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IBOC Update - Nov 24, 2004
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DRM Turns Heads in Dallas
Radio professionals from across North and South America got a chance to stop, look and listen to a continental take on IBOC digital broadcasting in Dallas, TX, earlier this month - and found plenty to hold their attention at Digital Radio Mondiale's first U.S. symposium on IBOC digital broadcasting.
Attended by 80 of the international organization's members, the DRM symposium presented many attendees with their first opportunity to listen to the system via a variety of receivers and actual broadcast signals, most notable of which was provided by host DRS technologies. Emanating from the company's plant across town, the 750W signal on 25.9MHz was made possible through a Special Temporary Authorization issued by the FCC, and the efforts of DRS engineers working with one of the company's DRM capable transmitters.
While many of the receivers used in the demonstrations were prototype models, DRM officials expressed confidence that production quantities of retail product would be available in about 12 months. Several consumer electronics manufacturers are expected to enter the receiver market in a timely fashion because DRM's open architecture system presents no licensing barriers, and the DSP-based designs being discussed are easily upgradeable at a software level. Along this line, Coding Technologies, a company known for its high profile work with audio codecs, promoted its new Digital Traveler receiver - a novel entry that plugs directly into a laptop or desktop PC's USB port and takes advantage of the internal sound card to handle signal decoding chores.
Representatives of North America's shortwave listening community were also on hand to quiz international broadcasters about possible interference from DRM transmissions to weak analog signals sought by DXers.
A number of eyebrows were raised as a DRM steering committee meeting concluded with a recommendation to extend DRM specifications beyond the current 30MHz and well into VHF frequencies now used for FM broadcasting in North and South America. This would place DRM on a competitive footing with Ibiquity's HD Radio standard across AM and FM bands.
Also of interest were announcements that Mexico will continue testing DRM and HD Radio before issuing specifications for either system in that country.
Those interested in learning more about DRM's technical specifications and performance can find detailed information at
Terrestrial, Satellite Subscription DAB Proponents Pushing CRTC
The Toronto Globe and Mail has reported that all three applicants for digital radio licenses have "raised the ante" with Canadian broadcast regulators by promising to offer additional channels with more Canadian content.
One of the applicants, Canadian Satellite Radio, told the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that at least 10 percent of its North American programming would be Canadian content by the end of its initial seven year license term.
Sirius Canada told the CRTC it would add a fifth Canadian channel to its offerings and divide its Canadian talent development fund equally between French- and English-speaking artists.
Representatives of CHUM and Astral Media's joint proposal for a purely terrestrial-based subscription DAB service told the CRTC on Nov. 3 that it would provide even more Canadian content than previously promised, if the commission would grant it a monopoly.
The CRTC is now left to make a decision that will likely determine the future of the Canadian digital radio industry. Observers say that the commission is likely to grant at least two of the licenses and could opt to grant all three.
New Codec Development Firm founded by Bell Lab Alums
Deepen Sinha, co-developer of the PAC codec used by Sirius Satellite Radio and others, has announced the formation of ATC Labs, a global audio and speech technology development and services firm that will focus on next-generation audio components for Internet, broadcast and cable, and wireless networks and devices.
In addition to Sinha, who will serve as president, other primary partners include Chief Technology Advisor Dr. Anibal Ferreira, an expert in low-delay audio codecs and Chief Scientist Dr. Deep Sen, an authority on the perception of speech and music signals.
The company says that its development efforts will focus primarily on audio and speech compression codecs to be offered for licensing, but that it will also assist clients in developing, integrating and testing emerging audio and speech technologies.
On the product side, the company will offer a new suite of codec products marketed under the name Tesla Pro, including Tesla Pro Audio: a high fidelity stereo audio codec operating at 48kb/s. The codec is adaptable to stereo bit rates as low as 32kb/s and high quality mono in the 20-24kb/s range.
Tesla Pro Speech is geared toward the coding of speech signals in the 4-12kb/s and is distinguished by high level of robustness to background noise and music. It also offers wide-band capabilities (8kHz or higher audio bandwidth) at 8-12kb/s.
Tesla Pro Audio and Tesla Pro Speech may be used individually or as an integrated codec, operating in the range of 4-96kb/s. In addition, ATC Labs is currently prototyping a low-delay (<50msec), low-complexity audio codec for two-way high-fidelity audio communication. This will be offered as a new product, Tesla Pro LD, by mid-2005.
The company, headquartered in Chatham, NJ, will license the codecs in a variety of implementations, and will provide consultation sales support and systems integration services in conjunction with product licensing.
Brits Buying Inexpensive DAB Solution
The appearance of an inexpensive DAB tuner with line-level stereo outputs is poised to be a big seller this holiday season, according to sources in England, where DAB listener numbers are pushing toward the one million mark.
The DAB Audio Adapter is said to be Eureka 147 compliant, with 10 channel memory remote control and clock functions, and is retailing at a price equivalent to roughly $112 U.S. at Dixon's, a British consumer goods outlet.
Dixon's and its sister chain, Curry's, are anticipating that digital radio sales will outstrip conventional radio sales this December.
Technology and Applications
Researching "Killer Apps" Part of the Plan at WGUC
For Don Danko, vice president of engineering at WGUC FM, recent reports heralding the advent of surround sound and HD Radio broadcasting are really yesterday's news. The Cincinnati-based classical music station has been working with both mediums for a period of 1½ and two years respectively, and the station's commitment to advancing radio technology has become well known to its listeners.
After recent broadcast testing of SRS matrix Circle Surround with locally recorded material, the station will be transmitting its first broadcast using Neural Systems watermark-based 5.1 surround system on Sunday, Nov. 28. But the station doesn't intend to stop there. While most of the equipment used in the test transmissions was borrowed, the actual discrete 5.1 surround recordings are performed with TLC at the station's Corbett Studio recording and production facility, where perfecting the surround recording process for classical music performance is an ongoing project.
