IBOC Update: Data and Asymmetrical Sidebands

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As this is being written, we're still in the Commission's public comment period regarding proposed changes, but its public notice said this: "We tentatively conclude that it would be expedient to modify Form FCC 335-FM, currently used for Digital Notifications, to accommodate requests for increased digital power and/or operation with asymmetric digital sideband power." So it seems rather clear that barring some huge change in their collective mindset that allowance for asymmetrical sidebands, from the legal perspective, is coming soon.

Technical perspective

What about the technical perspective? iBiquity is currently finishing IRSS 4.4.x with peak-to-average reduction power reduction (PAR) v.2, which will give IBOC exciters asymmetrical capability.

Nautel's HD Powerboost gives its exciters asymmetrical IBOC sideband capability already, and the company has been shipping them since April 2011. HD PowerBoost is optional, and Nautel has also made asymmetrical sideband capability available for its transmitters that don't have it. The HD PowerBoost algorithm is used, but it's configured to provide a better MER, as opposed to power gain.

Harris' Flexstar exciter also has asymmetrical IBOC sideband capability, and has been shipping with this capability since the summer of 2010.

Engineers at Continental Electronics have already been working with the beta version of IRSS 4.4.x and anticipate having its own software release (subsequent to the release of IRSS 4.4.x) in time to meet the needs of their customers looking to use asymmetrical sideband power.

According to Broadcast Electronics, its VPe technology already meets the soon-to-be released IBOC asymmetrical sideband transmission standard.

Artist Experience and asymmetrical IBOC sideband capability are two of the latest features for HD Radio. I'm of the belief that every new feature should be put in service, and enhancements should be used when they provide a definite advantage. You may not be a trailblazer and perhaps you want to see this technology mature, but please don't let it pass your station by. We need to do everything we can to keep our listener attentions, no matter what it is.

Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York.

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