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Re: AP: FCC to announce digital radio decision

At 09:51 PM 10/9/2002, Richard Chonak wrote:

>An AP story says that the FCC is expected to announce a
>decision on digital radio Thursday (10/10).
>The Herald's story quotes an official of Ibiquity as saying that
>that company's system is the only proposal submitted, so the
>decision is likely to go their way.
>I understand that under the proposed system, analog radios will
>continue to work with existing stations, and there is no
>deadline for phasing out analog signals.   So apart from
>audiophile concerns, will there be a reason to get a digital
>radio any time soon?   Will there be digital-only stations?
>Your groundless but entertaining speculations will be greatly
>appreciated.  :-)

IBOC does have a higher signal quality in that multipath is virtually 
eliminated and stereo separation is preserved much better than in 
analog.  The straight audio quality is probably not quite as good.  The 
tests I've listened to put IBOC just slightly below regular analog, but 
remember that's regular analog on its best day, which regular analog rarely 
is.  The audio definitely has some issues on certain programming (like 
classical) though.  I can only hope the codec will improve...given the 
development work on MPEG4, I suspect they will.

There will not be any digital-only stations for a long time....IBOC (aka 
"HD Radio") radios are virtually non-existent so far, they're just coming 
out in the next few weeks/months and won't be widely adopted for several 
years at best.   Plus there's still some issues about exactly how they're 
going to deal with a "low bitrate digital" signal for initial station 
acquisition while the main signal buffers, once all-digital broadcasting 
begins.  The consensus is that iBiquity's got a lot of good ideas already 
under development now, and they've got at least 5, probably 10 years to 
perfect it before receiver penetration gets high enough to justify 
all-digital stations, so nobody's particularly worried.

While I view IBOC as inevitable and a step forward....that's not to say I 
think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It's got its own issues 
for sure, and I think there's a lot of curmudgeons out there who are making 
decisions for stations based on what they've known and loved for 20 years 
and refusing to consider that the world of technology has changed a lot in 
"how things work"  (there's a raging debate on PubTech about how low-class 
the construction of the first-gen IBOC exciters seems to be...compared to 
existing transmitters, perhaps...compared to today's computers, it's 
standard - see the difference?)   And I think radio in general has gone 
through so much change in the past 10 years that a lot of peoples' heads 
are swimming as it is, and they're having culture shock at being asked to 
re-think the very nature of delivering information (which is really what 
radio does as a base level...that info being music, talk or whatever) via 
the airwaves.

Plus I used to be a large opponent of IBOC until I got to really learning 
this stuff...which is indicative of the TERRIBLE marketing job iBiquity has 
done and is still doing.

Anyways, data services are considered the big selling point of IBOC...it is 
and/or will be far more standardized than traditional data services over 
subcarrier, and thus has a lot more potential.  The goal is to get to a 
point where a person driving down the road can hear an ad for a product, 
and push ONE button to buy it, and it arrives at the door a day or two 
later.   That's just one way it can be used...instant traffic, news & 
weather updates are another one although I don't see the big money there as 
it's still dependant on ad revenue, which radio needs to stop being so 
joined at the hip if it ever wants to have more stability.

Disclaimer here: I work for Broadcast Signal Lab, a company that has a 
long-standing relationship with Impulse Radio, the primary company for IBOC 
data services development.  www.impulseradio.com   Views expressed are 
solely my own and should not be taken to represent BSL, Impulse, or anyone 

Aaron "Bishop" Read     aread@speakeasy.net
FriedBagels Technical Consulting / Boston, MA
www.friedbagels.com   AOL-IM: ReadAaron