Saturday, February 12, 2011

How come the audio quality on phone calls sucks so much?

One thing that's always bothered me on radio phone-in shows and radio interviews is the difference in audio quality between those in the studio and those talking on the phone. The audio quality on phone connections is really awful. How come Moore's Law doesn't apply here? A quick Google search is unsatisfying: I find a bunch of posts basically say that better quality takes more bandwidth and is therefore more expensive. Duh! But if you look at the bandwidth per dollar I get from my Internet/data connection, and graph it over the last 30 years, you'll see a nice improvement. Not as nice as I feel it ought to be, but probably the right O(n). Phone service? Flat as far as I can tell. Certainly the fact that my phone is mobile now makes it better than phones I had in 1990, but audio quality seems worse due to the compression algorithms now used.

The other day, I was listening to an interview NPR was doing with an Iranian activist who was avoiding phone use to remain anonymous. So the interview was over Skype, and the quality was much better than a phone line. I wish they'd do all their phone interviews over Skype instead. In five years is Skype going to eat all the phone companies? Or will the phone companies just refuse to transmit Skype data with the necessary speed to make it work as a phone replacement?

Moral of the story: Telcom companies (at least in the US) are lame dinosaurs, and I can't wait for some combination of Google, Skype, Twitter, Apple, the government (free wireless broadband for all!), and some companies we don't yet know to kill them off.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:21 PM, February 12, 2011  
Anonymous Armil@phone companies said...

It is true that the audio quality on phone connections is really awful. I am also wondering. Maybe too much of signal may cause or affect the audio, I guess.

10:19 AM, March 01, 2011  

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