HD Radio finds itself under attack in the courts from an unlikely agitator: the patent troll.
What is a patent troll? In a nutshell, they are scumbag bottom-feeders in the land of intellectual property law. Patent troll companies have no real business; they buy up existing patents and then launch campaigns of lawsuits against others that are using "their" technology, claiming that the defendants have violated "their" intellectual property rights.
The idea is to intimidate defendants into making quick settlements, avoiding a potentially costly lawsuit. Even though their claims often have no legal merit—or the patent itself is so vague as to be difficult to define—companies targeted by patent trolls will often settle just to get the nuisance out of their hair. While this might be tactically acceptable, it sets a terrible strategic legal precedent, as it gives a patent troll more courage to continue and expand their campaigns.
Legal scholars have estimated that patent trolls raked in some $29 billion from their nefarious activities in 2011. That same year, WBEZ’s This American Life produced an excellent episode that breaks down patent trolls and their modus operandi. The top five patent trolls in the country have collectively sued several thousand companies large and small over the last five years.
In the case of HD Radio, earlier this month a Delaware-based patent troll named Wyncomm, LLC, representing its "subsidiary," Delaware Radio Technologies (for all intents and purposes, both are shells established for the purposes of patent-trolling), sued several broadcasters using HD Radio. The primary patent at issue was initially awarded to AT&T in 1996 and covers "side channel communications in simultaneous voice and data transmission." The patent itself vaguely refers to telephony and wireless data services. Continue reading “HD Radio Gets Trolled”
The quiet collection of "evidence" on which to justify an all-digital HD Radio mandate for AM stations continues.
After some stealth experimentation on a CBS station in Charlotte, North Carolina late last year, there’s word of two other AM stations in the state conducting all-digital broadcast-tests this summer. The guinea pigs were WBT, a 50,000-watt station owned by Greater Media (also in Charlotte) and WNCT, a 50,000-watt (day)/10,000-watt (night) Beasley Broadcast-owned AM station in Greenville.
WBT secured experimental authorization from the FCC to conduct these tests just two weeks before they took place; WNCT also asked for fast-track authority less than a month before its all-digital broadcasts. Continue reading “Firming the Foundation for an All-Digital AM Mandate”
Every so often, iBiquity Digital Corporation CEO Robert Struble pens a column on iBiquity’s corporate website. His latest missive actually (and unintentionally) puts a very fine point on the malaise that is the U.S. digital radio transition.
"The one constant for all successful media transitions has been the passage of time, and that patient strategy is working for HD Radio Technology as well," writes Struble. He claims that HD receiver penetration is on a strong upward trend, with a new digital radio sold "every six seconds." Continue reading “iBiquity CEO: The Future of Digital Radio is Analog”
Kudos to Matthew Lasar for unearthing an ex parte gem from the FCC files. Clear Channel’s top engineering executive and chief lobbyist had a sit-down with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai earlier this month in which they covered a wide range of issues related to the state of AM broadcasting. Pai is pushing for an "AM Revitalization Initiative" at the FCC, which would consider several ideas related to finding sustainability for the nation’s oldest broadcast band. Continue reading “Clear Channel: Give Us More Translators Before Expanding LPFM”
An 11-page report, co-authored primarily by representatives of iBiquity, the NAB, and CBS, provides an overview of the methodology and preliminary results of a set of experimental all-digital HD broadcasts on WBCN-AM in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the first test of the all-digital AM-HD system in more than ten years.
The authors believe the test broadcasts served as "an opportunity to begin developing a contemporary…record that would help educate the industry as to the capabilities of all-digital operation, develop all-digital operational parameters, and provide information which could be eventually submitted to the FCC for the purposes of obtaining permanent authorization for all-digital service." Continue reading “Initial AM-HD All-Digital Test Results”
There’s been an interesting story playing itself out over the last month involving a company’s claims of discovering a way to dramatically improve reception of HD Radio signals.
Florida-based DigitalPower Radio announced in late March that it has developed a computational method that allows radio receivers a stronger lock on AM- and FM-HD signals, especially in areas where there might be analog-to-digital interference. Challenging conditions such as these have been detrimental to the robustness of HD signals more generally, for which the (FM) power increase implemented by some stations a couple of years ago only partially helped.
This improvement might be especially helpful in portable and mobile devices, as the change is made on a chip in the HD receiver, not on the transmission side. Continue reading “Digital PowerRadio Dispute: The Downside of Closed Systems”
The National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and HD Radio proponents used the event to begin the push to make the AM dial all-digital.
At a panel on "AM Band Revitalization" moderated by Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai – the first Commissioner to moderate a panel at the NAB Show – CBS Radio Senior Vice President of Engineering Glynn Walden told attendees that there was no sustainable future for analog AM broadcasting and that the FCC should set a date for an "for a digital AM sunrise and for an analog AM sunset."
Walden has been one of the broadcast industry’s point-people on HD Radio from the very beginning. He helped develop the system’s core technical design and specifications, co-founded the company from which iBiquity Digital Corporation was born, and was instrumental in lobbying the FCC to approve HD as the U.S. digital radio standard. With three HD patents to his name, Walden would like nothing more than to see his baby actually fly after languishing all these years. Continue reading “Greasing the Skids for AM's Digital Transition”
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its annual State of the Media report, and it does not have kind words for radio. It laments the decimation of radio journalism and documents how other digital audio platforms are gaining traction at the expense of broadcasters. It also minces no words about the state of HD Radio:
AM/FM’s beleaguered attempt to draw people back to radio through HD did worse than ever. For the first time since 2004, when HD radio receivers became available for retail sale, more radio stations dropped their HD signal [in 2012] than adopted the technology.
The entire mention of HD is just two paragraphs, and includes a graph illustrating the net decline in the number of HD stations on the air.
The technology’s proprietor, iBiquity Digital Corporation, was quick to pounce on the "error" of Pew’s analysis. iBiquity CEO Bob Struble claims there was a "net gain" of 16 HD stations in 2012. Continue reading “HD Radio: By the (Disputed) Numbers”
Radio World has awarded Paul Brenner its 2012 Excellence in Engineering award. Brenner, the senior VP and chief technology officer for Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications, has been the industry’s latest point-person regarding innovations involving HD Radio. He’s led the development of a prototype smartphone with FM-HD reception capability as well as an application that melds radio reception with “value-added” content delivered over the cellular network.
Brenner’s also president of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium – an alliance of some two dozen radio companies who, along with NPR, are exploring ways to use digital radio signals to deliver real-time traffic information. Brenner estimates that there are about 12 million navigation devices in use that utilize radio to receive traffic data, and that figure’s growing by about 1-2 million per year. Continue reading “HD Radio's Latest "Killer App" Isn't Radio”
One of the factors that’s hindering the proliferation of digital radio broadcasting in the United States is the reluctance of consumer electronics manufacturers to actually commit to making HD Radio-compatible receivers. Stand-alone receivers are nearly impossible to find in stores; only one portable model currently exists; and auto manufacturers are not exactly racing to embrace the technology.
This reluctance has been well-reflected in digital radio policy discourse. The Consumer Electronics Association, the trade group that represents receiver-manufacturers, has been critical of HD Radio for more than a decade now. Early on in the FCC’s deliberations over digital radio, CEA backed a standard that would have created a new-spectrum digital radio service; it was highly skeptical that HD would work as promised and was not happy with its wholly proprietary nature. Continue reading “CEA Throws iBiquity a Bone?”