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It is correct that HD radio doesn't stand for high definition. Although I'm sure they chose that name based on HDTV, which was coming on at about the same time. In the same way, DVD stands for... DVD, officially. Just some letters.
We already have fully digital radio coming on line. It's called Internet Radio and it's everywhere, including more and more car radios set up for Pandora (or Aha if it's a Honda you drive). I don't like it. It's a terrible waste of data capacity. But I'm like the old hippie standing on the curb screaming at people to take the bus instead of driving their personal cars. Nobody listens to old hippies who say that, and nobody's going to listen to me when I say that radio is a more efficient data stream than a million individually streaming cell phones either.
Evolution led us from analog TV to digital, but evolution had help there. I'm still using my analog TV because I'm on a cable system, and so never had to change it. I understand the majority of TV viewers in the US were in a similar position.
Radio is going to be different. Almost every radio in the US is portable, either as an actual portable or at least as a shelf or table top unit that is easy to relocate when you want. You could use your old TV with a digital converter, but such a complex multi-part setup is not going to cut it with radios you want to move often.
So going to fully digital radio means abandoning every radio we already have. Many of which- and the ones most often used- are built into the dashboards of our cars. Therefore requiring not only expensive new equipment, but tearing apart our beloved automobiles to install. I don't think people will go for that.
But finally, if one of the articles that the earlier Herculodge post about HD's problems is correct, Ibiquity charges a $50 licencing fee for each HD radio receiver. I can't believe that's true because it's so stupid. But if it is true, that's the nail in the coffin. Right now I can buy a modern equivalent of a transistor radio for $10, or a little FM receiver for even less. All of a sudden the price of the cheapest possible radio goes to a minimum of $60, probably more... which is getting to the contract-subsidized price of a feature phone (or even a basic smartphone?) that can stream Pandora. What do you think is going to happen?
Posted at 06:36 AM in Radio Lovers Can't Be Cured | Permalink
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The problem with Internet radio, whether for walking around or in the car, is that you need an Internet connection to receive it. Those of us without smartphones and who don't want to pay for high priced data plans (which cost much more than Satellite radio) are left out. That would cost more in a month or two than paying a one time licensing fee to Ibiquity for HD.
January 13, 2013 at 07:57 AM
Mitch, that's all true. The problem as I see it is that HD radio brings more cost and certain technical problems (such as limited range signals) without bringing any unique value to the customer. Therefore, why should the customer pay extra for it?
HD's best feature, as far as I was concerned back when I had one, was the alternate program streams each station could carry. Maybe fidelity was better, but listening in a car bouncing across cratered pavement I couldn't hear that.
The problem with the alternate HD feeds was, and is, the competition they face. Consider that in the US all your major radio markets are saturated. There are already radio signals for every major taste and a lot of obscure niches as well.
So the HD alternate feed has to compete with, first, your own main feed. Usually there wasn't much reason to tune in the alternate feed because there was only a trivial difference between that and the main feed.
Second, the HD alternate feed has to compete with all the other radio stations in the market. There's little point in having your Top 40 station put out Album Oriented Rock or New Country on alternate feeds because, assuming these formats are popular at all, somebody else is going to have them as their main signal.
Third, HD alternate feeds and especially satellite radio will have to compete more and more with those smartphones streaming Pandora or any of tens of thousands of other signals. I see this as a nail in the coffin of satellite radio even more than HD radio. (That's a pity; living out in The Sticks as I do, I have to deal with many areas where cellular signals aren't available. But the majority of people live in urban areas and don't have to worry about that.) For dedicated fans of niche markets, there is no way that two or three alternate feeds on HD systems can compete with tens of thousands of feeds on a smartphone.
Given all that, I don't see why people in general would feel much need to upgrade their standard radios to HD. I certainly don't see why the general public would be willing to abandon their millions of standard radios so that HD could take over the broadcast bands completely. I don't see why those who ARE inclined to pay extra money for extra programming wouldn't go with Internet radio instead.
I do like the idea of digital radio. What they probably should have done, though, is establish a system more like the European or Canadian digital systems, on completely different frequencies, leaving the existing broadcast bands alone. Marrying digital technology to local radio in a way that tries to make 80 years of established infrastructure obsolete in one blow is just not going to cut it. The established tech has too big a head start and the new tech has too few advantages.
Of course the biggest reason the You Ninety States didn't go to a European style national digital radio network is that setting up, say, a hundred national radio signals that blanketed the country was going to destroy the established power of the local radio stations. IBOC digital signals were meant to bring digital to the US without breaking local broadcasters' political and market power. I don't think they had to worry. The big advantage of local radio is that it is, in fact, local.
My own driving shows an example of that. I have satellite radio in my car. Yet, when I'm driving somewhere, I only use it out on the open highway where strong radio signals are few. Getting close to major markets, I'm listening to the local radio stations. They'll tell me where the traffic jams are and what's going on in their town. Satellite, or any other national system, won't.
January 13, 2013 at 08:56 AM
I wrote a couple of articles in 2009 and 2010 on Ibiquity's HD radio, focusing on the AM band.
I have never heard of a $50 fee per radio for the listener. They have a hard enough time encouraging new listeners now, particularly in the AM band.
In 2009, the FCC showed 289 licensed IBOC stations on the AM band. Today, more than 3 years later, the total is 298. They have gained 9 stations in 3+ years.
At some point I hope they give up on AM IBOC. First of all, it is nothing less than a monopoly sanctioned and fueled by the government. Second, it causes an interference mess across the AM band at night.
January 14, 2013 at 04:46 AM
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