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IBOC Update - Dec 9, 2004
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Promoters Urge Brits to Put "DAB Under the Tree"
In a move that is sure to be closely watched by those pushing to advance IBOC HD Radio in the United States, digital radio manufacturers are hoping to profit from a pre-Christmas ad campaign running across 200 commercial radio stations in England.
The Digital Radio Development Bureau's (DRDB) campaign kicked off Dec. 1 on national, local and regional stations, coinciding with a multimedia BBC promotion for digital radio across TV, radio and outdoor advertising venues. The 10-second and 20-second spots, which will run until Dec. 24, will also appear on DAB-only commercial stations in a bid to get listeners to buy digital radios as Christmas gifts.
The ads focus on the fact that UK consumers can now buy a DAB digital radio for "under 50 quid" – that's about $95 US.
The festive season will see a range of promotional activity from various set manufacturers and radio stations, with a number of the country's radio outlets actively promoting contest giveaways of DAB radios.
The latest research from the DRDB predicted that digital radios will be present in 28.7 percent of British households in four years' time - up from an estimated 3.8 percent next year. The DRDB also predicts that one million units will have been sold in the UK by Dec. 31, 2004, with that figure set to rise to 13 million by the same time in 2008.
Legal Battle Over Digital Radio Recording Looms Large, Pundits Say
Recent litigation over peer-to-peer music file sharing may foreshadow similar tribulation tied to the emergence of digital radio, according to technology observers. One brouhaha in particular, created when 35-year-old Canadian computer programmer Scott MacLean introduced his Time Trax software, designed to seek and record digital content carried over XM Satellite Radio, may prove to be the opening volley in what will become an international war over a consumer's ability to record specific recordings aired digitally.
The problems for XM Satellite began when MacLean released his software, designed to work in conjunction with XM's PCR adaptable receiver, via the Internet – allowing XM subscribers to digitally grab not only music, but title and artist information as well. Faced with the potential of damaging litigation, XM withdrew the $49 product from the market with the intention of pre-empting further use of the unauthorized software, only to witness existing units selling for up to $350 dollars on E-bay. The company even went so far as to obtain a cease and desist order to enjoin the Canadian from making any future reference to the company in relation to his activities.
This situation was exactly what the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) and other interested parties in the recording industry claim to have been concerned about when they filed comments in response to the FCC's FNPRM on IBOC digital broadcasting earlier this year. Specifically, RIAA and its allies requested that the FCC mandate a specification for embedding a digital copy protection flag in all U.S. digital broadcasts, a step that could inhibit the use of applications such as Time Trax. Because the FCC's long–awaited Report and Order on IBOC digital radio remains a work in progress, the effectiveness of RIAA's appeals is yet to be seen.
But in Europe, hardware is already being marketed that provides automatic file capture and Tivo-like time shifting function for a growing number of consumers with access to Eureka 147 DAB receivers and signals. Because the Eureka 147 standards were written some time ago, no electronic copyright flag system is now in use.
What all of these events make clear is that what consumers desire, and are growing to expect, is the full range of convenience and versatility that digital broadcasting promises. What remains unclear however, is how the American recording industry, broadcasters and the FCC will respond to those expectations.
Cox Taps Harris for IBOC Conversions
Harris Corporation's Broadcast Communications Division says it has struck a multi-million dollar deal with Cox Radio for the provision of digital transmitters through 2008. Cox Radio, with 78 stations in 18 markets, is the eighth largest radio broadcasting company, measured by number of stations, and the fourth largest by audience and revenue.
Eight Cox stations have converted to date, beginning with WEDR-FM in Miami nearly one year ago. FM stations in Houston; Birmingham, AL; San Antonio; Louisville, KY; Orlando, FL; Tampa, FL; Bridgeport, CT; and Stamford/Norwalk, CT, will convert through 2005. The entire commitment is said to have a time span of about four years
"HD Radio conversion is important to the radio business in order to remain competitive with other content providers," said Sterling Davis, vice president, engineering, Cox Radio. "We don't want to be the only analog service in a digital world. Our relationship with Harris allows us to develop a roadmap for implementing HD Radio, including additional benefits such as supplementary audio and data services."
The decision to install low-power or high-power transmitters will depend on the individual station's physical layout and power requirements. In addition, some stations will not need transmitters or may simply add a second transmitter rather than replace a main unit, according to Davis. In this scenario, a station would simply add a Harris exciter to initiate a digital stream within an existing transmitter.
