Digital Radio Update - January 7, 2009


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Index

  • Forrester Research says Sat Radio Low on '09 Wish Lists
  • CES 2009 Marks Debut of True In-Dash Internet Radio Platform
  • NPR Touts Accessible Radio at CES
  • IBOC by State: Nevada
  • Another Year Passes in Digital Radio's Struggle for Identity
  • The New Language of Digital Radio
  • New HD Driven Navigation Systems/Services Debut

  • News

    Forrester Research says Sat Radio Low on '09 Wish Lists
    Financially stressed consumers are reprioritizing their electronic purchasing plans for 2009, and satellite radio isn't high on that list, says a recent study authored by Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research firm. A recent CNET article highlighted the study, which suggests consumers aren't planning much in the way of additional spending on consumer electronics in the coming year.

    While survey results from about 5,000 U.S. consumers portend a downer year for electronic purchases overall, the most interesting data concerned those categories respondent said they were least likely to spend on. Leading the list of low-priority items were handheld gaming devices, and satellite radio, as nearly two-thirds of those polled were less likely to spend money on either item in the coming year, as opposed to just 3 percent who said they were more likely.

    Faring best in the survey were HDTVs and mobile phones, which had about 50 percent of respondents saying they were less likely to be purchased in 2009.

    Categories ranked also included home game consoles, DVD players, smartphones, laptop PCs, digital cameras and GPS. Neither HD Radio nor portable music players were included.


    Technology and Applications

    CES 2009 Marks Debut of True In-Dash Internet Radio Platform
    Perhaps the worst kept "secret" of this week's CES 2009 is generating plenty of buzz on the blogs, as Germany's Blaupunkt, in partnership with Internet radio gateway provider miRoamer, is providing a tantalizing peek at two prototype versions of a new, dedicated in-dash Internet radio receiver.

    Sporting code names New Jersey and Hamburg, the prototypes reportedly use Bluetooth connectivity to achieve net access via 3G/HSDPA/HSPA wireless handsets (such as Iphone) to provide seamless access to webcasters aggregated via miRoamer. In addition to providing live streaming radio and MP3/playlist functionality, the Blaupunkt 600i reportedly will also offer a family of directory and navigation services. According to a miRoamer spokesman, production versions will target the OEM auto market, and will eventually include their own modem packages as a stand-alone option.

    Predictably, reaction to the news has been widespread and a little mixed. Hard core tech-heads point out that in-car Internet listening using laptop-equipped AT&T 2.5G wireless cards and a simple audio cable has been available for some time. Even so, one pundit was hailing Balupunkt's 600i as the beginning of the end of satellite radio. Another commentary called for the NAB to work with manufacturers and network providers to help establish standard protocols and metadata for audio streaming.

    No word yet on price or production timelines.


    Business

    NPR Touts Accessible Radio at CES
    Building on momentum achieved in the promotion of HD Radio technology specifically adapted to the needs of sight and hearing impaired citizens, NPR Chief Technology Officer Mike Starling is making the rounds at this year's Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. According to an NPR press release, Starling's mission is to raise awareness of progress made in the development of accessible radio technology, including captioning, Braille interfaces, radio reading services, and remote blackboard, all delivered via HD Radio technology, with an immediate goal of landing some production agreements with receiver manufacturers.

    NPR has made Starling available on an appointment basis to speak with convention exhibitors and trade groups. One high profile event will occur on Jan. 10 as NPR is among a number of tech firms slated to receive a Vision Free award from recording artist Stevie Wonder at an invitation-only reception.

    Development of Accessible Radio technology has been an outgrowth of NPR's collaboration with other partners in the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), headquartered at Towson University in Towson, MD. The center sees applications for the specially designed receivers not only for use by individuals, but also as potential tools in distance learning programs for the visually and hearing impaired.

    NPR's search for receiver manufacturers also comes on the heels of a new set of voluntary standards issued by the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) for the design and manufacture of HD Radios created with the special needs of the visually and physically impaired in mind.


    IBOC Across America

    IBOC by State: Nevada
    Ibiquity has a list of stations with licensed HD Radio technology and notes those on the air now. IBOC by state looks at various states and lists the stations making the transition. There are 14 stations in the Silver State (also called the Battle-Born state and the Sagebrush State) broadcasting 30 HD Radio channels.

    MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 Format HD3 FormatOwner
    Las Vegas, NVKXTE-FM 107.5AlternativeNew Rock-CBS Radio
    Las Vegas, NVKPLV-FM 93.1Rhythmic AC70s 80s 90s Party Mix-Clear Channel
    Las Vegas, NVKKJJ-FM 100.5JackDanc'n JackNews/Talk - KXNT-AMCBS Radio
    Las Vegas, NVKCYE-FM 104.3Country--Beasley Broadcast Group
    Las Vegas, NVKXNT-AM 840News/Talk--CBS Radio
    Las Vegas, NVKCNV-FM 89.7ClassicalXponential RadioHispanicNevada Public Radio Corp.
    Las Vegas, NVKQRT-FM 105.1Mexican--Entravision
    Las Vegas, NVKDWN-AM 720News/Talk/Sports--Beasley Broadcast Group
    Las Vegas, NVKFRH-FM 102.7Soft RockDance Club Music-Beasley Broadcast Group
    Las Vegas, NVKWNR-FM 95.5CountryClassic Country-Clear Channel
    Las Vegas, NVKNPR-FM 88.9NewsClassicalTalkNevada Public Radio Corp.
    Lund, NVKWPR-FM 88.7NewsClassicaleXponential RadioNevada Public Radio Corp.
    Panaca, NVKLNR-FM 91.7NewsClassicaleXponential RadioNevada Public Radio Corp.
    Tonopah, NVKTPH-FM 91.7NewsClassicalNews / TalkNevada Public Radio Corp.

    Eye on IBOC

    Another Year Passes in Digital Radio's Struggle for Identity
    The arrival of CES in January is supposed to be the first waypoint in a new year. Marked by an inescapable gush of optimism from exhibitors and stampeding attendees in search of the next big thing, the show has become an annual pilgrimage for the techno-glitteratti. But at its conclusion, each CES also becomes a benchmark, a reference point to look back upon while wondering "what happened with that?"

    For someone writing about digital radio the surge of press releases CES invariably generates is unfulfilling. These days, it seems, you're far less likely to read about a real innovation in broadcast content delivery than you are about some new widget described as a "digital radio" device.

    Three years ago, we turned to CES to see who would be first to offer an affordable HD Radio receiver, because it was an article of faith that once receivers hit the $100 price point, consumers would snap them up in droves and terrestrial digital radio would be on its way.

    A couple of years back, everyone was talking about whether terrestrial IBOC digital radio would be able to catch up with satellite digital radio. Some analysts had satellite radio at 55 million subscribers by 2010. Rumors of a possible merger between Sirius and XM seemed both unthinkable and terrifying.

    This year's buzz seems to center on the purported arrival of Internet Radio on the dashboard. Yes - Internet radio, the great equalizer and would-be slayer of terrestrial and satellite radio giants, has finally arrived in the car and on the hip of American consumers.

    Still, things never work out quite the way they're supposed to. As this sentence is being written, there are a plethora of HD Radio receivers on the market, many of admirable quality, cost and performance. Yet few are being purchased.

    Last year, the protracted merger of Sirius and XM was finally consummated. The outshot? Satellite subscriptions have struggled to hit 20 million and the new combine has reportedly prepared a plan for financial reorganization.

    As for Internet Radio, it's still unclear exactly what those tens of thousands of streamers are going to be able to afford in terms of content carriage, as the CRB, Soundexchange and webcasters continue to wrangle over performance royalties and reporting requirements. Do a plethora of new smartphone audio applications really represent a new radio vanguard? Or just another vehicle for selling music downloads?

    And so, as CES 2009 becomes just another mile marker behind us, it's easy to write about what the spinners are saying about what's in store for "digital radio." But it's become tougher than ever to figure out what that term really means.


    HD Radio Terminology

    The New Language of Digital Radio
    Abbreviations explained.
    CRC: Cyclic Redundancy Check
    DAB: Digital Audio Broadcasting
    DAC: Digital-to-Analog Converter
    DRB: Digital Radio Broadcasting
    dB: Decibel
    DDL: Data Delimiter


    Products

    New HD Driven Navigation Systems/Services Debut
    Among the many news releases emanating from CES this week is an item from Ibiquity Digital heralding a number of new real-time traffic and personal navigation devices designed to take full advantage of HD Radio's substantial ancillary data capabilities.

    The featured entries include prototypes of in-dash head units from Dual and Visteon, along with three personal navigation devices (PND) that include a built-in receiver, cigarette lighter adapter, and a cradle product.

    In a related move, Clear Channel issued a separate press release promoting its Total Traffic Network as the first to launch real time traffic services over HD Radio channels. The service, which claims to deliver updated traffic information at a rate of more than 500 messages per minute, is said to be live and operational in 50 markets. The company boasts that its traffic service is now available for 125 metropolitan areas in four countries, supplying real-time traffic data to more than 750,000 paid subscribers.

    Demonstrations can be viewed available at Ibiquity's booth, 9034 in the Las Vegas Convention Center Central Hall.




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