Fraunhofer IIS Licenses LC3 Audio Codec Software to Microsoft

July 10 2020, 00:20
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS announced the licensing of its LC3 software implementation to Microsoft Corp. LC3 (Low Complexity Communication Codec) is the audio codec adopted for Bluetooth LE Audio, a new audio architecture designed to boost the performance of Bluetooth Audio – for voice calls as well as for media playback including music. Following the news that Microsoft had licensed the xHE-AAC codec and MPEG-D DRC software implementation from Fraunhofer IIS, the addition of LC3 is a logic step.

The LC3 audio codec is a fundamental part of the new LE Audio specifications that are expected to be released by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) in 2020, as part of the new Bluetooth Core Specification Version 5.2. The Fraunhofer IIS is the largest of all Fraunhofer Institutes and is one of the world’s leading application-oriented research institutions for microelectronic and IT system solutions and services. In the area of “Audio and Media Technologies”, the institute has been shaping the digitalization of media for more than 30 years now.

Fraunhofer IIS was instrumental in the development of mp3 and AAC and played a significant role in the digitalization of the cinema. Current developments are pushing new virtual reality, automotive sound systems, mobile telephony, streaming and broadcasting applications with better and more efficient solutions. Audio technologies developed by the institute, including codecs already provide the basis for more than half of all TV broadcasts worldwide and almost all radio and streaming services.

The LC3 codec is a joint development by Fraunhofer IIS and Ericsson and provides high-quality speech and audio, even at low data rates, overcoming essential shortcomings in today’s wireless communication platforms. A reduction of the required bit rate by roughly 50 percent compared to the legacy SBC codec facilitates low-energy audio services – making it possible either to extend products’ battery life or to create smaller devices. 

The codec’s complexity meets the requirements of wireless communication platforms and operates at low latency and low memory footprint. Due to the flexible codec design, applications are not limited to voice services but can be extended to high resolution music streaming (up to 24-bit/96kHz at 550kpbs) when implementing the codec’s LC3plus superset.
Quality perception of the new LC3 audio codec in comparison with the two existing modes of the SBC codec used in classic Bluetooth.
At the minimum bit rate of just 160 kbps, the LC3 audio codec is perceptually superior to the SBC codec at twice the bit rate. This more efficient mode also allows 50% lower power designs.
“We are very pleased that Microsoft has decided to license our LC3 implementation. The amount of requests we receive for LC3 and its superset LC3plus prove that industry demand for this low-complexity, low-energy and optimized audio quality solution is overwhelming, even before final adoption by Bluetooth SIG,” says Manfred Lutzky, head of the Audio for Communications department at Fraunhofer IIS.
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