Effects of line delay and noise on bystanders' perceptions of mobile phone conversations

David Ponevac, University of Texas at El Paso


Numerous government and private entities around the world have banned mobile phone usage in public and private places. Bystanders complain about mobile phone conversations and find them extremely annoying and intrusive. The question here is: "Why do we find them so annoying?" Previous research in this area has shown that loudness and hearing only one side of the conversation are contributing factors; other work has compared mobile phone conversations to face-to-face conversations and found that the majority of the subjects tested find the mobile phone conversations more annoying. No one so far has been able to show that these factors provide the full explanation. This thesis takes a look at the technological aspect of mobile phone conversations. When talking on a mobile phone, the audio signal, i.e. your voice, goes through several changes before it is transmitted across the network. The analog audio signal is taken from the microphone and using a codec it is converted into a signal that is optimized for transmission. During this process certain amount of time is consumed by the encoding process and the audio quality is lowered because the signal is compressed. My hypotheses are that the increased delay and lowered audio quality induced by a codec causes annoyance not only to talkers, but also to bystanders. I have devised two experiments, one for testing the effects of increased delay on bystanders and one for the effects of lowered audio quality. Using a software simulator that I built, I was able to inject delay into conversations and test the first hypothesis. For the audio quality experiment I used Citizen's Band walkie-talkies at different distances to test the second hypothesis. My results show that increased delay and lowered audio quality do affect bystanders in a negative way.

Subject Area

Computer science|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Ponevac, David, "Effects of line delay and noise on bystanders' perceptions of mobile phone conversations" (2006). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1439468.