I first subscribed to the satellite radio service XM four years ago. The absence of radio commercials, all to talkative disc jockeys, and the ability to drive state-to-state without having to search for a decent channel were my primary motivations for subscribing for radio service. Other than listening to the Bob and Tom Show and local afternoon host John Corby I almost never listen terrestrial radio anymore. Even at work I stream XM radio feeds.
As the number of satellite radio subscribers pushes 10 million in early 2006, and Kagen Research projecting more than 46 million subscribers by over the next 10 years, one would wonder what terrestrial, or over the air radio, will need to compete.
Not to be outdone by satellite, HD Radio (TM) has emerged. HD Radio technology may mark the most significant advancement in radio broadcasting since the introduction of FM stereo. HD radio is what is called an in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital radio system created by iBiquity Digital Corporation for broadcasting via existing FM and AM radio stations. The HD Radio offers broadcasters and listeners radically upgraded audio quality, along with an on-demand interactive experience and compelling new wireless data services. The technology is designed for multicasting, so consumers can continue listening to the same local AM/FM stations but with the added benefits.
With HD Radio AM digital will have FM-like audio quality with all broadcasts providing static-free reception with the elimination of the familiar signal fades, static, hissing and pops. HD Radio also allows wireless data services to include On-Demand audio which includes the streaming of audio content providing more information on station programs, news, weather, and traffic. Other wireless data services include the display of artist and song information. The service is similar to the Radio Data Service (RDS), but HD Radio has the capability of delivering data at speeds of 1,000 to 2,000 bits per second compared to RDS's 100 bps.
As of December 2005 there are over several hundred HD radio stations on the air. HD Radio receivers are now coming to market with BMW being the first with their announcement of HD Radio being an option for their 2006 7-series models. Home listening equipment is currently available from several companies, in both a home tuner, and a table top models.
Of course, even with HD Radio you will still get the commercials, all to talkative disc jockeys and will have to hunt for radio stations in between cities and states. For long trips I will still have to print out a list of all the Bob and Toma affiliates and hunt for stations.
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