One of several articles providing
a final overview of news coming out of the April NAB Show.
As I reported briefly earlier, Digital
PowerRadio’s chief inventor, George Washington University professor Dr. Brana
Vojcic, will brief iBiquity Digital engineers in Columbia, Md., about his HD
Radio receiver chip technology.
Digital’s Gereon Joachim with two attendees in front of the receiver wall in
the tech developer’s booth.
by Jim Peck
meeting comes after much “he said/she said” drama leading up to and during the
of the companies met together with NAB Executive Vice President/Chief
Technology Officer Kevin Gage at the convention. Sources said he was trying to
figure out what was going on and nudge the parties to talk.
that too, caused some observers to ask why NAB was even involved in what
appears to be a spat between two companies over whether to do business
Indeed, the situation is potentially
politically sensitive, given that a former FCC chairman and a member of NAB’s
executive board are part of the DPR effort.
there was another show meeting, without Gage, that included iBiquity
President/CEO Bob Struble and General Counsel Al Shuldiner; Digital PowerRadio Chief
Inventor Brana Vojcic; its Managing Member Mark Fowler, the former FCC
chairman, and his Fowler Radio Group partner Bruce Lederman; and Beasley
Broadcast Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Caroline Beasley,
who’s a member of the NAB Executive Committee. DPR also met with Commissioner
Ajit Pai at the show.
to the convention, Digital PowerRadio laid out its case in coverage on the
Radio World website. IBiquity then replied with a guest commentary of its own,
saying that what DPR is proposing “doesn’t offer significant improvement” over
the HD Radio system now in the field; DPR replied that it stood by its
IBiquity declined comment about the subsequent
discussions between the companies for this story.
close to the situation told me after the show that all sides agreed to tone
down the public rhetoric; indeed, I heard the word “statesmanship” used.
“We’re trying to address this in a factual
way,” said one individual close to the discussions, which is good because a few
engineers at the show said to me something along the lines of: “They need to
get to the bottom of this.”
gist of the dispute: DPR claims its technology, parts of which were developed
for the cellular phone industry, will make an HD Radio receiver more sensitive
and extend the coverage of the AM and FM digital signal, whether it’s
all-digital or in the hybrid mode.
is an investor in DPR. Fowler previously characterized Beasley to me as a
“minority” investor in the technology. He said he invested some of his own
money too, after being approached by Vojcic a couple of years ago.
asked to characterize the size of its investment, Caroline Beasley said the
broadcast company was not a majority owner but that it takes “any investment”
it makes “seriously.” Indeed, the entire Beasley contingent attending the show
sat together to hear Vojcic’s BEC presentation.
why the broadcaster invested in DPR, Beasley told me: “We would like to see HD
Radio coverage improve.”
President/CEO Bob Struble says he agrees with her, and that the company has
been implementing improvements to the digital radio system over time. For
example, one of those periodic improvements
that automakers were interested in for AM included antenna changes, as well as
enhancements with the blend back and forth between the digital and analog
signals, which I’ve reported.
company frequently vets ideas to improve the system, both from inside and
outside the company, Struble told me earlier. Typically what’s proposed is not
cost-effective, won’t work with its technology or both.
wants iBiquity to release its receiver chip source code to a third party, one
of the chipmakers that manufacture HD Radio chips, for testing. Only a limited
number of people would handle the code and it would be destroyed after the
testing to protect iBiquity’s intellectual property, DPR has told me.
previously told me one chip maker is “very interested” in testing and
potentially could get updated HD Radio receiver chips out in 2014.
Manufacturers of HD Radio chips include Intel, NXP, Silicon Labs, STMicroelectronics
and Texas Instruments.
asked Vojcic early in the show whether implementing the new chip would make HD
Radio receivers in the field obsolete; he said it depended on how the
manufacturer implemented the change.
point of testing would be to validate DPR’s claims of coverage improvement and
subject them to peer review.
was no agreement regarding sharing of the source code in April. Indeed, several
engineers I spoke with don’t anticipate that happening.
discussed its technology with the NAB Radio Technology committee earlier in the
year and with the National Radio Systems Committee at the show. The
standards-setting NRSC is not involved in the dispute.
source described the upcoming meeting, which will likely happen in May, as a
“good first step.”
Aspects of the DPR technology were developed
previously with the wireless industry in mind; DPR officials believe if not
used in digital radio, other industries could be interested in their
technology. “We have one major TV group that has approached us. If we can’t do
a deal here, we have other ways to go,” one source told me.
I’ve heard other radio groups were asked to
invest as well. A source close to the talks confirms two other groups were
asked and declined to invest. “They blew us off,” said the individual, thinking
the groups, whom he declined to name, either didn’t understand the DPR
technology or didn’t want to “deal with it.”