Eye on IBOC
Student-Run Impact 89 Makes the IBOC Grade at MSU
Student run radio stations have a reputation for being edgy and unconventional, but Michigan State's WDBM likes to run with the big dogs when it comes to technology, proving the point by claiming the honor of becoming first non-CPB eligible, non-commercial FM station to sign on with an HD Radio signal back in mid-October.
The class A FM station, located in East Lansing, MI, is entirely student staffed with the exception of Faculty Station Manager Gary Reid, a self professed tech-head who claims he was "excited at the outset" by the prospect of taking the station IBOC digital.
Timing and planning, says Reid, were pivotal in moving the station ahead. Though the station actively began pursuing the idea in 2002, Reid and his staff decided to wait just long enough for the technology to jell a bit before proceeding with replacement of the station's 16-year-old main transmitter. After considering all the transmission options, the final decision was made to go with a BE FM 301 using low level combining, relegating the veteran Continental transmitter to analog auxiliary status.
The station, which runs an alternative rock format during the day along with talk and specialty programming at night, is currently teaming with Michigan State's IT Department to explore the possibilities of advanced datacasting. The goal is to develop unique applications for HD's ancillary data capacity - well beyond the normal boundaries of program associated data (PAD).
Reid noted that while Impact 89 hasn't gone too far out of its way to promote the new service, the attention of local print and television based on the new technology has been welcome, as the positive publicity is likely to attract additional listeners and sought-after program underwriting funds from the local business community.
HD Radio Terminology
blend to analog: The point at which the BLER of an FM IBOC receiver falls below some predefined threshold and the digital audio is faded out while simultaneously the analog audio is faded in. This prevents the received audio from simply muting when the digital signal is lost. The receiver audio will also "blend to digital" upon re-acquisition of the digital signal.
blend to mono: The process of progressively attenuating the L–R component of a stereo decoded signal as the received RF signal decreases. The net result is a lowering of audible noise.
IBOC Across America
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.
|WVTU-FM 89.3||NPR/Clscl||Charlottesville||Virginia Tech Foundation Incorporated||Yes|
|WVTW-FM 88.5||NPR||Charlottesville||Virginia Tech Foundation Incorporated||Yes|
|WHRO-FM 90.3||Classical||Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News||Hampton Roads Educational Telecomm Association, Inc.||No|
|WHRV-FM 89.5||Nws/Tlk/Inf||Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News||Hampton Roads Educational Telecomm Association, Inc.||No|
|WXGI-AM 950||Sports||Richmond||Gee Communications, Inc.||Yes|
|WOWZ-AM 1280||News||Roanoke-Lynchburg||OneCom, Inc.||No|
|WWWR-AM 910||Gospel||Roanoke-Lynchburg||Perception Media Group, Inc.||No|
|WETA-FM 90.9||Clscl/News||Washington, DC||Greater Washington Educational Telecomm Association||Yes|
ADA Premieres All-Mode Digital Radio Component Tuner
New York-based Audio Design Associates has released preliminary product information on its new Tune Suite digital component radio tuner, which is aimed primarily at the high end, multi room audio market. The company claims the tuner is unique in that it offers users the ability to simultaneously receive IBOC and analog AM/FM broadcasts, XM Satellite Radio and high band VHF NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts in multiple rooms of the home.
Another feature that sets the tuner apart is its ability to be remotely controlled, either with the company's proprietary remote bus technology, infrared hand-held units or even a PC, according to ADA.
Like at least one other component tuner, the Tune Suite uses a modular design that allows consumers to expand the system over time. Each RF module is capable of storing 30 channel presets. A front panel display will allow viewing of station and preset information, along with PAD information offered by XM and HD Radio broadcasters.
The company expects to demonstrate the new product at the 2005 Consumer Electronic Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, being held Jan. 5-9. No price information has yet been released.
Germany's Atmel Offers new DAB Chipset Solution
Atmel, a developer and fabricator of advanced semiconductor devices, has announced the availability of its new DAB baseband processor ATR2740 for DAB applications. The new baseband IC is said to provide flexibility and low current consumption at low cost, and is controlled by a standard ARM core, allowing designers to work with standardized development tools.
According to the company, only two external parts (a crystal and an 8-MB Flash memory) are required to run full DAB functionality. All RAM functions such as interleaving or program memory are incorporated into the device, along with the analog-to-digital converter. The ATR2740 complements Atmel's DAB front-end devices U2730B and U2731B, and provides a wide variety of supported interfaces – UART, USB and SPI are available for control functions, while SSO, SFCO and RDI interfaces as well as two audio outputs (I2S or SPDIF) are implemented as data interfaces.
A complete set of hardware and software tools, including comprehensive documentation, is available on request. Samples of the new ATR2740 baseband processor device in LQFP and BGA packages are available now.
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