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Digital Radio Update - April 15, 2009
AMS Study: Net Radio Listening up while Terrestrial Holds On
A new study of radio listening released by American Media Services has both good and bad news for conventional radio broadcasters operating in the U.S.
On the plus side, the survey finds that the percentage of Americans who report listening to terrestrial radio now as much or more than they did five years ago is at about 73 percent, a figure that mirrors the data for similar study question asked in a company survey three years ago.
But even as conventional radio appears to be holding on to much of its base audience, the current study also suggests that listening to Internet audio streams is on the increase and that nearly half (47 percent) of young Americans between the ages of 18-24 report having listened to an Internet-only (non-broadcast) radio site. Buttressing this trend is the finding that 47 percent of all homes surveyed indicate they now have Wi-fi access, up almost 10 percent from three years ago.
Among other interesting findings:
India Plans New DAB, Sat Radio Services
Recent moves by India's government to provision spectrum for both terrestrial DAB and satellite radio services suggest a strong commitment toward diversification and expansion of digital media there.
According to an April 7 report published by Tenders Info, India's telecom regulators plan to test the DAB waters by allocating spectrum in Band III (174-240MHz) for initial construction and operation of DAB+ multiplexes in four major metro areas, with eventual rollouts elsewhere across the country.
News of new satellite radio allocations appeared in an April 12 edition of the Hindustan Times, where the authors claim their government will make 10-year leases of spectrum available for satellite radio operations on a revenue-sharing basis. The article also notes that the new service will be subscription-driven with promotional content limited to 2 minutes/hour to protect existing ad revenue streams for domestic FM broadcasters. New licensees will also be required to uplink from within India and provide 1 hour of public service programming daily.
Satellite radio is not entirely new to India. World Space Satellite Radio, a U.S.-based firm now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had been allowed to market its services there since 1998. But the service, uplinked from Singapore, failed to attract significant numbers of subscribers.
Both announcements come fresh on the heels of the adoption of DRM by All India Radio earlier this year for use on national and international MW/HF narrowband broadcast channels. India Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura was quoted as suggesting that the moves are but a small part of a complex and intricate initiative currently underway to allocate the nation's spectrum.
Radio is still a primary medium in the fast developing Indian subcontinent where government broadcast monopolies dominated until the last decade or so. With hundreds of indigenous languages and dialects in use, a considerably more diffuse and diverse group of radio services, ranging from national commercial channels to low power FM community stations is rapidly emerging.
Technology and Applications
Ibiquity, Samsung Improve Prospects for HD Radio Portability
HD Radio proponents crying out for portable receivers with modest power appetites got some encouragement from the floor of the Hong Kong Electronics Show this week. Ibiquity announced the release of a new lower-power firmware load for Samsung's SEMHDR C200A/100A HD Radio chipset, along with a new 2.0 portable receiver reference design that includes schematics, layout and software.
With the new firmware, Ibiquity claims its latest reference design can achieve power consumption of about 165mW. With a core module that includes the Samsung chipset, SDRAM and flash memory, the reference design also supports a 128 x 128 color LCD display and both USB and SD interface.
This latest design also calls for a beefy USB-chargeable lithium-ion battery reportedly capable of up to15 hours of operation on a single charge.
Ibiquity and Samsung officials note that the new firmware fully supports the current HD Radio feature set, including simultaneous decode of audio and data, advance data applications, real-time traffic and conditional access.
Aussie Digital Radio Awareness Campaign Tees off
A promotional run-up to a national May launch of DAB+ broadcasting got underway in Australia this week. According to a Rapid TV News report, the first volley in a $10 million campaign designed to raise public awareness of the national rollout of DAB+ multiplexes in five major urban markets, was fired on April 13, with radio spots that aired on commercial outlets in Sydney, Adelade, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.
The initial phase of the campaign is designed around "Radio is Going Digital" teaser spots that steer their audience to visit a central website at www.digitalradioplus.com.au. There, visitors are treated to the campaign's logo, a large blue plus sign along with a text tagline of "It's radio as you know it, plus..." The site also allows visitors to determine system coverage in their home locale through the use of a postal code look-up, as well as providing links to local retailers that plan to stock receivers.
While digital radio's rollout in Australia may appear to be better coordinated than similar rollouts in Europe and the U.S., not everything is moving according to plan. Next month's launch was a fallback from the original launch date of Jan. 1, and even with the six-month delay, only commercial broadcasters will appear on DAB+ multiplexes as they turn up next month. The country's national public radio service, ABC, recently revealed that it wouldn't begin programming its new digital channels until sometime in July.
Radio Apps Drive Blackberry Downloads
While it may not come as any great surprise to those keeping tabs on Iphone application stats, an impressive number of downloads from the recently launched Blackberry App World site involve audio and radio services.
