IBOC Update - Jan 12, 2005

January 12, 2005


  • Struble Predicts IBOC Consumer Products Will Flow Freely in '05
  • FCC Chairman Mum on IBOC R&O Timeline
  • Ibiquity Signs Licensing Agreement with River Radio
  • Radio Groups Promise Accelerated IBOC Rollout, Marketing in 2005
  • Neural, ACE on Board as Ibiquity Ramps up Certification Program
  • More Public Radio Broadcasters Receive CPB IBOC Conversion Grants
  • NPR Advances the Throttle on Tomorrow Radio
  • Ibiquity, Ilab America to Develop Fast-Track Receiver Plans
  • HD Radio Terminology
  • IBOC Across America

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    Struble Predicts IBOC Consumer Products Will Flow Freely in '05
    Ibiquity CEO Robert Struble says that the days of consumers having to search high and low for HD Radio-capable receivers are just about over. And judging from the number of new receivers on floor display at the Consumer Electronics 2005 Show, he may be right.

    Well-known consumer electronics firms like Alpine, Jensen and Eclipse showed products for after-market applications, while BMW displayed a prototype HD Radio ready audio system in one of its premium vehicles. The upscale European carmaker said it eventually plans to offer HD Radio as a U.S. option over its entire vehicle line, just as it will offer Eureka 147 DAB and DRM in overseas products. Struble also predicted that OEM HD Radio products will appear in some auto showroom floors this fall.

    FCC Chairman Mum on IBOC R&O Timeline
    As broadcast engineers across the country struggle to meet aggressive new IBOC conversion schedules dictated by their respective ownership groups, many are asking when they'll actually get to see the set of rules they'll be expected to operate under.

    They, and others who are asking exactly when to expect the long-awaited report and order regarding IBOC digital broadcasting, got little enlightenment from FCC Chair Michael Powell last week, as he sat in on a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. During that session, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President Gary Shapiro reportedly asked Powell whether the insertion of a digital copyright "flags" into broadcast programming would be mandated in the pending rulemaking, and when he expected the final Report and Order to be issued.

    Powell was said to be circumspect on both counts. Industry insiders say that no final decisions will be forthcoming from the FCC until it receives final recommendations from the NRSC IBOC standards working group (ISWG). Members of that body have said they intend to have a draft standard ready in time for a vote by the DAB subcommittee at the NAB 2005 Convention, slated to open on April 16. That date will mark the passage of one full year since the issuance of the FCC's final notice of proposed rulemaking on IBOC digital April 15, 2004. With that schedule in mind, some observers don't expect final action from the FCC any earlier than this summer.


    Ibiquity Signs Licensing Agreement with River Radio
    Ibiquity announced a licensing agreement with U.S.-based startup River Radio to develop and market a tabletop HD Radio receiver. The announcement marks River Radio as the second company to promise a stand-alone, in-home IBOC digital receiver, following the lead of Boston Acoustic late last year.

    River Radio CEO Richard Skeie says his company hopes to have its "high quality, low cost, transportable" product available to consumers by summer 2005.

    Radio Groups Promise Accelerated IBOC Rollout, Marketing in 2005
    No less than 21 of the United States' top radio broadcast groups have now committed to convert 2,000 AM and FM stations to transmit IBOC signals, according to an Ibiquity Digital press release issued at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Such a move would swell the ranks of the approximately 500 stations now licensed to use the company's HD Radio technology. In addition, many of the same ownership groups say they plan to join hands with consumer electronics manufacturers to aggressively promote and educate consumers about the benefits that HD Radio will bring them.

    The agreement to increase and accelerate IBOC conversions includes commitments from ABC Radio, Beasley Broadcast Group, Bonneville International, Clear Channel Communications, Cox Radio, Cumulus Media, Emmis Communications, Entercom Communications, Entravision Communications, Greater Media, Infinity Broadcasting, Jefferson-Pilot Communications, Journal Broadcast Group, Liberman Broadcasting, Nextmedia Group, Radio One, Regent Communications, Saga Communications, Sandusky Radio, Susquehanna Radio and Univision Radio.

