IBOC Update - Sept 7, 2005


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Stay up to date on the latest IBOC news, business and technology information with the twice-monthly newsletter from Radio magazine.


Index:

  • Canada May Overturn Satellite Radio Licenses
  • Samsung introduces 3GPP Phone with AAC Plus Audio Codec
  • Receivers are Stars at IBC, IFA 2005
  • BE, Harris to Show Digital Product Lines at IBC 2005
  • IBOC by State: Massachusetts
  • Leonard Kahn Turns Up The Rhetorical Heat on AM IBOC
  • An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
  • DRE Ships First FM Extra Receivers
  • Sirius Launches Recorder/Player Receivers

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    News

    Canada May Overturn Satellite Radio Licenses
    The Canadian government will likely ask the CRTC to rescind its decision to license satellite radio in that country, according to a recent news report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

    A government official familiar with the issue was quoted as saying "Everything suggests… the cabinet will ask the CRTC to overturn its decision."

    On June 16, Canada’s broadcast regulators granted satellite radio licenses to Sirius, a consortium of Canadian firms with ties to Sirius in the United States, as well as Canadian Satellite Radio (CSR) a firm partnered with XM satellite radio.

    Sirius and CSR plan to offer subscribers between 60 and 100 commercial-free music channels for $15 to $20 a month. The services are licensed to carry nine foreign channels for every Canadian channel. The decision did not sit well with Canadian cultural advocates, and conventional broadcasters who point out that only 10 percent of the services will be Canadian, and only 2.5 per cent will be carried in French. Canadian AM/FM radio broadcasters are currently required to operate with 50 percent of their program content produced by Canadian artists.

    A terrestrial subscription digital broadcast license was also granted to Canadian-based CHUM/Astral Media, which likewise stepped forward to oppose the satellite licenses on the grounds that it could hamper the launch of the new ground-based service.

    Members of Canada’s parliament from the eastern provinces, particularly Quebec, are said to be behind the move to force the CRTC to rescind its decision.

    John Bitove, who owns CSR, is said to be upset by reports of the pending government intervention. If the decision is revoked, Bitove claims the Canadian economy might lose out on $2 billion of economic activity over the next 10 years, and he vowed to challenge an overturn in the courts.

    The Canadian government has the legislative authority to set aside CRTC decisions or refer them back to the regulator for reconsideration, though such action has few historical precedents.

    The government has until Sept. 14 to announce its decision.


    Business

    Samsung introduces 3GPP Phone with AAC Plus Audio Codec
    Samsung has joined the 3G multimedia phone fray with its new A-800 mobile handset, and if sales are any indicator, the public appears to be embracing the new platform as many Sprint stores say they are already sold out of the product.

    Of particular interest to broadcasters is the phone’s built-in AAC plus audio codec, which allows users to play high quality downloadable files as well as real time streams.

    The AAC plus codec is the same used by DRM and is highly rated by digital audio critics in terms of the quality it delivers from relatively low bit rate audio streams.

    Orban’s Greg Ogonowski, an industry authority on audio processing, has suggested that broadcasters may want to learn more about the capabilities of these emerging multimedia platforms by visiting retail outlets and accessing a demonstration AAC plus stream supplied via his company’s Optimod-PC and Opticodec-PC products at tsp://inet.orban.com/3gp.sdp, along with on-demand downloadable files at http://www.opticodec.com/3gp.wml

    For best results, Ogonowski recommends using an FM modulator or a high quality set of stereo headphones.


    Receivers are Stars at IBC, IFA 2005
    Among the featured attractions of the upcoming International Broadcasters Convention and the IFA consumer electronics exhibition in Berlin last week were a variety of DRM receivers, most of which are built around Radioscape's software addressable RS500 module using Texas Instruments DRM350 digital baseband chipset.

    Among those manufacturers unveiling DRM designs at IFA were Morphy Richards, Roberts Radio and Sangean. Also shown was a receiver developed under collaboration between Coding Technologies, AFG Engineering GmbH, and Himalaya (Power) Electronics. That receiver is being built around Analog Devices’ Blackfin chipset.

