Skype To Give Away Audio Codec

By offering its Silk audio codec for free, Skype is trying to get its VoIP service on as many devices as possible.

Marin Perez

March 5, 2009

2 Min Read
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Skype this week said it would soon offer third-party developers and hardware makers a royalty-free license to its Silk wideband audio codec.

The Silk codec was introduced in the 4.0 version of the company's voice-over-IP service, and the eBay-owned subsidiary said it provides optimized call quality even in low-bandwidth environments. Skype said Silk provides real-time scalability to handle degraded network conditions, and it can achieve super wideband audio quality on 50% less network than previously required.

The company spent millions of dollars and more than three years developing Silk, and it said it makes VoIP calls sound like you are in the same room as the person you're speaking with. Most telephones transfer signals up to 3.4 kHz, but Silk enables Skype calls to transmit audio up to 12 kHz.

"By offering it for free, we are removing one of the biggest hurdles to adoption of wideband audio: cost," wrote Skype's Jonathan Christensen on Skype's blog. "By doing so, I hope we'll establish a new industry-wide standard in speech processing: clearer, richer, and warmer audio."

Giving away the codec could be seen as Skype giving up a competitive advantage, but it plays into a long-term strategy of getting its service on as many devices as possible. The company already has an installed base of about 405 million, and the vast majority of users are on desktop computers. Offering the codec for free will encourage device manufacturers to integrate Skype into things like smartphones, cell phones, and mobile Internet devices.

Skype already is making moves to get its service onto other platforms, and it has released calling services for Android and Java-enabled phones. The company also has partnered with Nokia to have its VoIP software preloaded on smartphones like the N97.

SIP Push-to-Talk holds promise of using a VoIP infrastructure to streamline communication with two-way, walkie-talkie-like call functionality. But is your infrastructure ready for it? InformationWeek analyzed this issue in an independent report, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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