TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Digital Cellular Sound Quality

Digital Cellular Sound Quality

Jeffrey Mattox ((no email))
Mon, 7 Feb 2005 03:48:31 -0600

[Please withhold my email address.]

My old analog cell phone, a Nokia 918, has a cheap, grandfathered rate
plan, so I'm not likely to upgrade unless Cingular rips out their
analog equipment. Get this: the phone's logo is "Ameritech"!

Whenever I have a conversation with a modern cell phone user, it's
digital-ness is highly obvious because the sound quality is so bad.

I assumed digital meant higher quality. Even today, digital is called
"advanced technology." To wit:

Digital phones use advanced technology that converts voices
into numeric code, which is then transmitted to the phone and
decoded. ... Reception, sound quality, battery life, and
security features are superior to analog.

Well, it not very advanced from my perspective -- it's a step
backward. And to say that digital "sound quality .. [is] superior" is
a lie. Because of the low sample rate (is it 8 KHz?), it's not
possible to reconstruct perfect speech.

Is this situation ever likely to be improved? Why isn't it possible
to sample at a higher rate, compress the result in the phone for
transmission, and then decompress at the base (and do the same thing
for the reverse channel)? Are all digital cellular phones the same?
Aren't many people bothered by the horrible sound quality?


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