OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO today announced that POLQA, a new voice quality testing technique, has been selected to form the new ITU-T voice quality standard to be used with HD Voice, 3G and 4G/LTE.
The new POLQA standard is the winner of a rigorous technical competition carried out by ITU-T in order to define a technology update for PESQ/P.862. PESQ has been state-of-the-art in benchmarking almost any telecom service worldwide over the last ten years. POLQA – which stands for “Perceptual Objective Listening Quality Analysis” – will offer a new level of benchmarking capability to determine the voice quality of mobile network services.
POLQA, a unified solution to be released jointly by OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO, was selected as the winning approach after the underlying algorithms were subjected to extensive tests against more than 45,000 speech samples, from a broad range of targeted usage scenarios. This wide array of tests covers the entire range of today’s fixed, mobile and IP-based voice services of a traditional ‘vintage’ telephony quality with limited 3.4 kHz audible bandwidth.
“Over the last ten years test and measurement vendors have widely adopted ITU-T Recommendation P.862/PESQ (“Perceptual Evaluation of Speech Quality”) and there are now more than 20.000 installations worldwide,” explains Michael Keyhl, Founder and CEO of OPTICOM. “However, recently developed speech codecs for 3G and 4G, and new techniques for delivering an enhanced voice quality experience have generated strong demand for an update to this industry standard. POLQA is the answer the industry has been looking for.”
The POLQA coalition formed by OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO is the outcome of the competitive standardization process run by the ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union – Telecoms). An expert group within ITU-T spent more than four years evaluating various candidate algorithms to find a suitable successor to older standards. The candidate models submitted for testing by OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO were the only algorithms that clearly met the criteria in the ITU-T selection phase in June 2010, and OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO have agreed to combine their expertise into a joint solution. This joint solution is expected to be standardized in September 2010.
The new unified POLQA solution created by the coalition of OPTICOM, SwissQual and TNO is expected to be made available commercially in an aligned release process during September 2010.
“An enormous amount of effort has gone into ensuring POLQA works quickly and accurately. For example, more than 100,000 samples of mobile and VoIP phone calls were used to train and optimize the POLQA algorithm,” said Dr. Jens Berger, Head of Applied Research at SwissQual. “POLQA is superior to existing standards, and clearly has overcome all known issues and limitations of PESQ.”
The limitations of existing standards that are now addressed by POLQA became obvious in benchmarks of the CDMA and Chinese 3G TD-SCDMA networks, when employing specific speech codecs. POLQA will also offer immediate, strong support for testing of new wideband 4G/LTE networks delivering HD-quality voice services. Tests carried out during the POLQA evaluation also included future technologies such as Unified Communications, Next Gen Networks and 4G/LTE, which might support HD Voice, i.e. “wide-band” and “super-wide-band” telephone calls of 7 kHz and 14 kHz frequency range. The arrival of HD Voice capabilities is expected to signal the demise of classical band-limited telephony perception metrics.
TNO’s Senior Researcher Dr. John Beerends, who introduced the first perceptual speech quality metrics to the ITU-T in 1996 and was co-author of the PESQ standard stated: “We received a clear message from the telecoms industry, demanding a uniform successor of the PESQ standard, and I’m delighted that the rigorous testing that has gone into this evaluation shows clearly that the jointly-developed POLQA solution will be superior to existing and alternative approaches.”
POLQA is expected to be rapidly adopted as the successor technology to PESQ due to the close involvement of leading industry members from telecom operators, test and measurement vendors, equipment manufacturers and testing laboratories during the competition.