    There were also new entries in the DAB marketplace at IFA, as Sonarics Labs demonstrated a DAB radio receiver designed by Victory Concept Industries featuring DAB and FM reception, as well as MP3 playback, real time recording to SD card, pause and live rewind. Victory Concept says it plans to add enhanced functionality such as dual band, CD playback, EPG, color display and MOT slide show features in later models.


    BE, Harris to Show Digital Product Lines at IBC 2005
    Harris and Broadcast Electronics will vie for the attention of attendees at the International Broadcaster’s convention to be held Sept. 9-13 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam. Harris Corporation’s Broadcast Communications Division will introduce international radio broadcasters to its DX A Series with the display of a new 200kW model for medium-wave transmission. The A Series add a new monitoring and control system to the DX transmitter family via its Linux-based ECDI secure system with password protected access levels and full monitoring and control of all transmitter elements from remote locations with Internet access.

    The company is also featuring DRM On-air Upgrade kits making it possible to upgrade Harris DX, 3DX and DAX AM transmitters for DRM broadcasts in the field, with a content server and modulator to provide digital signals for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) radio broadcasts. Demonstrations of the conversion process will be conducted in the Harris booth.

    Harris also announced that Cheng Sheng Broadcasting Corporation (CSBC) in Taiwan has successfully launched a Harris DX15 DRM system in Taipei, making CSBC the first broadcaster in Taiwan to transmit in DRM.

    On the studio side, Broadcast Electronics (BE) will introduce IBC2005 attendees to a complete radio studio suite integrating on-air activities with over-the-Internet, Radio Data System (RDS) and HD Radio text activities.

    The company will demonstrate how audio and text functions for on air, RDS, Web radio and digital radio delivery platforms can be integrated before ever leaving the studio.

    Among the many facets of the suite receiving special attention will be BE’s Sonixtream streaming media management software for generating audio and text content for the Web. In addition, it will demonstrate its Now Playing Plus software capable of generating, managing and real-time delivery of song title, artist and other text for display on FM RDS or HD Radio tuners.


    IBOC Across America

    IBOC By State: Massachusetts

    Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by state will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.

    Station Format Market Owner On Air Multicasting
    WFCR-FM 88.5 Nws/Cls/Jaz Amherst University of Massachusetts Yes No
    WAAF-FM 107.3 Rock Boston Entercom Communications Corp. No No
    WBCN-FM 104.1 Alternative Boston Infinity Broadcasting Yes No
    WBOS-FM 92.9 AAA Boston Greater Media Yes No
    WBOT-FM 97.7 Urban AC Boston Radio One Inc. Yes No
    WBUR-FM 90.9 News/Talk Boston Boston University Yes No
    WBZ-AM 1030 Nws/Tlk/Spt Boston Infinity Broadcasting Yes No
    WGBH-FM 89.7 Cls/Jaz/Nws Boston WGBH Educational Foundation No No
    WILD-AM 1090 Urban AC Boston Radio One Inc. No No
    WJMN-FM 94.5 UrCHR/Rhymc Boston Clear Channel Radio Yes No
    WKLB-FM 99.5 Country Boston Greater Media Yes No
    WMJX-FM 106.7 AC Boston Greater Media Yes No
    WMKI-AM 1260 Children Boston ABC Radio Yes No
    WMKK-FM 93.7 AC Boston Entercom Communications Corp. Yes No
    WNEF-FM 91.7 Folk Boston University of Massachusetts No No
    WROR-FM 105.7 Clsc Hits Boston Greater Media Yes No
    WTKK-FM 96.9 Talk Boston Greater Media Yes No
    WUMB-FM 91.9 Folk Boston University of Massachusetts Yes No
    WXKS-AM 1430 Talk Boston Clear Channel Radio No No
    WXKS-FM 107.9 CHR Boston Clear Channel Radio Yes No
    WZLX-FM 100.7 Clsc Rock Boston Infinity Broadcasting Yes No
    WBUR-AM 1240 News/Talk Cape Cod Boston University No No
    WFPB-AM 1170 Folk Cape Cod University of Massachusetts No No
    WFPB-FM 91.9 Folk Cape Cod University of Massachusetts Yes No
    WNAN-FM 91.1 Nws/Tlk/Inf Nantucket WGBH Educational Foundation No No
    WHYN-FM 93.1 Hot AC Springfield Clear Channel Radio Yes No
    WCAI-FM 90.1 Nws/Tlk/Inf Woods Hole WGBH Educational Foundation No No
    WBPR-FM 91.9 Folk Worcester University of Massachusetts No No
    WICN-FM 90.5 Jazz/Folk Worcester WICN Public Radio, Inc. No No
    WSRS-FM 96.1 Lite Rock Worcester Clear Channel Radio Yes No
    WTAG-AM 580 Nws/Tlk/Spt Worcester Clear Channel Radio No No

