Nokia Places the World’s First Phone Call in Spatial Audio

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Key Takeaways

  • Nokia has made the first spatial audio phone call.
  • The technology is part of the 5G Advanced standard.
  • Devices could be available late this year, but networks may take a while to catch up.

Nokia has completed what it says is the first “immersive” phone call using a new standard for spatial audio calling on cellular networks.

Company chief Pekka Lundmark talked to Finland digitalization ambassador Stefan Lindström using the 3GPP alliance’s Immersive Voice and Audio Services (IVAS) format.

The technology promises not just higher-quality calls, but ones that are much closer to being in-person than the mono experience you get today.

IVAS is part of the upcoming 5G Advanced (5GA) cellular standard and could be available to many phones that support the next-generation service when it rolls out. Lindström also noted that technologies like this could be particularly helpful for mixed reality and the metaverse.

On top of spatial audio, 5G Advanced promises about 20% higher data rates than baseline 5G, with lower lag, more accurate location data, and more efficient networks that use AI to optimize connections.

You may see 5G Advanced phones launching in earnest in late 2024 or early 2025. Network support is another matter, however. While 5G has now been available for several years, deployments haven’t finished yet — some carriers may be reluctant to update their networks if they need new hardware.

Spatial audio certainly isn’t necessary for phone calls, and the full effect will need supporting earbuds or headphones like more recent AirPods and the Sonos Ace. However, this is also the first truly significant development in cellular voice calling in a long time. Voice over LTE and similar technology improved quality, but didn’t change the number of channels.