"We're in the early evaluation phase of surround (transmission) technology," said Danko. "We're not in a hurry to make decisions." Part of the reason for the tentative nature of the tests is that it allows station personnel to make objective evaluations of the emerging technologies without the stress of a heavy financial investment in equipment, or the on-air hype that will confuse or frustrate listeners, many of whom have not yet purchased, or even heard a digital HD Radio signal.
When asked if WGUC would soon be testing the new Fraunhoffer discrete surround system, Danko was more circumspect, noting that the SRS and Neural systems have the ability to be carried on both the stations's analog and digital program channels, where the Fraunhoffer system, while potentially more accurate, is digital only. This gives the dual-domain systems a temporary advantage; particularly since there are already a few SRS-surround compatible analog receivers already out in the marketplace.
The key to getting broadcasters to adopt new HD Radio applications, Danko notes, is HD Radio receiver penetration. Like the classic chicken and egg scenario, it will probably be left to other unique applications, such as Tomorrow Radio's ability to provide multiple program streams, to build receiver numbers so that more subtle applications, such as digital 5.1 surround, can be effectively marketed. Danko also said that WGUC has already experimented with Tomorrow Radio's dual program channel technology and feels that it offers promise in demonstrating an "immediate advantage" of HD Radio to the station's listeners
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.
|WFHE-FM 90.3||Nws/Tlk/Inf||Charlotte||University Radio Foundation, Inc.||No|
|WFAE-FM 90.7||Nws/Tlk/Inf||Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill||University Radio Foundation, Inc.||No|
|WNCU-FM 90.7||Jazz||Raleigh-Durham||North Carolina Central University||No|
|WRAL-FM 101.5||AC||Raleigh-Durham||Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.||Yes|
|WUNC-FM 91.5||Nws/Tlk/Inf||Raleigh-Durham||University of North Carolina||No|
|WRQM-FM 90.9||Nws/Tlk/Inf||Rocky Mount||University of North Carolina||No|
|WNCW-FM 88.7||AAA||Spindale||Isothermal Community College||No|
Eye on IBOC
Riding a second wave of HD Radio funding and support by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Western Illinois University FM issued a purchase order in October for two new HD Radio transmitters and wideband STL that will prepare it for secondary audio and datacasting, among other advanced applications.
"With this order, we're completely digital from the control room to our exciter. And, what is really exciting to us as public broadcasters is that implementing the new applications will help us deliver on our public service mission in new ways," said WIUM-FM Chief Engineer Greg Manfroi.
WIUM, along with its repeater station in nearby Warsaw, serves a market of 159,000 people when the university is in session. The National Public Radio affiliate will implement HD Radio in a high-level combined configuration at its main transmitter site located in Macomb. A new BE FMI 402 HD Radio solid-state transmitter package with exciter and HD Radio signal generator will share the station's antenna with an existing 20kW transmitter.
The station's repeater site, used to rebroadcast programming from Warsaw, IL, will use a single BE's FMI 301 solid-state transmitter package to transmit the analog and the digital signal. A BE Big Pipe wideband STL will link the studio with both transmitter sites.
As part of the package, WIUM will also be upgrading its Audiovault digital audio system to accommodate advanced HD Radio data applications, such as Program Associated Data (PAD) fields and provisions for NPR's Tomorrow Radio architecture. The upgraded system will include hooks for NPR's Content Depot program and satellite delivery system.
Equipment delivery is expected within 30 days.
HD Radio Terminology
AWGN: Additive white Gaussian noise, also known as white noise, contains equal energy per frequency across the spectrum of the noise employed. In the context of the FM IBOC system tests, AWGN at radio frequencies was used in the laboratory tests to simulate the background noise present in the FM spectrum, which affects the quality of radio reception.
WQP: Weighted quasi peak refers to a fast attack, slow-decay detector circuit that approximately responds to signal peaks, and that has varying attenuation as a function of frequency so as to produce a measurement that approximates the human hearing system.
Day Sequerra to Offer All-Mode Digital Broadcast Tuners
High-end audio provider Day Sequerra is introducing a new product aimed at broadcasters and others with a need to receive and monitor all broadcast modes.
The HD Radio Broadcast Reference is a modular design tuner that, appropriately configured, can simultaneously receive and distribute 10 audio and video signal sources including HDTV, analog TV, HD Radio and analog AM/FM broadcasts to multiple zones in the studio or home. Day Sequerra says it's planning additional module offerings that will include satellite radio as well as streaming Internet audio.
The models primarily differ in the display options available. Version M1 offers a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) that provides station, channel, RDS (where available) center tuning, signal strength and RF multipath indications.
In the M2 configuration, broadcast quality peak/hold 32-segment LED meters that indicate RF carrier modulation percent and audio modulation in decibels provide extended monitoring functionality. The M2 also includes the same VFD module in the M1, and is intended mainly for the professional broadcast market, with optional alarms for over-modulation, loss of audio and loss of carrier.
The M3 package includes a CRT for oscilloscope indications of center tuning, signal strength and RF multipath as well as audio phase and gain. The Day Sequerra Panalyzer, a swept panaoramic signal analyzer, is also an option in the M3. Other features include individual module outputs for multi-zone AV distribution with surround sound, S-Video, DVI and RGB video outputs for HDTV and TV sources.
The modular design and upgrade path for the HD Radio Broadcast Reference permit users to initially purchase a two-channel FM-only M1 unit, adding more broadcast sources and monitoring options later.
The company expects to begin shipping the product to dealers and broadcasters following its debut at the upcoming 2005 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
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