    Eye on IBOC

    Leonard Kahn Turns Up The Rhetorical Heat on AM IBOC
    Although Leonard Kahn’s current Web-based tirade (www.wrathofkahn.org) against Ibiquity Digital will come as no surprise to those familiar with the scorched-earth rhetoric of the maverick engineer, it still serves as a reminder that much of the radio community remains split on the issue of potential secondary service area interference posed by an unconditional regulatory adoption of Ibiquty’s AM HD Radio standard.

    Indeed, while the relative advantage of IBOC conversion looms large for FM broadcasters, a number of AM broadcasters remain unconvinced of what’s really in it for them. For many stations now operating with marginal or asymmetrical antenna systems, conversion promises to be a financially and technically painful process. And as their FM brethren add multiple program streams, competition in a given market will effectively increase with no reciprocal benefit for AMs, save improved audio on a relative few digital receivers in the hands of early adopters, many of whom are less predisposed to be AM listeners to begin with.

    And then there is the question of adjacent channel interference in secondary coverage areas that has figured prominently in pubic comments regarding the publication of the NRSC-5 IBOC standard. In the eyes of Kahn and some other champions of the standard broadcast band, degraded nighttime service is a likely death sentence for many local and regional stations, as even the most optimistic IBOC proponents admit that it will take a number of years for economically meaningful digital receiver penetration to occur.

    All in all, it places the FCC in the unenviable position of making a decision that will have a swift and irreversible impact on the AM band. Broadcasters can only hope that the Commission gives all stakeholders an equal and informed consideration as it proceeds with this pivotal rulemaking.


    HD Radio Terminology

    An introduction into the language surrounding IBOC

    Interleaver partition: A logical subdivision of the overall interleaver matrix.
    Interleaving process: A reordering of the message bits to distribute them in time (over different OFDM symbols) and frequency (over different OFDM subcarriers) to mitigate the effects of signal fading and interference.


    Products

    DRE Ships First FM Extra Receivers
    Digital Radio Express (DRE) has begun shipping sample quantities of its FM Extra receivers. The receivers allow reception of high-speed digital subcarriers that can transmit over conventional analog or HD Radio hybrid broadcast signals using the company’s proprietary digital encoders.

    Introduced earlier this year, DRE says its technology is essentially a digital subcarrier system that can deliver up to 96kb/s of throughput data, enabling an analog-only or digitally equipped FM radio station to simultaneously broadcast multiple compressed audio channels to receivers equipped with compatible decoders.

    The sample receivers will be offered in test markets that have at least one FM Extra signal on the air, and will sell at prices as low as $99 for a basic receiver. The receivers are configured for mobile or tabletop operation.

    DRE says it will demonstrate the receivers at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia later this month in the booths of transmitter vendors Armstrong and Energy Onix.

    The company is a privately held Silicon Valley based company founded in 1997.


    Sirius Launches Recorder/Player Receivers
    Sirius Satellite radio has raised the bar for competing U.S. media by introducing its new S50, a portable player that can record 50 hours of programming while docked to a compatible receiver. The module can then be carried or worn anywhere for playback, where it also doubles as a personal MP3 player.

    Intended to offer competition within Apple’s lucrative Itunes market, the S50 is expected to ship this fall with a $359 dollar price tag that includes a docking car receiver. The unit can be programmed to record specific channels in advance, and can also interface to a PC via USB connection that allows users to create MP3/WMA playlists.




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