New HD Phone from Polycom

VoIP phone maker Polycom has a deep commitment to high-definition telephony (also known as ‘HD’ and ‘wideband’), according to Chalan Aras, vice president of marketing for the company’s voice communications solutions group.

“We are a true believer in HD voice, and are making an effort to make sure our customers are aware of it,” he told in a recent briefing.

And to make the technology more accessible to customers, Polycom yesterday released a new mid-range HD-capable phone, the SoundPoint IP 450, extending the company’s selection of endpoints that support wideband audio to nine products.

At $309 list, the SoundPoint IP 450 is now Polycom’s most affordable full-featured desk phone. “We have had mid-high and high-end telephones with HD voice, beginning the end of 2006,” Aras said. “So we’ve progressively introduced models with lower pricing, and now we’re at the mid-range level.”

Wideband audio depends on special codecs (define), with Polycom favoring the ITU T G.722.1 codec. But there’s more to creating the highest audio fidelity, Aras assured us.

“In an audio environment, you have a lot of outside influences, to what is being captured, such as echo from the walls, and so forth, and you have to be able to eliminate all that,” he said.

Prod interface
The SoundPoint IP 450 desk phone

“With HD voice, you have twice the amount of information—in some cases up to four times as much. So when you have those higher highs and lower lows, you get even more echo and more—call it junk—in the audio that you have to clean up.”

Then again, the physical design of the phone components also plays a role. “That means a special enclosure for improved bass sounds, a better microphone placement, such that we can pick up the higher frequencies,” Aras explained.

“So, when you combine the wideband codecs with what we call our ‘acoustic clarity technology’ and the industrial design of the components themselves, all together, that’s what we call HD voice.”

Of course getting HD-capable equipment into the hands of customers does not in itself an HD revolution make. To make the benefits of wideband audio—greater clarity and intelligibility, improved vocal nuance for enhanced communication—available to the world, service providers’ infrastructure have to support the technology as well.
In fact, Aras told, “In the VoIP environment, the equipment along the way—and the endpoints—are fairly far along in terms of enabling HD voice.

CMA Desktop client
The CMA Desktop client

“Part of our campaign is to start educating service providers that they already have essentially all the components they need to turn this on. It’s a matter of turning it on and then promoting it.

“We expect many more service providers to follow—to deliver this, and use it to their advantage to move people over to voice over IP,” he concluded.

Polycom will be showing and demonstrating its HD voice technology at this week’s VoiceCon show. It will also be demo’ing a number of video-conferencing-related technologies. Vice president of marketing for video solutions, Joan Vandermate, filled us in on three items:

Announced earlier in the year, Polycom is now delivering volume shipments of its Converged Management Application (CMA), a management and scheduling tool for videoconferencing systems.

“What the CMA does is allow for very large mass deployments of video in the enterprise,” she explained. “It’s similar in architecture, almost, to an IP PBX kind of approach, where signaling is handled in a centralized server—as well as provisioning, class of service type of service, and pushing out software updates are centralized in the IT department.”

Also part of the CMA is “a very lightweight desktop application or portal for desktop video. The desktop application allows you to receive high definition video to a standard PC or notebook computer. (See image) It also ‘interworks’ with Polycom’s video conferencing room systems and telepresence systems. That is, users can join an in-progress conference from their own desktop.

Another previously announced initiative that is now in full availability is the ‘first phase’ of Polycom’s integration of its video products and infrastructure with Microsoft OCS.

“What this means is that you will be able to see the presence of Polycom room systems, desktop systems, and infrastructure products like our bridges. You’ll be able to see the presence of those devices from your OCS client buddy list,” Vandermate explained.

“So if you wanted to join a video meeting from your OCS desktop—you wanted to join a meeting in a conference room on video, you just click that video endpoint and join the meeting.”

And finally, Polycom will be demonstrating 1080p resolution on its newest video endpoint (that is a resolution of 1920 by 1080 lines per inch). “The 1080p is the holy grail of high definition in video,” Vandermate told “It’s the current state of the art of the highest-end HD TVs in the consumer space.”

“But what’s probably more interesting is that we actually are actually delivering the capability to do 720p at 60 frames per second, which is broadcast standard,” Vandermate said. (The 1080p is 30 FPS.) “That resolution at that frame rate gives you remarkable visual clarity and smoothness of motion. We’ll be shipping that in December.”

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