    At a separate press conference, representatives of major groups such as Bonneville, Clear Channel and Radio One spoke out about their intention to aggressively promote IBOC digital technology to American consumers through point-of-purchase co-promotions with consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers. Strategies for informing and educating the public include promotion of high-speed data services IBOC broadcasters will offer, in addition to multicast and multichannel digital audio not available to analog radio listeners.

    The marketing effort will be bolstered by Ibiquity Digital, which also made news with its appointment of Bernie Sapienza to the post of vice president of retail business development. Sapienza has over two decades of management experience in consumer electronics marketing, and will focus primarily on the promotion of licensed HD Radio receiver products.

    Not coincidentally, both announcements come at a time when the profile of satellite radio has expanded exponentially, both in trade publications and popular media, propelled in large part by Howard Stern's move to Sirius. In a dramatic attempt to counteract any perception that local broadcasting may be eclipsed by satellite and Ipod technology, broadcasters will be voluntarily running $28 million worth of self-promotional spots from major artists with youth appeal using the tag line "Radio: You hear it here first." The NAB is spearheading the campaign.

    Neural, ACE on Board as Ibiquity Ramps up Certification Program
    Neural Audio and ACE Technologies of Korea are the latest additions to the list of companies certified by Ibiquity Digital for technical compatibility with its HD Radio standard.

    Neural Audio, teaming with Harris Corporation's Broadcast Communications Division, has developed the 5225 Mix-Edit Transcoder 5.1 surround sound system, which is scaleable and ensures backward and forward compatibility. The system enables broadcasters to mix, edit and save 5.1 content via a proprietary "watermarking" system that is compatible with existing 2.0 stereo equipment. While Neural claims to be the first "spatial" audio codec to receive approval, Ibiquity has already approved a surround matrix system marketed by SRS known as "Circle Surround." Nor is Neural likely to be the last such system to garner "approved" status, as other developers like Dolby, Orban/ Coding Technologies and Telos/Fraunhoffer prepare to compete for dominance of the emerging surround sound marketplace. In a move intended to advance its position, Neural recently announced that it is making its Spatial Environment Engine (SEE) technology for surround sound available to receiver OEMs for testing purposes.

    On a second front, Ace Technology, a South Korean-based manufacturer of RF technology, has signed a license agreement with Ibiquity to develop RF modules for HD Radio receivers. The company claims that increased availability of the modules will help HD Radio receiver manufacturers speed product development while holding down production costs. Ace will join earlier entrants Alps and Toko in the quest to provide receiver manufacturers with a bolt in HD Radio solution.

    In a related move, Ibiquity has announced the opening of an International HD Radio Certification Center at the Toko facility in Saitama, Japan. The new International Certification Center will provide technical support and product certification services for licensed HD Radio consumer electronics partners.

    Under the arrangement, engineers from Toko will test and evaluate HD Radio products, applying the same criteria used at Ibiquity's certification facility in Maryland. The data will then be compiled and forwarded to Ibiquity for certification of the product or device. According to Ibiquity COO Jeff Jury, the opening of an international HD Radio Certification Center will make the certification process more "timely and convenient, especially for Asian-based manufacturers."

    Toko is a multinational manufacturer of electronic components, sub-assemblies, and systems, and claims to be one of the world's largest manufacturers of miniature RF/IF inductor and filter products.

    Eye on IBOC

    More Public Radio Broadcasters Receive CPB IBOC Conversion Grants
    As a growing number of commercial radio groups demonstrated their growing commitment to advancing IBOC digital radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has announced an extension of its matching grant program for IBOC digital conversion to an additional 159 public radio stations.

    With matching funds of $21M to date, this brings the total number of public broadcast station grant commitments to 309. Another round of matching CPB funds is expected in 2005.

    NPR Advances the Throttle on Tomorrow Radio
    In a clear demonstration of faith that its Tomorrow Radio project is now ready for prime-time, National Public Radio (NPR) has moved two steps closer to deploying the technology with its member stations and the general public. The project is based on Ibiquity Digital's HD Radio platform, but has developed a versatile scheme for multiplexing audio codecs that could allow stations to multicast two full-fidelity program channels along with four voice grade channels over a IBOC hybrid signal.

