dawn of a new era in mobile communications for customers

· HD Voice reduces background noise and decreases perceived distance between callers by providing crystal clear calls

· HD Voice is available from today nationwide at no extra cost for all Orange customers with an HD voice enabled handset

London, 1st September, 2010: Orange today announced the first major advancement in UK mobile voice calling for 20 years with the launch of mobile High Definition (HD) Voice. Providing crystal clear sound quality for calls, mobile users will see the service set a new consumer benchmark, with today's move testament to Orange's continuing focus on innovation.

HD Voice offers a proven improvement in the sound quality of traditional mobile voice calls. The service eliminates the distance between friends, relatives and colleagues to make callers voices sound like they do when communicating face to face. Reducing the background noise, hisses and crackles of normal mobile calls, HD Voice also excels in noisy environments, so whether you're at a football match or concert, on a building site or next to heavy traffic - HD Voice gives louder, clearer, sharper mobile calls. This will come as a relief for a third (32%) of Brits who blame background noise including road works or noisy chatty friends as the biggest disturbance in conversations*.

Orange HD Voice is available at no extra cost to all Orange mobile customers who take a HD Voice enabled handset. From launch, the Nokia 5230, Nokia X6, Nokia E5 and Samsung Omnia Pro will be HD Voice enabled with further manufactures expected to offer HD handsets in the coming months. All HD Voice enabled handsets will be labelled with the Orange HD Voice logo, helping customers to easily recognise those devices that support the new Orange HD Voice service. HD Voice demonstration units will also be available in Orange shops.

Tom Alexander, Chief Executive of Everything Everywhere, the company which runs Orange UK, said: "Although what we use our mobile handsets for has evolved significantly in the past few years - the way we make mobile calls hasn't changed a great deal since the 1990s. So we're proud to be the first telecommunications brand in the UK to change this and offer customers a revolutionary new calling experience. With mobile HD Voice - hearing really is believing".

HD Voice also opens up new opportunities for better ways of working in business. The arrival of HD Voice is hotly anticipated by the broadcasting industry, which believes that the service could reduce its reliance on expensive ISDN lines and the need to ferry guests to studios for interviews. Other industries that will benefit significantly from HD Voice include those with significant background noise like the construction and manufacturing industries.

For more information on HD Voice from Orange, please visit: