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January 13, 2013



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.


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.


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.




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