As the conversion to IBOC nears, the benefits of enhanced audio
quality for both AM and FM broadcasts are widely known. However, the
ability for broadcasters to transmit a wide variety of data services
along with their current audio programming promises to unlock entirely
new opportunities for broadcasters.
IBOC system capabilities
Ibiquity's IBOC system has been designed to support the broadcast of
data services in all modes of operation: FM hybrid and all-digital, and
AM hybrid and all-digital. In the hybrid mode, broadcasters will
continue to transmit an analog signal while adding the IBOC signal in
the sidebands. Each mode will have different data throughput rates, but
in each case a significant amount of data can be delivered representing
a substantial upgrade to the existing subcarrier services.
IBOC’s data capability will be able to provide enhanced radio
Due to the nature of the FM band, FM broadcasters will have the
greatest potential to leverage datacasting opportunities. The FM hybrid
mode can deliver up to 150kb/s of throughput. Our current design has
the maximum audio rate set at 96kb/s, which would result in 54kb/s
being available for data services. This rate, while only a one-way
transmission, far exceeds the throughput of other widely available
wireless transmission systems at a fraction of the cost. In the
all-digital mode, the capacity of the broadcast throughput roughly
doubles to approximately 300kb/s, ample capacity to support
five-channel surround sound and sophisticated data file transfers.
The AM band is significantly bandwidth limited in comparison, but it
will be able to deliver meaningful data services. In the hybrid mode,
the AM system will deliver 36kb/s throughput, delivering an
FM-like stereo audio signal while supporting text-based message
delivery. In the all-digital mode, the capacity of the AM system will
increase to 60kb/s with the maximum audio rate set at 56kb/s.
Both AM and FM will be able to selectively utilize channels and
carriers while at the same time dynamically controlling the audio
data-compression rate. Trade-offs between audio and data throughput can
be made in real-time as required or preset to support scheduled daypart
requirements, ensuring high audio quality while maximizing the
Radio data applications
Broadcasters will be able to provide basic programming information
like station identifiers, artist and CD labels and song titles
comparable to what satellite radio is currently delivering. This
capability will provide the foundation for other message-based services
that will enable broadcasters to generate revenue from their datastream
with enhanced advertising and information services.
As IBOC receivers advance and manufacturers take advantage of
enhanced displays, storage capacity and in-vehicle applications, the
utility of an IBOC data broadcast significantly increases. Broadcasters
will be able to brand programming for display on rear-seat
entertainment units, stream 800 numbers and URLs of advertisers for
easy retrieval from a receiver, deliver valuable information
inexpensively to a telematics provider's customers and update
integrated navigation systems with real-time traffic conditions and
location-based advertising. Couple these receivers with a return
channel and listeners would be able to complete transactions for
concert tickets, CDs or additional advertising information.
While these scenarios may seem futuristic, many companies have
already made significant steps towards enabling these services and
applications, increasing the value of a broadcaster's data capacity and
evolving into a significant revenue stream for stations.
Open applications development platform
To ensure that broadcasters and receiver manufacturers are
coordinated in the effort to make IBOC datacasting a reality, Ibiquity
launched a formal process in October 2001 to develop an Open
Applications Development Platform for IBOC. The goal of the IBOC
Wireless Data Working Group is to rapidly develop and disseminate a
protocol suite that facilitates application development and ensures
interoperability between broadcast and receiver technology.
Representatives from all major IBOC constituencies are participating in
this process including station owners, receiver and broadcast equipment
manufacturers, application developers and automakers. The development
process is structured in three phases:
Use case development. Identify core applications and
Device Profile Definition. Support the core applications and
Data Structures and Rules. Interface to functions and
The first two phases have been completed and the results will be
presented on April 6, 2002. Phase 3 is scheduled to be completed in the
summer of 2002. This will represent the baseline IBOC application
development environment that will be enhanced over time to support new
and emerging datacasting applications.
D'Angelo is director, PAC and wireless data business development,
for Ibiquity Digital.