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An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
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DAB coming up Down Under
In an Oct. 14 announcement, Australia's Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced final government approval of a framework to guide the introduction of digital radio across her nation.
Under the framework, Australia will implement terrestrial digital radio based on European Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standards, also known as Eureka 147. Existing commercial, national and wide-coverage community broadcasters will share the newly available digital spectrum. Broadcasters will not be required to simulcast and will be given first
right of refusal in controlling the multiplex and holding their spectrum slot for a nominal administration fee. To ensure a financially stable transition, the government will also place a six year moratorium on new broadcast license applications.
The commercial radio industry generally welcomed the federal government's announcement, as Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, which represents 98 percent of commercial radio stations in Australia, said the industry would now be able to move ahead with business planning and a multimillion dollar investment in the development of a digital broadcasting network.
But Warner also noted that more dialogue is needed: "There are some elements of this policy that need a lot more discussion. We want to ensure the amount of spectrum allocated to commercial radio allows us to provide the additional services and features that are necessary to take full advantage of the technology and drive consumer uptake. Under the current compression technology, 128kb/s is not enough to do this, we need 256kb."
The CEO's comment reflected that fact that Eureka 147's use of the MPEG Layer 2 codec at 128kp/s has become a sore point for European DAB critics, who point to the superior sonic characteristics of more advanced codes, such as AAC Plus, even at lower bit rates.
Even so, government and commercial players have pledged to cooperate in getting a phased rollout of DAB on the air throughout major metropolitan areas as quickly as possible.
FM Extra Tests in Israel
Digital Radio Express (DRE) will participate with Israeli broadcaster Radios on tests of DRE's FM Extra digital radio system in the nation of Israel.
"With the topography of Israel and (and a shortage of) frequencies, FMeXtra digital broadcasting offers a unique solution for us to improve our broadcasting", said David Ben Basat, president of Radios.
Unlike other IBOC digital modulation schemes, FM Extra allows an existing analog FM station to broadcast a digital signal through the addition of a single digital subcarrier to the analog carrier. Special receivers can decode the digital subcarrier, which is capable of carrying multiple compressed digital audio program streams, as well as ancillary data.
Basat said the company plans to begin operating FM Extra on one of its FM stations shortly, and will likely petition the Israel broadcasting authorities for blanket permission to operate the system nationwide, pending a successful trial.
Transmitter manufacturer Energy Onix, a longtime vendor to Radios, will also be involved with the tests.
Harris, HD Radio in Brazil
Three of Brazil's radio broadcast outlets have completed IBOC digital conversion programs and are now transmitting AM and FM digital hybrid signals using Ibiquity's proprietary HD Radio standard. Radio Bandeirantes, Radio Globo and RBS Group recently announced the IBOC digital launch, commemorating the 70th anniversary of AESP, a radio and TV emissions association based in Sao Paolo, and Brazil's National Day of Radio, on Sept. 26. Six stations—one FM and one AM from each group—are now transmitting an HD Radio hybrid signal.
The initial on-air HD Radio demonstration was conducted in Porto Alegre in March 2003, according to Nahuel Villegas, Caribbean and Latin America regional director for Harris Broadcast Communications Division, the vendor for the HD Radio transmission systems now in use by the Brazilians. The company also presented HD Radio demonstrations at Mexico's CIRT Show in October 2003 and Argentina's CAPER Show in October 2004.
XM First to Go in the Great White North
According to an article in the Oct. 16 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canadian Satellite Radio (CSR) is targeting the 2005 Christmas shopping season for the launch of XM's Canadian satellite radio service.
CSR will use a new website, www.xmradio.ca, to pre-register subscribers to receive their XM Canada product. The company says that General Motors plans to offer OEM receivers to car buyers in Canadian showrooms, while off-the-shelf after-market and portable receivers will be available from Canadian retailers and Internet vendors.
Although three applicants were granted licences for digital radio broadcasting earlier this year-- Canadian Satellite Radio, Sirius Canada and a consortium headed by CHUM/Astral--XM has been the first licensee to announce their move to market. While Sirius is expected to quickly follow suit, CHUM/Astral is still withholding a final decision on whether to move forward with the development of their proposed terrestrial digital network, which could take some time to complete.
DirecTV To Offer XM Programming
DirecTV says that an agreement between it and XM Satellite Radio will make 72 channels of XM's music, children's and talk programming available to DirecTV's 14.6 million subscribers at no additional cost, effective Nov. 15, 2005.
In addition to music channels and children's programming, XM will provide its Major League Baseball "Home Plate" talk radio channel, and its High Voltage channel, featuring talk radio stars Opie and Anthony.
Customers subscribing to DirecTV's Total Choice programming package will have access to 50 XM Satellite Radio's music channels, while Total Choice Plus and above service plans will have access to more than 65 channels. The company's Para Todos plan customers will also have access to the same XM channels, as well as five additional Latin music channels.
XM has said it would deliver original Canadian programming on four English and four French channels as ordered by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. It will also deliver more than 1,000 games per season of National Hockey League games beginning with the 2005-2006 season.
XM Canada will start broadcasting from studios in Toronto, Montreal and, later, Vancouver.
