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”
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”
The languishing state of digital audio broadcasting in the United States following its introduction more than two years ago has spurred the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerates to form an “HD Digital Radio Alliance” to facilitate the bona-fide rollout of digital service. Key to this campaign is the coming of what the Alliance calls “HD2 multicast sidechannels.”
The ability to broadcast multiple program streams on a single radio channel is relatively new to the U.S. digital radio environment. As initially developed over the last 15 years (!) the dominant U.S. digital radio protocol, now known as “HD Radio,” did not accommodate a multicasting feature: National Public Radio spearheaded its creation less than three years ago. Continue reading “Digital Radio Add-On Now Its "Killer App"”
Ibiquity Digital Corp., patent-holders on the In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) digital audio broadcast standard adopted by the U.S., announced its license fee structure earlier this month. Ibiquity’s technology is proprietary – therefore, going forward, digital radio broadcasting requires two licenses to broadcast: one from the government and one from Ibiquity.
In hopes of enticing early adoption, the initial “one-time” general IBOC license fee to Ibiquity begins at $5,000 per station. If stations wait just three years to convert, however, they will find that fee to be five-fold.
Then, there are the residuals: stations that multicast (i.e. carry multiple program streams on one channel) must pay Ibiquity 3% of the revenues derived from the second DAB channel, or $1,000, whichever is greater. This fee will be assessed annually. This is somewhat ironic because National Public Radio led the effort to develop IBOC-compliant multicast capability (something commercial broadcasters initially rebuffed). Continue reading “HD Radio: Pay to Play”
Digital radio is essentially streaming audio over the air. Anyone who’s handled an audio file knows the rule of thumb: the better the bitrate, the better the sound. In the file-sharing community most songs are offered is 128kbps – okay, not CD quality, but not cruddy like a tape dub. Some audio encoders offer better quality than others, due to subtle differences in the encoding algorithm each system uses.
For “HD Radio,” the U.S. brand name for digital radio, the bitrate for most stations is expected to be between 64-96kbps, with AM running as low as 36kbps. iBiquity, the company behind the system, promises “enhanced sound fidelity” at these bitrates. In May the National Radio Systems Committee disagreed, suspending the official standard-setting process for the IBOC technology (at the heart of “HD Radio”) after declaring its audio quality unsuitable for broadcast, jeopardizing the full-scale rollout of consumer receivers for that all-important holiday season in the process. Continue reading “IBOC Overhaul: Good As Advertised?”
Some news that didn’t make the headlines this week: Ibiquity Digital Radio has fired three executives over the ongoing flap involving the inferior sound quality of the IBOC “HD Radio” technology.
Of the three, the departure of E. Glynn Walden is the most notable: he’s been the company’s main contact for the broadcast industry, having worked on the IBOC system since 1989. Walden was also responsible for all testing of the new technology. Ibiquity says the departures are due to “cost reasons,” but methinks the company is shaking up its management after the current team gave birth to a digital dog. Continue reading “Heads Roll @ Ibiquity; LPFM Forced Off the Air; Berkeley Liberation Radio Alive and Well”
Guess what? The sound quality of the new “HD Radio” system sucks! That’s the verdict of none other than the National Radio Systems Committee, the industry-sponsored group that develops radio broadcast standards in the U.S.
In an internal memo dated May 14 (.pdf, 94K), Milford Smith, chairman of the NRSC subcommittee on digital radio, announced it is “temporarily suspending its IBOC-DAB standards-setting process.” This is due in part to the results of recent on-air tests and a private demonstration held at the Washington, D.C. studios of National Public Radio. The evidence mostly involves the AM side of the iBiquity-engineered digital radio system. Continue reading “Bump in the Road to Digital Radio”
At its October 10 meeting, the Commission’s decision to approve a standard for digital radio drew the headlines. But there were three items on the meeting’s agenda, one of which was the Enforcement Bureau’s release of its yearly Progress Report.
We’ve condensed the microradio-related enforcement news from the presentation and assembled a special report on what was revealed. My favorite highlight involves the Bureau’s number-fudging on enforcement actions finally catching up with it: the report claims fewer “pirate radio” enforcement actions than previous agency statements suggest. The discrepancy is not gigantic, but large enough to be noteworthy. Continue reading “Behind the Numbers @ the FCC Enforcement Bureau”