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An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
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Battle Over Digital Broadcast Flag Back on Hold
Opponents of the digital broadcast anti-copy flag received a reprieve last week as Congress moved a bill mandating a hard analog TV cut-off forward without a proposed amendment that would have attached a digital copy flag requirement for TV and radio broadcasters. But a pledge to support separate legislation requiring use of the flag by a bipartisan group of congressional representatives left little doubt that the issue won't surface again--and soon.
Congress took up the anti-piracy flag issue in the wake of an appellate court's decision that the FCC exceeded its authority when it required TV broadcasters to apply flag security technology to digital TV content.
Gigi Sohn, president of the lobby group Public Knowledge, expressed her pleasure that the flag amendment had not moved forward, suggesting that "the [Commerce] Committee should have an in-depth examination of [the] issues as part of its regular order" and that her group would welcome such a debate.
Public Knowledge, along with other consumer and industry groups, opposes the flag requirement, saying that it would unduly restrict fair use of broadcast programming by end users.
BE, Orban, and Jampro Present HD Radio at Clarke Institute
Representatives from several major U.S. broadcast equipment producers presented a technical overview of HD Radio at the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Oct. 25.
Presenting at the event were Chuck Kelly, Broadcast Electronics director of international sales; Luis Endara, director, worldwide sales for Orban/CRL; Alex Perchevitch, president of Jampro Antennas; and Thilak de Silva with Sri Lanka Telecom. Speaking on behalf of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute were Chairman KY Perera, Dr. S. Namasivayam and L. Faleel.
Futurists, broadcasters and telecommunications experts attended the event commemorating the 60th anniversary of Arthur C. Clarke's landmark paper entitled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays." Since its publication in Wireless World in 1945, this seminal article on satellites is thought by many to have transformed communications. Sir Clarke established the institute in 1984, which is now actively involved in communications, electronics, microelectronics and information technology. The world-famous scientist and science fiction writer was unable to attend the presentation, although Kelly and the other speakers met with him in his home.
DAB Tunnel Safety Application Introduced
Software-configured receiver developer Radioscape has teamed with electronics company Tyco in rolling out a new DAB safety broadcast system for use in European highway tunnels. The Radioscape Tunnel Alert replaces audio on all the DAB audio services being rebroadcast in a crisis-afflicted tunnel with live emergency messages, providing the occupants of the vehicles in the tunnel with appropriate emergency instructions. Systems have been in existence to deliver this service on FM for some time but Tunnel Alert is the first to provide DAB coverage.
Prompted by the Mont Blanc disaster a few years ago, a recent EU mandate requires that long tunnels (over 500 meters) must have an emergency broadcast system that will automatically change the in-car entertainment system to the emergency channel. Tunnel Alert accomplishes this mission by monitoring specified on-air DAB multiplexes outside the tunnel, rebroadcasting them inside, and dynamically updating the in-tunnel DAB multiplexer system to follow their configuration. The local multiplexer can then be switched in to replace the rebroadcast signal if an incident occurs, encoding the warning messages in real-time. In this way, all DAB car radios in the tunnel switch seamlessly from the external service to the warning message.
There are more than 2,000 tunnels in Europe that require such a system. The first tunnel to have Tunnel Alert installed will be the Rotherhithe Tunnel in the UK, which is expected to go live early next year.
Radioscape developed the system in cooperation with Tyco Traffic and Transportation, specialists in tunnel safety systems.
Worldspace Gets OK for Terrestrial Repeaters
Worldspace has announced that the Telecommunications Regulatory Authorities (TRA) of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have granted the company licenses to operate terrestrial repeater networks. The licenses will enable Worldspace to deploy mobile satellite radio services in those countries beginning in the first half of 2006.
The UAE and Bahrain are attractive markets for Worldspace services. The UAE has a population of more than four million people with about one million vehicles. Bahrain has a population of about 700,000 with about 630,000 vehicles.
Worldspace provides digital satellite radio broadcast service covering Africa and Asia with six beams. Each beam is capable of delivering as many as 80 channels of high quality digital audio and multimedia programming directly to compatible satellite radio receivers.
WBUZ Adds FM Extra
Interested observers in America's country music capitol got a different slant on IBOC digital radio this week, courtesy of WBUZ, a Class C FM broadcast station operating with a Digital Radio Express (DRE) FM Extra digital encoder.
WBUZ Chief Engineer David Wilson performed installation of the Digital Radio Express encoder to demonstrate the system's digital multicast capability before a fall meeting of the International Idea Bank. Also in attendance at the installation were Bernie Wise, president of Energy-Onix, and Bud Walters, president of Cromwell Radio Group, owner of WBUZ.
Transmitting two digital stereo program channels and one RDS signal, in addition to analog stereo program audio, WBUZ's signal was reportedly received and decoded successfully in an area said to be prone to multipath reception. The transmission chain consisted of the station's existing Mosley analog STL, Energy-Onix 25kW transmitter and analog studio equipment.
