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Ofcom: Telcos to make calls easier for disabled consumers

Ofcom is proposing an overhaul of UK telecoms to make things easier for those with hearing and/or speech impairments. Plans to upgrade text relay services, which converts speech to text and vice versa, were published last July. The proposal was that next-generation text relay services (NGTR) would:

“provide users with the ability to interrupt conversations, have two-way speech and the ability to benefit from the use of mainstream equipment. As with the current rules, our proposal was that all fixed and mobile communications providers should provide access for their customers to an NGTR service approved by Ofcom.”

Following on from July, Ofcom has published a list of performance indicators by which the effectiveness of NGTR calls would be measured.

From launch, NGTR would require voice to text transcriptions to be more than 98 per cent accurate, for a minimum of 40 words per minute to be received across calls with an average of 60 words per minute.

Ofcom: You cannot be Siri-ous?

Ofcom research has also found that existing text relay services are slow and ‘fail to flow naturally.’ It’s bad enough when Siri on the iPhone 4S doesn’t accurately compute our instructions – wilfully or otherwise.

Ofcom’s main aims are to improve the conversational flow and speeds and make NGTR available on mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs – so as well as over the phones, we’ll be seeing Skype-style NGTR services launching.

Ofcom has announced that it’s also consulting on video relay services, aimed at users of BSL (British Sign Language). Mobile operators blocking Skype may want to take note.

NGTR video calls will require “a broadband connection with data rates high enough to deliver high quality video.” Something which won’t be possible in the UK until the arrival of 4G or superfast broadband/FTTC in your area.

Ofcom concedes that video relays may not be a requisite for carriers, but is also weighing mandatory ‘implementation of on a restricted basis,’ possibly in Wi-Fi-only areas like Apple’s Facetime.

Telcos and networks have until the 13th of July to respond to Ofcom’s proposals. You can read the full report here.

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