XM, Sirius Pull Pirate Transceivers

So it would appear that various models of mobile satellite radio receivers are indeed little pirate stations that can intermittently and over short ranges jam other FM radio stations as their owner/listeners drive around. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing made by XM this week discloses that XM and at least one receiver manufacturer have been contacted by the FCC about bringing certain models of mobile satellite receiver “into compliance” with “FCC emission standards.”
Aftermarket, add-on mobile receivers contain small FM transmitters that take the satellite signal and relay it to a car stereo tuned to a certain FM frequency. Similar kits are available to allow people to listen to other audio devices on the road. The National Association of Broadcasters says some models of these transceivers contain FM transmitters that are too powerful, and thus technically require licenses to operate. Interestingly, the NAB report suggests some of these devices may also interfere with the reception of digital “HD” radio signals, since these, in the words of its report, occupy
“vacant” adjacent channels, it is likely that these are the exact channels a user would choose upon which to operate one of these devices. To the user, the “noise” like HD Radio carrier appears to be a vacant channel. However, with the wide modulation capability and strong signal levels emitted by these devices, it is likely that significant interference to the much lower power HD Radio signals would be caused. Continue reading “XM, Sirius Pull Pirate Transceivers”

FCC Punts on HD Rulemaking

Thursday’s Commission meeting was delayed by five hours; during the delay the agency revised the meeting agenda, announcing that the digital radio item had been pulled. No reason given, except, “it isn’t done.” One could say the same about the HD Radio protocol itself, but that’s not stopping radio’s major players from shoving it onto the air.
In related news: how much fresh content does digital radio multicasting really offer? Most HD-R side-channels run what is called a “hard clock,” meaning a set playlist with few or no updates. According to Mark Lapidus, “When they [reviewers of HD radio receivers] don’t discover the repetition, I figure that they just really haven’t listened very much. However, real listeners will catch on quickly as they hear the same song at the same time every day.” What kind of content diversity does one expect when the largest provider of HD multicast programming is Clear Channel?

FCC to Further Rubber-Stamp IBOC/HD Radio

The Federal Communications Commission’s monthly meeting goes down on Thursday, and the second-to-last item on its agenda is the adoption of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the certification of “HD Radio,” the digital audio broadcast technology of-choice for the U.S. radio industry.
Though the HD Radio system has not yet been formally certified, a relatively vigorous campaign is underway to deploy it. Rush deployment before formal certification of a technology results in what is called “the creation of facts on the ground,” demonstrating the technology’s functionality and increasing the pressure on its regulator to approve its usage (since it’s already out in the wild, failing to certify it puts the regulator in the position of nullifying billions of dollars of investment). Continue reading “FCC to Further Rubber-Stamp IBOC/HD Radio”

Radio Convergence: The Next Step

The definition of “radio” just got more complicated. Walk into any big-box electronics store and ask for “digital radio,” and they’ll (more likely than not) point you to XM and Sirius satellite receivers – much to the consternation of terrestrial radio broadcasters, who want their “HD” technology to be synonymous with “digital.” Receiver manufacturers are also blurring this boundary – one will soon roll out a receiver which is both XM and HD-compatible.
Now, XM has filed for a patent on the process of taking an XM satellite radio signal and rebroadcasting it as one of the channels on an HD-equipped FM radio station. This is actually somewhat easier than it might sound, because the audio encoding algorithms used by HD radio and satellite radio are related – they’re products of Lucent Technologies. Lucent has not only licensed its codec technology to XM and Sirius, but it’s a partial-owner of iBiquity Corporation, the company that owns the HD radio technology. Continue reading “Radio Convergence: The Next Step”

Public Broadcasters Want Digital Interference Examined

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting seeks proposals to conduct a study of digital radio interference – both existing and projected – in 75 radio markets around the country, including the top 50. According to the RFP announcement, “CPB is concerned with the disenfranchisement of listeners due to the loss of services public radio currently provides to them and the underperformance or lack of HD service…when the conversion of public radio stations to HD is complete.”
The document itself notes, “CPB has received reports that existing analog listeners have lost reception of their favorite public radio station when new HD signals have gone on the air.” Continue reading “Public Broadcasters Want Digital Interference Examined”

IBOC Reception and Politics Panned

Interesting hubbub in the trades surrounding the first digital radio-compatible receiver to hit the U.S. market, the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD. For $299 it promises to “receive and seamlessly play” HD Radio signals, including the new multicast channels some HD-equipped stations have begun broadcasting. But when a New York-based broadcast veteran plunked down the cash and got the box home, he found it didn’t work as advertised.
I went to the Ibiquity Web site to find that there were at least 13 stations broadcasting in HD in New York. One by one I tried to tune them in, and one by one I was met with frustration. Constant fiddling with the antenna yielded part-time successes. I managed to get Z100’s second channel for about three seconds, then three seconds of dead air, then on, then off…. Continue reading “IBOC Reception and Politics Panned”

IBOC Update: HD Radio in the Media, Court

The issue of interference involving digital radio broadcasting on the AM band using the IBOC protocol has made it into the corporate media. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece earlier this month on the problem. However, smoothes it over as an “unexpected consequence,” which is false: the interference is due in part to the very design of the HD Radio system. Digital-related interference also affects FM transmissions, though not nearly as severely.
The article does note that Leonard Kahn, inventor of the CAM-D AM digital broadcasting protocol, has filed suit against iBiquity on antitrust grounds. As iBiquity’s backers are essentially the major broadcasters and consumer electronics manufacturers, Kahn accuses the “cartel” of imposing a proprietary digital radio standard on the country before the FCC’s had a chance to evaluate competitor technologies like his. Continue reading “IBOC Update: HD Radio in the Media, Court”

HDradio.com Launched

The HD Digital Radio Alliance has launched its own web site, HDradio.com, which is being marketed as “the new epicenter of consumers’ digital radio lifestyle.” The site’s main press contacts, Kim Holt and Michele Clarke, work for Brainerd Communicators, a PR firm that deals with “corporate & executive positioning,” “media management,” “issue & crisis management,” and “consumer & viral marketing,” among other specialties.
The site has lots of content but no real substantive information. Even so, a couple of interesting aspects can be found. There’s a section of audio samples that purport to compare traditional analog AM and FM radio to the new HD sound. The analog samples often include demonstrable interference artifacts, like bits of static and fading, as if the recordings were made near a station’s fringe-coverage area or the receivers were slightly mistuned. The HD radio clips, of course, are interference free. Continue reading “HDradio.com Launched”

Digital Multicasting Rollout Begins

The consortium of major broadcasters pushing digital radio are wasting no time deploying what they believe to be its “killer app,” multicasting – the ability to split a single radio channel into multiple program streams. Earlier this month they announced the rollout of digital multicast signals in several dozen markets. The broadcasts introduce industry-coordinated secondary program channels featuring formats like “Classical Alternative,” “Coffee House,” “Female Talk,” and “Extreme Hip-Hop,” and some miscellaneous strangeness. For now, these channels will be offered without commercials.
My ongoing research into digital radio is dredging up lots of interesting information, much of which has a direct impact on the viability of multicasting. Continue reading “Digital Multicasting Rollout Begins”