Tech File: HD Radio

Jul 05, 2006

Most radio listeners can't turn on the radio these days without hearing a commercial about this new finagled thing called HD Radio. While the commercials may peak curiosity, they don't tell much about what HD Radio is, so UPI's Tech File decided to go straight to the source and talked with iBiquity Digital Corporation President and CEO Bob Struble, whose company is the owner of the HD Radio License.

Based in Columbia, Md., iBiquity is the sole developer and licensor of HD Radio technology, which is enabling AM and FM stations to move beyond analog and leverage the many benefits of digital broadcasting. According to Struble, iBiquity Digital is a privately-held corporation whose investors include 15 of the nation's top radio broadcasters, including ABC, Clear Channel and CBS Radio; leading financial institutions, such as Grotech Capital Group, Intel Capital, J.P. Morgan Partners, New Venture Partners, Pequot Capital and J&W Seligman; and strategic partners Ford Motor Company, Harris, Texas Instruments and Visteon.

Q. Can you explain what HD Radio is, and how it works?

A. HD Radio works by transmitting digital audio and data in empty "side bands" in the existing AM and FM spectrum, allowing listeners to enjoy many of the same types of benefits they've experienced with other digital technologies, such as CDs, DVDs, iPods, cameras, and mobile phones. The first thing HD Radio listeners notice is the superior sound quality -- AM sounds like analog FM; FM is comparable to a CD. But that's just the beginning. HD Radio also provides more choices via advanced new services, such as multicasting. This feature enables FM stations to broadcast multiple streams of unique programming over a single frequency. More than 250 stations around the country are already offering multicast programming, featuring diverse formats ranging from Americana to Extreme Hip-Hop to Opera. HD Radio technology also allows for text information to be scrolled across the product displays, including, but not limited to, artist names & song titles, local weather forecasts and traffic alerts. It's important to keep in mind that these are the capabilities available today with the HD Radio system. There is also a range of exciting new features under development that we will begin to roll out in the near future.

Q. What distinguishes HD Radio from satellite and over-the-air radio?

A. First, HD Radio is "over the air" AM/FM radio, only it's better because it features significantly improved sound quality, more programming choices and innovative data services. Your favorite radio station stays in its same place on the radio dial, but when you have an HD Radio receiver, you are able to experience all of the benefits of digital that I described above. And there are no subscription fees, so it's free.

Satellite radio is more like the pay channels on a cable system. Some people choose to pay for additional channels, but many do not. Also, while the satellite services are national, AM and FM HD Radio stations are your local, community stations.

Q. Will this increase the spectrum of available channels? If so, what procedures will you have in place for people who want to launch new channels?

A. It does not increase the physical spectrum in which channels reside, but it certainly expands the programming choices available to listeners. Stations are free to launch whatever channels and programming they choose. And as you can see on the HD Radio website (www.hdradio.com), the variety of new channels is dazzling.

Q. Is there an additional cost involved for local radio stations to broadcast in HD?

A. The initial hardware investment for FM stations averages $100,000; less for AM stations.

Q. How do you convince them to broadcast in this new format?

A. We don't have to do much to convince them. Station owners see the amount of digital competition that exists today in the form of satellite radio, iPods, Internet, cell phones, video games, and on and on. Most broadcasters now realize that, if they are going to stay vital into the 21st century, they need to compete on a level playing field, and that means going digital.

Q. The first set of radios that you are marketing are desktop models for the home, can you tell us a little about these models?

A. Actually, the first radios were for the automotive market, from JVC, Kenwood, Panasonic, Eclipse and Sanyo. These companies continue to make HD Radio receivers that you can install in your car to replace your old analog radio.

The most popular model today is the Recepter Radio HD, a tabletop radio from Boston Acoustics. In addition, home stereo components are available from Yamaha, Day Sequerra, and Audio Design Associates.

Q. How soon will it be before we can see HD Radio in portable form?

A. Probably in the next 18 months to two years. We've just made some great engineering strides in this regard that will make the core of our technology smaller and less expensive.

Q. What do you think is the future of radio and why?

A. Digital HD Radio is the future of AM and FM radio. In the same way that color television replaced black-and-white, HD Radio will do the same for analog AM and FM radio. Overall, I think the future of AM and FM radio is exceptionally bright. With 250 million listeners each week, radio today is an integral part of our lives as it has been for nearly 100 years. That said, the industry is at a pivotal point in its evolution as the only major communications medium predominantly using an analog format. Broadcasters know this puts them at a disadvantage with digital competitors, and through HD Radio, they are taking steps to help compete on a more equal footing. As demonstrated with multicasting, radio broadcasters have been quick to leverage digital to offer new programming alternatives, and I have no doubt that they will continue to find fresh and innovative ways to deliver consumers the music, news and information they want -- when they want it, and how they want it -- with a local market perspective that you just can't get from a national service. And when you consider it's all subscription-free, that's a tough package to beat.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wind farms to blink only when necessary

Feb 03, 2014

They can be seen from afar – the blinking beacons on wind turbines intended to warn approaching aircraft at night. However, the continual blinking disturbs many people. Beacons that only switch on when ...

Finding more space in spectrum

Jan 30, 2014

Radio and TV channels, mobile communications, GPS, and emergency communications are just a few examples of applications that occupy the airwaves. The radio spectrum is a finite resource, but demand for bandwidth ...

Student-built satellite sends data from space

Jan 29, 2014

A tiny satellite, dubbed KySat-2, built by students at the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University is currently orbiting about 300 miles above the Earth, circling the planet every 90 minutes. ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...