We're Not Crazy: Nearly 25% of US Cellphone Calls Below Standard Quality

Turns out, I'm not going deaf. Phones are just still delivering really shitty sound quality, according to a worldwide audit. Analysing data from 630 million live calls from 16 carriers in 12 countries, Ditech Networks' voice-quality team determined that nearly 40% of all calls failed to meet set industry standards, and even in developed markets like the US and Western Europe, the proportion was close to a quarter. "Objectionable" faults included ambient noise, acoustic echo, and voice-level mismatch, where either the caller or speaker is too damn quiet—or deafeningly loud.

Mind you, Ditech is not a disinterested party, but a company whose mission is to improve "voice quality through continuous innovation and leadership for the world's communications companies." It's a little like the door-to-door vacuum salesman coming in to show you how dirty your carpets really are. But the press release below contains details of the study, which in my opinion corroborates what I myself have experienced, and what you've probably dealt with too. Unfortunately, they're not breaking it down by carrier, though their customers do include Sprint, Verizon and AT&T (but not, apparently, T-Mobile), so it's at least a reasonably thorough US sample. [Ditech Networks]

Audit of 630 Million Live Mobile Calls Shows 39% Fall Below Industry Minimum Standard For Voice Quality

Largest Wireless Audit Finds Startling Percentage Of Live Calls In The "Churn Zone"

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Feb. 6, 2008- Ditech Networks (NASDAQ: DITC), a leading provider of voice quality solutions to the global communications industry, today announced the results of its worldwide voice quality audit, which showed that an average of 39 percent of all mobile calls fall below the industry minimum standard for voice quality, often called the "churn zone". The data was captured in the largest audit conducted in the mobile services industry to measure how mobile devices and the caller's environment affect voice quality. Ditech collected and analyzed information obtained from more than 630 million live mobile calls in 16 different networks across 12 countries.

Ditech's audits quantified for the first time significant sources of subscriber dissatisfaction, and prove that some of the biggest and most urgent problems facing the worldwide mobile services industry are voice quality impairments caused by the places where people make calls, and by the wide variety of mobile devices like phones and headsets. Industry research has shown that calls falling below the industry minimum for voice quality often lead to churn, which is when dissatisfaction is so strong that the subscriber terminates service.

The full report is available from Ditech by calling 650-623-1365, or by going to www.ditechnetworks.com/auditreport.htm

"Mobile service is about making calls from almost anywhere, and users expect their carrier to deliver acceptable voice quality regardless of where the call is made or what device they're using," said J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Analyst, Mobile & Wireless Communications, at Frost & Sullivan. "Even though these kinds of voice quality problems occur outside the carrier's network, users still blame their carrier and drop their service. By removing the effects of these external impairments, carriers can gain a strong competitive advantage."

Ditech's audits uncovered a number of startling facts about voice quality in the mobile services industry:

• In mature markets such as the U.S. and Western Europe, 23 percent of all calls fall below the industry minimum.
• In rapid growth markets, such as the Middle East, India and South America, 59 percent of all calls fall below the industry minimum.
• Ambient noise, or noise that originates in the caller's environment and enters the device's microphone, was rated "objectionable" on up to 50 percent of all calls in some regions.
• Acoustic echo, which is often caused by mobile handsets and headsets, was rated "objectionable" on up to 11 percent of all calls in some regions.
• Voice level mismatch, which makes it sound like a caller is speaking either too loudly or too softly, was rated "objectionable" on up to 28 percent of all calls in some regions.

"Until Ditech's audits, mobile service providers only had data about network-induced voice quality problems, which are issues that originate within the network, or subjective information from consumer public opinion surveys," said Todd Simpson, President and CEO of Ditech Networks. "When voice quality impairments originating from the subscriber's environment are added to impairments originating in the network, the communications industry finally has a complete and accurate picture of actual voice quality that is experienced by customers. Carriers now have actionable information for pinpointing the sources of voice quality impairments, like ambient noise and echo."

The audits were conducted using Experience Intelligence (EXi), a technology developed by Ditech that quantifies the impact of voice quality impairments caused by the places where people make calls, codec impairments, and mobile devices like phones and headsets. EXi is based on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) G.107 E-Model, a widely used industry standard, and the technology has been utilized in the communications industry as a complement to existing voice quality test and measurement solutions.

The audit data was used to derive an R-Factor, which is a 1-100 (best) rating system developed by the ITU to assess customer satisfaction with voice quality. The R-Factor was converted to a Mean Opinion Score (MOS), which is widely used in the mobile services industry to rate voice quality on a scale of 1 to 5 (best.) The ITU has set the minimum level of acceptable voice quality at R-Factor 50, or MOS 2.5. Voice quality that is rated below these minimums is considered unacceptable.

In September 2007, Ditech released a report on the global economic impact of dissatisfaction with mobile call quality, and found that the communications industry is already feeling the pinch. Poor voice quality is believed to have caused more than 66,583,174 mobile subscribers to leave their service provider during 2007, ultimately costing the global mobile services industry approximately $23.6 billion. The report is available on Ditech's website at www.ditechnetworks.com.

Note to editors: For further information about how EXi is being used in the communications industry, see Ditech's announcement made on Jan. 30, 2008.

About Ditech Networks

Ditech Networks is shaping the future of voice quality through continuous innovation and leadership for the world's communications companies. Ditech's voice quality solutions are deployed in wireless and wireline networks to optimize the call experience. By delivering consistent, dependable voice quality, Ditech's products help global communications companies meet the multiple challenges of service differentiation, network expansion and call capacity. Ditech's customers include Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, Orascom Telecom, AT&T, China Unicom, Global Crossing and West Corporation. Ditech Networks is headquartered in Mountain View, California. For more information, visit www.ditechnetworks.com.

Forward Looking Statement

This press release contains forward-looking statements regarding Ditech Networks' expectations of the benefits the global communications industry will receive using Ditech's EXi solution. Actual results could differ materially as a result of unanticipated factors and events, including the risk that Ditech Networks' EXi solution may exhibit unforeseen technical problems that will preclude those benefits from being utilized, as well as those detailed in the "Future Growth and Operating Results Subject to Risk" in Part I, Item 2 of Ditech Networks' Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Oct. 31, 2007 (filed Dec. 7, 2007 with the Securities and Exchange Commission).

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