France Telecom now has "almost" four million mobile HD customers across 14 countries, and has established the first direct HD voice interconnection between two of its Orange subsidiaries in Moldova and Romania.
Expect both numbers and interconnections to grow significantly over the next twelve months, as France Telecom continues to hit its HD voice goals.
In a statement today announcing the first international mobile HD voice interconnection, France Telecom’s "almost four million" mark is explosive growth. In June 2011, the carrier said it had around one million mobile HD voice customers across its Orange operating groups with 10 countries turned up.
Orange says further HD voice launches are scheduled in Africa and the Middle East by the end of 2012.
What Orange doesn't say about its growing number of HD voice users is that the Apple iPhone 5 supports HD voice on its HSPA networks, along with every Android phone currently shipping. Given the worldwide cravings for the iPhone 5 and the proliferation of Android smartphones, it’s a near certainty that a smartphone sold by Orange will support HD voice (Unless you buy the older iPhone 4S).
The interconnection between Orange Moldova and Orange Romania is interesting both from a cultural and technical perspective. Orange says the success of mobile HD voice in the adjacent countries, alongside their linguistic and cultural proximity, is at the root of the two carriers’ decision to interconnect to provide seamless end-to-end HD voice service.
Back in June 2012, Orange planned to start interconnecting its subsidiaries in the 2012-2013 timeframe to do end-to-end HD voice. Connecting all of its subsidiaries to move HD voice is a strategic no-brainer, since it lays the groundwork for SIP-based apps like the joyn Rich Communications Suite (RCS).
Where life gets more challenging is HD voice interconnections between carriers. Tier 1 U.S. carriers aren't talking about how they will interconnect as they move from the analog PSTN to an all IP world, but other carriers are. France Telecom expects end-to-end HD voice interoperability between carriers both in mobile and broadband networks by 2013, and it's already got a big incentive to make it happen.
France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom are already sharing one mobile network – Everything Everywhere – in the U.K., and have announced plans to share RF networks in Europe. So there are good odds the region will end up being first to sign a bunch of carrier agreements for interop.