Among the new offerings is a free version of the Slacker Radio App that offers viewable song lyrics, custom station creation and Bluetooth support for compatible stereo headsets, car kits and other Bluetooth peripherals.
But terrestrial broadcasters needn't lose heart. Twice.com is reporting that Clear Channels Iheart Radio App is currently outpacing both Slacker and Pandora in total number of downloads since the site App World went live on April 1, making it the second most downloaded application to date. Slacker reportedly finished third with Pandora close behind.
Both Iheart Radio and Slacker surpassed download numbers for social sites Facebook and Myspace as of April 13.
IBOC Across America
IBOC by State: New Hampshire
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 20 stations in the Granite State broadcasting 27 HD Radio channels.
|Market||Station||HD1 Format||HD2 Format||HD3 Format||Owner|
|Concord||WEVO-FM 89.1||News/Talk/Info||-||-||New Hampshire Public Radio|
|Concord||WEVS-FM 88.3||News/Talk/Info||-||-||New Hampshire Public Radio|
|Keene||WKNE-FM 103.7||AC/Top40||WKBK-AM - Talk||Holiday Music||Saga|
|Keene||WEVN-FM 90.7||News/Talk/Info||-||-||New Hampshire Public Radio|
|Keene||WZBK-AM 1220||Music of Your Life||-||-||Saga|
|Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction-VT||WEVH-FM 91.3||News/Talk/Info||-||-||New Hampshire Public Radio|
|Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction-VT||WVTQ-FM 95.1||Classical||-||-||Vermont Public Radio|
|Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction-VT||WVPR-FM 89.5||NPR/News/Info||Classical||-||Vermont Public Radio|
|Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction-VT||WRVT-FM 88.7||NPR/News/Info||Classical||BBC World Service||Vermont Public Radio|
|Lebanon-Rutland-White River Junction-VT||WNCH-FM 88.1||Classical||-||-||Vermont Public Radio|
|Manchester||WZID-FM 95.7||AC||Hot Hits||-||Saga|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WMYF-AM 1380||Nostalgia||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WSKX-FM 95.3||Country||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WHEB-FM 100.3||Rock||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WERZ-FM 107.1||Top 40||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WGIN-AM 930||News/Talk/Sports||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WQSO-FM 96.7||Oldies||-||-||Clear Channel|
|Portsmouth-Dover-Rochester||WUNH-FM 91.3||Alternative||-||-||University of New Hampshire|
|Swanzey||WSNI-FM 97.7||AC||WRSY-FM - Progressive Rock||-||Saga|
Eye on IBOC
Be Careful What You Wish For...
As NAB President and CEO David Rehr continues his quest to persuade wireless handset manufacturers to include FM capability in their future products, many broadcasters may have been hoping that message would be interpreted only in its most traditional sense.
So for clarity's sake, let's explicate Rehr's plea: Dear handset maker, please include FM broadcast tuners in you new product -- but not, please, transmitters.
Unfortunately, it looks like that little distinction may be moot, as confirmations build that the next Iphone will indeed include a built-in FM modulator (as well as Bluetooth audio) to push streamed audio content out to virtually every car and tabletop audio system. And where Apple goes, can In Motion be far behind?
What this means, along with an endless cascade of audio application downloads for both Iphone and Blackberry, is that the consumer is sending a singular message to broadband audio content providers. That message? In the words of Miss Veruca Salt: I want it now.
So it seems that Internet radio really has arrived on the dashboard. But it's happening in a way that totally bypasses the receiver bottleneck that's bedeviled digital radios rollout. There have been, by even the most optimistic estimates, about 1 million HD Radio receivers sold in America over the four years they've been available. In less than six months there have been over 2 million downloads of the Iheart Radio app for Iphone alone.
Ironically, many broadcasters discounted Internet radio's potential impact as a major player because it was tethered to PCs. And they were right -- until the PC fit smartly into one's pocket...and came with its own FM transmitter.
No license required.
HD Radio Terminology
The New Language of Digital Radio
Commonly used abbreviations:
ISO: International Organization for Standardization
ITU: International Telecommunications Union
ITU-R: ITU Radiocommunications Bureau
ITU-T: ITU Telecommunications Bureau
kb/s, kbps: kilobits per second
LSB: least significant bit, lower sideband
MA1: AM hybrid service mode
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Also in the April Issue
- Update on Transmitters
- On-air Missteps to Avoid
- Tower Lease Renegotiation
- New Products
- Applied Technology: Streaming with the MPEG HE-AAC Audio Codec
- Side by Side: Studio Furniture
- Practical Use: Circulators and Isolators