Some FM HDs Hope to Crank up the Volume on Monday

May 5, 2010

An FCC order permitting FM licensees operating IBOC digital hybrid signals to increase their digital power by 6dB without prior notice or by as much as 10dB by first filing an informal request is expected to go into effect on May 10, 2010, despite one request for review and a petition for reconsideration filed with the Commission to date.

Ibiquity Digital also filed a request to extend the filing deadline for comments in the proceeding, a move that would effectively block the FCC from further action in the matter until after the new order takes effect. The company said in an earlier letter that it expected some individuals might attempt to delay the order, and wanted more time to draft replies to their arguments.

Either way, some licensees, including public radio outlet WAMU, have taken an early bird approach by filing for STAs to increase their digital carrier power. The Washington, DC, NPR outlet reportedly increased their digital carrier from 170W to 680W on April 30, 2010.

If the order goes into effect Monday, as expected, don't expect digital reception range of every HD Radio FM station to zoom. An informal polling of engineers from several major commercial radio groups indicates that stations that already have sufficient headroom to make the +6dB to 10dB jump plan to do so, but that additional spending to increase facilities in the short term will be limited to select properties in the largest markets.

Public radio stations may be in a better position to take advantage of the increase since the current CPB digital conversion grant funding cycle has marked digital power increases as a priority item.

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