On Oct. 11, the FCC issued a First Report and Order, which
stated that the FCC has selected in-band on-channel (IBOC) as the
digital radio broadcast technology of choice for AM and FM.
In the R&O, the FCC stated that by adopting IBOC, broadcasters
can “introduce digital operations efficiently and rapidly.”
This statement carries some truth because no other DAB system has been
developed for use in the United States. While Eureka 147 is being
rolled out in other parts of the world — with mixed feelings and
lackluster results — the commonly used L-band spectrum is not
available in the United States. The order also eliminates the TV
channel 6 spectrum as a potential new band; an idea that was supported
by NPR and others.
The R&O also states that the “adoption of a single IBOC
transmission standard will facilitate the development and
commercialization of digital services for terrestrial broadcasters, and
solicit industry assistance in the development of a formal
standard.” This is all well and good, but in reading the R&O,
you quickly see that while few details are given in the 27-page
document, some issues are clarified and a path has been set for the
The main issue presented is that stations have been given the
authority to commence transmitting a hybrid IBOC signal — a
signal with analog and digital components — if they wish.
A formal IBOC standard is not specified. The Commission has deferred
the standard-setting procedures and related broadcast licensing and
service rule changes until it issues a Further Notice of Proposed
There are three more key points in the R&O. While stations can
begin transmitting IBOC, they must still notify the FCC and obtain a
special temporary authorization (STA). Some broadcasters believed that
the FCC opened the field for an IBOC free-for-all. This is not the
case; an STA is still required.
The R&O also details the plan to prevent interference from
stations transmitting an IBOC signal. It allows stations to remedy
interference situations on their own first, and allows the IBOC
interferer to reduce its IBOC signal by as much as 6dB in the interim
to rectify the problem.
The final point is that the use of separate antennas — one for
analog and one for digital — is prohibited. Stations must use
their existing, licensed antenna systems.
When the FCC began its DAB evaluation, it established a list of 10
criteria to qualify its decision. These criteria specify that the
chosen system will provide 1) enhanced audio fidelity; 2) robustness to
interference and other signal impairments; 3) compatibility with
existing analog service; 4) spectrum efficiency; 5) flexibility; 6)
auxiliary capability; 7) extensibility; 8) accommodation for existing
broadcasters; 9) [practical] coverage; and 10) [reasonable]
implementation costs and affordability of equipment.
Does Ibiquity's IBOC meet all these criteria? The NRSC feels that it
does, with the exception of the AM nighttime service. At this time, the
interference from skywave signals is too great. However, the R&O
does allow IBOC transmission during the pre-sunrise and post-sunset
Cost is still a subject of debate. While the projected average cost
to a station depends on the capability of its existing equipment and
the station's audience reach, the FCC and Ibiquity argue that these
costs are not unreasonable. During my one-on-one session with Ibiquity
CEO Bob Struble at the Kagan Radio Summit last month, Struble commented
that the capital costs were a drop in the bucket in the overall
operations of a station. This statement carries some merit, but it
could force a station to incur the cost of a new transmission system
sooner than it had originally planned.
Specific details on the roll-out and specification will follow, but
the FCC has already made a point to not let this follow the same path
as the AM stereo roll-out.
The IBOC rollout has begun. An interesting ride is bound to
Read or download the complete First Report and Order at
this link: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-02-286A1.doc
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