Visitors to next week's 2010 NAB Show can expect to see HD Radio FM transmitters churning out elevated IBOC digital power levels on the show floor and plenty of HD Radio block diagrams (FM and AM) on-screen in the engineering sessions, as this year's digital radio focus swings back to HD Radio transmissions systems.
The biggest factor driving this reexamination is, of course, the FCC's January nod to increase FM IBOC digital carriers by as much as 10dB over previous levels. But while virtually all of the stations now operating FM IBOC would like to max out their digital power, many are finding it easier said than done. That fact hasn't been lost on equipment manufacturers feeling the pinch of draconian spending cuts affected by most broadcast groups in 2009. Look for solutions from companies such as Continental Electronics, which will have one of its 816 HD tube transmitters on the floor boosting a low-level combined hybrid signal to -10dBc.
They'll have plenty of company. Rumor has it that Broadcast Electronics will unveil a new technology dubbed Vector Power Enhancement that promises to boost the digital output of both the silicon and tube FM transmitters. On the performance side, Nautel's Philipp Schmid will talk about "Putting the IBOC Quality Metric to the Test" in a Sunday engineering session focusing on progress with that new metric's development by an NRSC working group.
And the action won't be limited to FM. Ibiquity's Jeff Detweiller is scheduled to present his firm's new v4.3 Exciter MPS Framework for AM, a technology that will reportedly allow AM HD Radio stations to trim their secondary and tertiary digital carriers to make room for higher analog bandwidths, with a commensurate trade-off in available digital bandwidth. New codecs optimized for a 20kb/s bit rate will round out this new analog-friendly approach to digital AM.
To be sure, there will be plenty of non-transmission-side technology presentations and displays, such as the second phase of development work on Electronic Program Guides performed under NAB's FastRoad initiative. But the big money will be riding on digital radio transmission, and manufacturers and vendors are no doubt praying for a payoff.
See you in Vegas.