Codec2, the open source low bit rate speech codec


The world can never get enough of open source goodies, especially in the realm of benefiting the communications community. Most of us enjoy reasonably good to really exceptional audio over IP with common programs like Skype and Google Voice, not to mention high quality (and expensive) gears from the likes of Avaya and Cisco. Obviously, the higher the voice quality, the more bandwidth it requires. That’s why there are companies whose bread and butter are compression algorithms and patented codecs.

Well, good for them. But a lot of the world still operate in low bandwidth, dial-up speeds. Fancy HD audio codecs wouldn’t stand a chance in many third world or developing economies. Cost effective communications technology is something that builds communities, spurs innovation, and stimulates economies. There is definitely a need for royalty free, open source, implementation friendly audio codecs.

Enter Codec2, first concocted by David Rowe, an engineer with a Ph.D. from south Australia.

Rowe is an embodiment of the open source movement. In his own words from his blog:

I’m David Rowe, an electronic engineer living in Adelaide, South Australia. My mission is to improve the world – just a little bit. I do this through releasing Free (as in speech) hardware designs and writing open source software for telephony. My passion is low cost telephony for people in the developing world. A telephone call should be a human right, not a privilege.

In January 2006 I quit corporate life as an Engineering Manager to become an open source developer. I now develop open telephony hardware and software full time. I like to build advanced telephony technology – then give it away.

Amazing. The world needs more generous developers like him!

More importantly, his work has gotten the attention of other developers and Ham radio enthusiasts. For example, popular open source soft switch FreeSWTICH recently included Codec2 support.

Currently in V0.1 alpha release, Codec2 is a fully functional 2550 bit/s codec. Check out the audio samples on the project page — not shabby at all for an alpha.

The project is looking for testers in real world implementations as well as developers and sponsors. Please consider helping its efforts.

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