Digital Radio Update - June 3, 2009

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FCC Update

FCC Requests Additional Comments on Digital Power Increase
The FCC wants to know how stakeholders and members of the general public feel about the proposed IBOC Digital FM power increase. In public notice DA-1127, dated May 22, 2009, the Commission provides background and a brief introduction to the issue, with specific references to a current NPR research project that seeks to establish in some detail how a 10-fold digital power increase might impact analog reception of adjacent channel analog signals. Findings of that study are expected this fall.

The notice poses the following questions:

  • Should the Commission defer consideration of the proposal until publication and peer review of the current NPR study have taken place?
  • Do the current operational records of existing hybrid IBOC FM stations (some 1,400) including those granted STAs to test elevated digital signal levels, provide a compelling basis for an immediate provisional increase at an additional 10dB, or at some lesser elevated level?
  • In the event that the Commission does grant an increase, should it establish standards to ensure interference does not occur to first adjacent analog stations and/or LPFMs?
  • Finally, in the event that the Commission does grant an increase, should it also establish explicit procedures to resolve digital-into-analog interference complaints?

    This is not the first request for comments on the proposed digital carrier increase. Last fall, the FCC made a more general request for comments, and noted it had received input both supporting and opposing the request tendered by industry proponents of the increase, referred to as the "joint parties."

    Reply comments are due no later than 35 days after publication in the federal register.

    Eye on IBOC

    Will Consumers Swoon Over Zune?
    It's official. Microsoft's newest iteration of its Zune personal media player will contain, among lots of other things, an HD Radio receiver. The announcement, along with lots of demo videos, is making the rounds of the usual techie online sites like CNET and Gizmodo and is bringing some color back to the cheeks of HD Radio proponents who haven't had much to cheer about in recent months.

    Driven by Windows CEOs and offering a pretty OLED touch screen with rotating color display, the new Zune will offer Wi-fi connectivity via a modified version of Internet Explorer, and even run HD video with a dock accessory.

    The fact that Microsoft has chosen to include an HD Radio receiver is provoking lots of forum discussions about how the software giant is choosing to position itself against rival Apple's Ipod Touch, which accepts streaming radio apps but doesn't include any sort of radio tuner.

    Among the questions being asked by broadcast engineers is just how HD Radio operation will impact the Zune's battery life, and how well a user's ear-bud cable will function as a digital FM antenna.

    One thing is certain. With a release set for fall, the all-new Zune is generating some buzz, and that's not a bad thing for either the HD Radio movement or Microsoft. But how the Zune, a platform still struggling to win acceptance, ultimately fares, and whether consumers will be favorably impressed by its HD Radio functionality, remain to be seen.

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