In October the US took the next step on the path to "everything digital". We've been writing about the trend toward more and more home devices becoming digital -- including audio players, cameras, camcorders and TVs. In radio we saw the start of this with satellite radio from XM and Sirius, although their uptake has been slow.
The digital technology format called HD Radio, recently approved by the FCC, enables digital broadcasting in the AM and FM bands. The digital radio technology is being produced by privately held iBiquity and was previously known as In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) technology. It works within the current AM and FM spectrum allocations, so consumers can continue to use their existing analog receivers as well as getting the higher quality and additional services offered by the new generation of HD Radio-equipped receivers.
The technology is said to enhance FM radio signals to CD quality and AM signals to the quality of today's analog FM signals. Broadcasters can send out text information with their broadcasts, such as what song is currently playing, news, weather, and stock quotes; this will facilitate personalized programming, such as traffic reports on demand rather than at the pre-set times designated by today's "all news" radio stations.
Manufacturers are expected to introduce new digital receivers for car stereos and high-end audio systems at the upcoming CES show. Products will be labeled with "HD radio" stickers which will initially add about $100 to the price. Delphi Corp. has licensed HD Radio technology and will integrate it into receivers slated for 2004 cars.
iBiquity was established from the merger of two digital-broadcasting companies, Lucent Digital Radio Inc. and USA Digital Radio Corp. The company's investors include 15 of the nationís top radio broadcasters, including ABC, Clear Channel and Viacom. It has been working with electronic retailers, suppliers such as JVC, Kenwood, and Sanyo, and car companies like Ford. TI introduced a DSP-based digital baseband chip enabling HD Radio technology in August.
The FCC ruling allows broadcasters to proceed immediately with HD Radio broadcasting while final standards are established. iBiquity is working closely with the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), co-sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), to develop final standards.