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A New Codec of Note Is Expected in 2010

Fraunhofer, VoiceAge say the 'MPEG Unified Speech and Audio Codec' will be a notable advance for speech and music at very low bit rates.

Fraunhofer IIS and VoiceAge Corp. said their proposal for a new MPEG audio codec has been selected to provide the basis for ongoing standardization work.

They say the technology is the first audio codec to support high-quality compression of both speech and audio at very low bit rates. The working title of this codec is the MPEG Unified Speech and Audio Codec.

Expected uses include digital broadcasting, mobile TV and multimedia downloaded applications via wireless networks. It is expected to be completed in 2010.

Fraunhofer is the developer of MP3 and co-creator of AAC and MPEG Surround. VoiceAge develops digital speech and audio compression for devices that operate over fixed and mobile networks like the Internet, cellular and Wi-Fi as well as consumer electronics.

“Standardization body MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) initiated a global search for the new codec in October 2007, ultimately securing submissions from eight companies, many of them market leaders,” they said in the announcement.

“Following a very rigorous testing procedure that involved approximately 80 listeners in 11 test laboratories grading a total of 65,000 subjective responses, the new technology devised jointly by Fraunhofer IIS and VoiceAge Corp. was declared to be the winner during an MPEG session in July 2008, thereby becoming the basis for future standardization work.”

They say the codec will provide superior quality at very low bit rates between 12 and 64 kilobits per second for both music and speech in comparison to existing high-end audio and speech codecs, respectively.

The companies issued statements: “We are delighted that MPEG regards our proposal as the best foundation for this important new technology,” said Bernhard Grill, head of the Audio department at Fraunhofer IIS. He said enhancing quality of music and speech at lower bit rates is a priority for the organization.

VoiceAge officials said low bit rate audio is “paramount” for wireless networks and that speech is becoming an essential component of new multimedia broadcast and streaming applications. “With the spread of digital broadcasting systems and multimedia applications, this new standard will open exciting possibilities for service providers and users.”