Home > Equipment, Management > Digital Radio, HD Radio, Whatever You Wish To Name It….

Digital Radio, HD Radio, Whatever You Wish To Name It….

I actually had a good time at the NAB Show this year.  I met folks I have not seen in awhile.  I had some good discussions and some progress was made on outstanding issues.  The one topic that still amazes me is HD Radio, or digital radio.  I am torn on this one as we move on into the future.  I had a very interesting talk with a colleague on this very issue as our respective management take on the two opposing sides.

(Note:  I will refer to HD Radio as Digital Radio as I find the HD misleading and it has no significance.  IBOC is a better acronym, but many fail to know of which it refers.)

Where I work management takes on the side of absolutely no digital radio until we can make some money on it.  Where my colleague works the management takes the side of put everything and anything on the digital carriers.  What we have here is the the “chicken and egg” scenario.  On side does not wish to start anything until proven while the other side takes it head on and uses the technology though there is no real revenue at this time.  The question that arises from this is, “When does one embrace digital radio?”

From where I sit we are wasting much on having the digital carriers run.  We waste power generating the carrier and we waste power cooling the site.  We waste space on the equipment, and we waste time maintaining and “fixing” flaws in the system.  (Read some of my previous posts or tweets.)  There is no push from management to utilize the carriers nor is there any push to “market” the fact the analog is available in digital.  We witness the coverage of the digital falling short of “full market” coverage, whatever that means today.  We do make a few bucks on utilizing digital data, but nothing that pays for the power bills or equipment maintenance.

On the other side, the colleague mentioned has a manager who has no qualms embracing the technology resulting in HD2 and HD3 channels (note not an NPR affiliate).  With the announcement of HD4 and MP3, this manager is wanting it now.  Again, no real revenue is being generated, but at least there is use of the technology and some marketing.  By utilizing the technology the issues I experience are amplified on him because they are in use.  To me digital radio is an annoyance while to my colleague it is part of the routine.

Though the discussion on whether IBOC technology is good or bad, it is here and it does not seem to be going anywhere.  At what point do stations embrace it?  When all automobile manufacturers install the radios?  When all radios available or produced include the technology?  Again, the chicken and egg scenario.   Stations and groups with money have no issue embracing digital radio.  It becomes another expense that is overcome.  A small market group or station has a tough time on the equipment.  Music, or should I say content, delivery must be included along with the transmission equipment.  It adds up.  The economy may be improving, but it still does not justify such outpouring of capital.

We are now approaching the increase of power to the digital carriers.  Early adopters are finding they do not have the headroom in their equipment (transmitters).  Crowded markets (Southern California for example) will be unable to increase power a full 10dB, while some will not be able to increase at all.  At the NAB Show I saw the asymmetrical digital carrier power levels.  A “fix” for a system that was not thoroughly thought through.  It can be read as a solution for stations to embrace the technology, too.  I question at what point does radio convert to an all digital carrier and abandon analog?  How long does the industry continue to fix it until the breaking point?

As radio approaches this new fix it runs parallel with the emerging technology of WiMax and the continued push to provide WiFi in automobiles.  Radio must decide where it stands among all the new content providers out there.  How radio at the station level embraces this new technology is key to radio’s future.  Broadcast will, and is, just another tool to deliver a message.  I believe there will be a point where radio will go all digital as a necessity and work along side all the other methods of delivering content.

Do we embrace the technology for the sake of technology or do we prepare for a new all digital future now?  The one thing that you can bet on right now is that radio is still here as a public service.

Please, post your thoughts.

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Categories: Equipment, Management
  1. April 25, 2010 at 20:16

    It is obvious that iBiquity is trying to force HD Radio adoption, despite a collective yawn from consumers. I am seeing more and more complaints in automobile message forums about HD Radio; recently, one posster who figured out that interference to analog FM was coming from HD Radio. This scam is a real shame, as I believe it will destroy terrestrial radio long before a critical uptake of HD radios by consumers.

  2. May 16, 2010 at 16:43

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    Christian, watch south park online

  3. May 24, 2010 at 18:56

    I have a question about this statement:

    “With the announcement of HD4 and MP3, this manager is wanting it now.”

    I understand HD2 and HD3 are additional channels, so I’m assuming HD4 is yet another. Good deal. Now what about MP3? Are we talking about the same MP3 here (that is, the music compression scheme)? How is that going to be incorporated into HD radio?

  4. May 24, 2010 at 20:56

    I’m still researching this one. Yes, it appears the mp3 formatay be in the works for HD. Now I’m trying to find where I read that.

    Currently the HD streams are a proprietary encoding scheme.

    As soon as I can gather the information I’ll post more about it.

    Thanks for your interest.

  5. December 6, 2010 at 21:45

    every time you write, i follow. even bookmarked your blog. never reply tho, but *thumbs up* קידום אתרים

  6. December 6, 2010 at 21:47

    brilliant! how come i never read about it? קידום אתרים

  7. December 6, 2010 at 21:47

    very interesting, glad i ran into your posting. קידום אתרים

  8. December 6, 2010 at 21:50

    added to my fav’ articles.. keep ’em coming. קידום אתרים

  9. December 6, 2010 at 21:51

    Waooh! This is very good. Thanks. קידום אתרים

  10. December 6, 2010 at 21:52

    Great! loved it.. LIKE :> קידום אתרים

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