    NPR recently revealed that it has already submitted test data to the FCC suggesting that data rates as low as 48kb/s yield satisfactory results from listening panels applying a criteria approximating "CD quality." That number is significant in that the overall audio bit rate available from an HD Radio hybrid signal tops out at 96 kb/s. NPR has asked the Commission to permit stations to determine their own bit rate provisioning structure on a flexible case-by case-basis, allowing each member station to tailor their program channel structure based on format needs. As an example, a station serving a culturally diverse market might choose a single 48 kb/s main program channel, and parse the remaining bandwidth among several other channels offering multi-lingual talk and community news operating at bit rates as low as 12 kb/s. There is even the possibility of tapping ancillary data capacity to carry the lowest bit rate codecs.

    Upping the ante at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Ben Roe, NPR director of music, announced NPR's commitment to deliver four new NPR HD Radio program streams covering music and news/talk. The target launch date for the first of these NPR channels is June 2005.

    "HD Radio is about more than additional programming," Roe said. "We are quickly discovering that HD Radio is an entirely new radio art form." Roe is also the executive producer of NPR's "Toast of the Nation" New Year's Eve special. On Dec. 31, 2004, "Toast of the Nation" was broadcast in 5.1 discrete surround sound for the first time in its 25-year history.

    Mike Starling, NPR vice president for engineering and operations, announced, "In addition to these significant programming commitments, we know that in order to hear great radio programming you need a great receiver. Today NPR is releasing a Request for Information (RFI) for a potential group buy of up to 50,000 HD Multicast receivers to all licensed HD Radio receiver manufacturers." Starling further indicated that NPR hopes to have FCC approval and receivers in hand by as early as this fall.

    NPR initiated the Tomorrow Radio project in January 2003. Currently there are 50 NPR member stations broadcasting in HD radio with a total of 312 public radio stations committed to convert in the coming months.


    Ibiquity, Ilab America to Develop Fast-Track Receiver Plans
    Ibiquity Digital has announced the formation of a strategic partnership with consumer electronics developer Ilab America to create reference designs for automotive, tabletop and home HD Radio products. With an expected availability date of Spring 2005, the suite of designs will provide a technical foundation for consumer HD Radio products and will be available to all HD Radio licensees. The new HD Radio reference designs are aimed at providing a fast-track solution for OEM Consumer Electronics manufacturers looking to add HD Radio to their product lines.

    "The creation of these reference designs will lower overall engineering expenses for companies as much of the difficult technical work will be done in advance. For HD Radio licensees, these designs can be used to help quickly enter market segments that might have otherwise been considered outside their niche. For others, it will help them gain entry to the HD Radio market where previously it was viewed as cost-prohibitive," said Jeff Jury, Ibiquity's COO. "We expect to see HD Radio products using these reference designs reaching consumers before the end of 2005."

    Ilab America maintains manufacturing operations in China and Singapore, while its CEO Wayne Boylan, oversees operations in the United States. The company specializes in the design and development of digital audio products and claims to expedite the process of bringing new product to market for OEMs by providing design-to-production solutions through a single source.

    HD Radio Terminology

    The language of HD Radio

    after-market A radio designed for purchase and installation some time after purchasing an automobile.

    compatibility When one system has little to no negative impact on another system, it can generally be considered compatible. In the case of FM IBOC tests, compatibility testing was performed to determine the extent to which the addition of an FM IBOC signal would impact analog system performance.

    IBOC Across America

    IBOC By State: Maine
    Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by State will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.

    Stations Format Market Owner On Air
    WMEW-FM 91.3 News/Clscl Augusta-Waterville Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMEH-FM 90.9 News/Clscl Bangor Maine Public Broadcasting Yes
    WMED-FM 89.7 News/Clscl Lewiston Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMEF-FM 106.5 News/Clscl Lewiston Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMEM-FM 106.1 News/Clscl Lewiston Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMEP-FM 90.5 Clscl/News Lewiston Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMEA-FM 90.1 News/Clscl Portland Maine Public Broadcasting No
    WMPG-FM 90.9 Educational Portland University of Maine System No

    To receive these articles twice a month in your e-mail, subscribe to the IBOC Update - Insight on HD Radio e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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