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Software Driving Cellular Improvements

By Doug Mohney September 09, 2014

If last week’s buzz out of IFA was “new mobile hardware,” the word this week at CTIA has to be software, software, software.   More specifically, software leveraging the increasing power of smartphones to simplify devices and improve network performance.

Cypher and Mobolize, exhibiting last night at the ShowStoppers evening event, provide examples of the overarching trend where CPU and storage capacity are being used to deliver improvements without additional hardware involved.

 Mobile voice quality is a hot topic with the rollout of HD voice and Voice over LTE (VoLTE). One of the issues involved with providing HD voice service is being able to clean up the “voice” part of a call, filtering out background noise.  Current approaches use a combination of dedicated silicon, either a chip or a part of a CPU, plus acoustic processing software to pluck out voice from a noisy environment before passing it along on a call.  Adding silicon means adding cost to the device.

Cypher, a Salt Lake City startup, uses a software-only approach by recognizing the unique pattern characteristics of voice within a media stream and ignoring everything else.  The company is using patented algorithms to provide up to a 99 percent reduction in noise and a 20 percent improvement in audio quality.  Its testing using ITU-benchmarks indicate sound quality improvements of up to seven times on the Apple iPhone and twice as much on the Samsung S4.

Easily integrated into a smartphone or any VoIP app, Cypher says its technology can be used to dramatically improve voice quality across a range of technology categories. CEO John Walker said the software uses “minimal” battery power when in operation.  Some carriers are asking for an software “on switch” to turn on the filter while a future implementation option may be to monitor background noise with Cypher kicking into filter mode once background noise hits a certain threshold.

Mobolize plays in the data space, describing itself as the “provider of Mobile Endpoint Optimization.”  It’s a fancy description for the Ye Olde IT Schoole practice of caching, specifically being able to storage the most frequently accessed same pieces of data locally, rather downloading the same data every time you go to load a website or app screen. 

Since caching is done on the phone – yes thank you 8 GB and larger flash storage capacity – there are no hardware costs of plugging in servers throughout the network or at the cell towers themselves.  A Mobolize spokesperson said carriers reduce overall cellular network traffic by up to 50 percent, with a potential return on investment of a couple of months after installing the software on end-devices. Cost to implement the software client with a carrier license is under a dollar per device.

The key thing to remember with both solutions is that they leverage capacity and software residing on the mobile device.  You’ll hear a lot of buzz about NFV-based solutions and beefing up processing power at the cell tower, but I think we’ve yet to scratch the surface of how increasing capacity at the device level will lead to improvements throughout the cellular network.  Carriers may start more aggressive subsidization of higher-end mobile devices because they bring benefits to the overall network.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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