The WBUZ transmitter is located about 40 miles from the site of the meeting in downtown Nashville.
Struble, Field, and Claudy Address NAB Radio Board
Ibiquity CEO Robert Struble joined Entercom CEO David Field and NAB Senior VP for Technology Lynn Claudy to bring an assembled NAB radio board of directors up to date on the progress of HD Radio's rollout nationwide.
Field brought the meeting to order with a keynote address reiterating the priority the NAB has attached to making IBOC digital broadcasting a hit with consumers.
Struble reported that the pace of HD Radio adoption continues to gain momentum, bolstered by widespread support from major radio ownership groups like Clear Channel, Entercom and Infinity. He also noted that 40 stations are now multicasting HD radio signals, while the number of manufacturers offering compatible receivers is proliferating.
Claudy addressed multicast program ID on HD Radio displays, suggesting that the issue still awaits a final industry consensus. His comments came despite the fact that an NRSC subcommittee recently floated a formal recommendation that a suffix numbering system be used by manufacturers in receiver displays, and by broadcasters referring to multicast channels in on-air and print marketing.
Even so, Cox Radio announced that it plans to conduct focus group studies to get a better read on consumer preference in displaying multicast information. The company says its study will begin in a matter of weeks.
Eye on IBOC
Wireless Carriers Prepare to Launch Media Air Show
In show business, it's said that timing is everything. But those words could prove ironic for HD Radio's current rollout, if a flurry of recent press releases heralding a forthcoming broadband media bonanza are to be believed.
At the top of the list is a recent pronouncement that Verizon Wireless, the nation's second largest cell phone carrier, will cast its lot with handset provider Nokia and wireless site operator Crown Castle in bringing this country its first DVB-H network. For those not acquainted with the term,
DVB stands for Digital Video Broadcast – Handheld, and refers to a European standard for the distribution of digital video and audio content to wireless consumers on a real-time subscription basis.
Crown Castle has already begun work on a three-site, single frequency pilot network in Pittsburgh. PA, that will operate in the L band between 1,670MHz to 1,675MHz--spectrum that the company already controls in more than 30 major markets nationally.
If Crown Castle's offerings in the UK provide any clues about programming, the offerings will be a significant number of digital TV and radio outlets. In fact, another recent DVB-H launch in Paris featured no less than 17 radio channels.
The Pittsburgh venture is scheduled to go on the air in the first quarter of 2006.
But Crown Castle and Verizon won't be making a solo entry into the broadband mobile media arena. Qualcomm, another U.S. wireless provider with an impressive technical resume and a balance sheet to match, is scheduled to launch its Mediaflo product next year as well. Having already purchased 6MHz of refarmed UHF TV spectrum nationwide (716MHz to 722MHz), Mediaflo will likely offer dozens of radio channels in addition to 15 national and five local TV channels. Look for an alliance between Qualcomm and a major wireless service provider/handset manufacturer to be announced shortly.
True believers in local radio's built-in listener loyalty coupled with its expertise in generating unique content may differ, but the prospect of competing to enlighten consumers about HD Radio in the face of the media hoopla these new services will generate is daunting at best. Worrying about details such as how HD Radio FM multicast channels will be displayed on HD receivers is important, true enough. But if consumers are about be barraged by a phalanx of new mobile media channels, radio broadcasters had better link arms and get ready to make a case for their digital media to the public in a unified voice…and soon.
HD Radio Debuts in New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand became the latest venue for a demonstration of Ibiquity's HD Radio digital standard on Oct. 19, courtesy of Ibiquity Digital, transmission systems vendor Broadcast Electronics and New Zealand's Cobalt Technologies.
Transmitting on 106.1MHz from the Skytower in Auckland, the digital hybrid broadcasts are under a special demonstration license from the Radio Spectrum Management division of the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development.
Cobalt Technologies, BE's representative in New Zealand, submitted the license request and installed the digital FM system at the Skytower, the tallest structure in Auckland. The analog and digital signals are being transmitted by a Broadcast Electronics FXI 60 digital FM exciter operating at 370W analog with a 370mW digital signal.
Informal signal strength tests of the broadcast indicate the 0.37W digital signal has a reach of better than 60 percent of the metro Auckland population, according to Chuck Kelly, BE's director of international sales.
In addition to the test station, Cobalt Technologies and BE jointly sponsored an educational seminar on digital radio and synchronous FM, held in Auckland.
IBOC Across America
IBOC By State: Virginia
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.
||Virginia Tech Foundation Incorporated
Educational Telecomm Association
||Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News
||Hampton Roads Educational Telecomm Association
||Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News
||Clear Channel Radio
||Clear Channel Radio
HD Radio Terminology
An introduction into the language surrounding IBOC.
Main Program Service (MPS): The audio programming and program service data that a radio station broadcasts over its main channel for reception by the general public.
Program Service Data (PDS): Data that is transmitted along with the program audio and that is intended to describe or complement the audio program heard by the listener (e.g. song title, artist, etc.).