Ibiquity HD Radio Reference Designs Draw New Manufacturers
Ibiquity Digital has released new reference designs for tabletop and home HD Radio receivers into the OEM consumer electronics arena. The move is intended to provide a readily available solution for the production of HD Radio receivers by licensed manufacturers looking to integrate the new technology into radio receiver product lines at minimal cost.
Ibiquity drove home the point by announcing that four new manufacturers--City Electronics, OPUS Art and Technology Co., Sangean and Zylux Acoustic--have acquired licenses to develop HD Radio modules and receivers. These companies, along with existing HD Radio licensees Rockridge Sound Technology and Orient Power, claim they will all be using Ibiquity's new reference designs to manufacture home and tabletop receivers.
"These companies are among the largest Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM)/Original Design Manufacturers (ODM) manufacturers in China, supplying product to many well-known brands and retailers in the U.S. Their decision to begin manufacturing HD Radio products signifies their belief in the size and potential of the HD Radio marketplace," said Jeff Jury, chief operating officer, Ibiquity Digital. "It also demonstrates our commitment to making lower-priced HD Radio receivers available to U.S. consumers eager to take advantage of the great HD Radio sound quality and exciting features such as multicasting. The combination of our existing reference designs and the speed at which these companies can manufacture products make it possible that we will see HD Radio receivers reach mass market retailers by summer 2006."
Ibiquiy claims the inclusion of these six China-based licensees gives HD Radio technology a broad footprint among module manufacturers in Asia. The company also has HD Radio partnerships with South Korean-based companies ACE Technology, Dand H Solutions, Kiryung, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and TBK as well as Japan's Toko.
Ibiquity, Ebay tout HD Radio Rebate Plan
Consumers still looking for a good reason to buy an HD Radio digital receiver may find it in a recently announced promotional partnership between online merchant Ebay and Ibiquity Digital. The new HD Radio trade-in program purportedly allows anyone to trade in their old radios for a cash payment when they purchase a new HD Radio product on Ebay or elsewhere.
"The Ibiquity HD Radio trade-in program on Ebay is a great way to introduce people to an exciting new technology," said Andrew Lee, senior category manager, consumer electronics/photo, Ebay. "The Ibiquity program gives people the opportunity to upgrade to the latest digital technology while at the same time earning cash for their old radios."
Until Jan. 31, 2006, anyone who purchases a new HD Radio on Ebay or through other retailers will be eligible to receive an additional $20 mail-in rebate, in addition to the trade-in value of their old radio.
Consumers with an analog radio they're willing to trade in can go to www.ebay.com/hdradio, and click on the "Trade in your old radio" link to find the estimated value of their old radio. Following the purchase of an HD Radio receiver, consumers can mail in their old radio and proof of purchase from a new HD Radio receiver to collect a rebate check for the estimated value of the exchange radio. If the trade-in is completed before Jan. 31, 2006, the consumer is also eligible for an additional $20 rebate.
The offer applies only to the purchase of selected HD Radio receivers. The list of eligible receivers and other program information is available on the Ebay website at www.ebay.com/hdradio.
Eye on IBOC
Of Multitudes and Multicasts
Public radio listeners in Ft. Wayne, IN, may have been surprised to hear that Kevin Klose was the guest of honor at WBOI-FM, a non-commercial NPR outlet in a rustbelt city that has seen its share of disappointing economic news in recent years. But the CEO of National Public Radio (NPR) was there to tell and sell WBOI's listeners and the local media on the promise of multichannel broadcasting, made possible by the station's recent conversion to HD Radio, a digital technology that promises to transform public radio in that city and hundreds of others like it across the country.
At a press luncheon last week, KBOI's listeners learned that if they invest in a digital receiver, they'll be able to receive not only the station's usual mixture of NPR news and locally originated Jazz on the HD1 channel, but that they'll also be able to receive the WBNI classical music program on the HD2 channel, as well as 24-hour jazz programming on the HD3 channel.
Exactly what the public will expect in terms of audio quality is uncertain, but one has to wonder if parsing 96kb/s between two musically based channels, and one predominantly music-based channel may be stretching things a bit. While the AAC Plus codec is good, it's difficult to imagine that the discerning ears of the typical classical or jazz music aficionado won't struggle with Brahm's concerto Or Miles Davis' soulful brass when they're squeezed down to 32kb/s.
Which raises a point. Will broadcasters, public or commercial, have the discipline and insight to use multicasting wisely, trading down audio quality only when it makes good sense to do so--or will they be seduced by the ability to cram in a couple more channels?
HD Radio proponents continue to promise the public CD quality on their yet-to-be purchased radio, and more. With the consumer's CD player located on the same dashboard, it might be wise to deliver on that promise.
IBOC Across America
IBOC By State: New Hampshire
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.
||New Hampshire Public Radio
HD Radio Terminology
HD Radio Terminology
An introduction into the language surrounding IBOC.
Station Information Service (SIS): Station information services provides the necessary radio station control and identification information, such as time, station call sign identification and location reference information.
Main Program Service Data (MPSD): One of two general classes of information sent through the main program service (the other being main program service audio). Main program service data is program service data that is associated with the main program service.