Cisco Bringing HD Voice to Small Business Handsets

Cisco SPA525G

Cisco SPA525G

Of many indications that wideband voice is on its way to becoming the defacto audio standard for modern telephony equipment, none may be more telling than a coming firmware upgrade that will standardize the high-definition G722 codec on market leader Cisco’s flagship small business handset, the SPA525G.

Expected to be released in coming days, the new firmware will automatically upgrade the audio quality of regular voice and speakerphone traffic by supporting a standard that will allow the SPA525G to communicate with handsets from other manafcturers that have already adopted high definition (HD) voice. HD voice is limited to calls between handsets that support it, which, in the small business market has meant the relatively few HD voice products from Polycom, Snom, Astra, and high-end Cisco handsets. With the former Sipura braintrust behind the adoption of wideband audio support on Cicso’s small business unit hardware, however, the number is sure to grow.

HD voice is expected to be supported across the Cisco small business unit’s entire line of telephony endpoints by year-end, positioning the company that dominates the market for enterprise-class IP telephony to further press its case for leadership of a segment in which the networking giant’s smaller competitors have long battled to win market share.

Plans to support higher voice quality were part of the SPA525G’s design process, in which the phone’s enclosure was completely re-designed to eliminate sonic bleed between the phone’s speaker and microphone, and to isolate speakers in the base and ear piece to better support higher-bandwidth voice codecs that deliver high definition sound quality.

The wideband G722 codec being adopted by Cisco operates at the same 64 kilobits per second (kbps) bandwidth used by the nearly ubiquitous narrowband G711 prevalent among almost all handsets in use today, so supporting higher-fidelity sound should have no negative effect on the transport of voice packets over the IP network – voice calls will simply sound better.

The sound upgrade to the SPA525G comes to a handset that already boasts premium features such as a color data screen, multi-line presence and multiple softkeys, as well as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. In time, as the VoIP pioneering Sipura team and former stars from the Linksys consumer VoIP division become rebranded as Cisco’s small business unit, it’s likely we’ll see future small business telephony products from Cisco supporting HD voice as well.