Digital Radio Update – February 7, 2007
Feb 7, 2007 9:00 AM, By Mark Krieger, CBT
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- Arbitron Requests Multicast Info Updates
- CPB Offers New Round of Digital Grants
- Business Week HD Radio Outlook: More Bear than Bull
- TI Developing Single-Chip Receiver
- Ibiquity Licenses Italian Transmission Vendor
- BE Schedules Showcases, Presentations, Workshops
- IBOC by State: Minnesota
- Coding Technologies Releases MPEG-4 Upgrade
- An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
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Arbitron Requests Multicast Info Updates
Arbitron has again included a request for stations to report information pertaining to their HD Radio multicast channels, this time in the Winter 2007 station query. The data requested is for “research purposes only” and will not be included in the Winter 2007 ratings data. The company hasn’t given a firm indication of when it might begin issuing ratings data for multicast programming.
CPB Offers New Round of Digital Grants
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) seeks to complete its 2006 grant cycle for HD Radio conversion of public radio stations by opening the application process for a remaining funds pool of $5 million. Dubbed “2006 II,” the current call for applications from broadcasters nationwide aims to finish the job of distributing CPB’s digital radio conversion money set-aside for the fiscal year 2006, totaling $13 million. Only CPB qualified stations are eligible to apply.
CPB has thus far awarded digital conversion funds for 63 percent of all transmitters in public radio service. More than 200 public radio stations now reportedly transmit a digital signal, with at least 100 more slated for launch in 2007.
The current funding round closes March 30, 2007. Station application forms, guidelines, FAQs and other information are available from the CPB website at this link.
Business Week HD Radio Outlook: More Bear than Bull
Businessweek.com’s Tom Lowry has weighed in on HD Radio’s prospects to spur growth in the low-growth commercial radio sector, but broadcaster may be less than bullish on his analysis. Entitled “HD Radio takes the rap,” the Jan. 29 article cites a number of factors that may mark the HD roll-out as “too little, too late” to rejuvenate lagging growth in commercial radio revenue.
Among the stumbling blocks cited in the online article were ongoing gaps in consumer comprehension of the technology coupled with entry costs that remain above “popular” price points. In short, Lowry doesn’t expect consumers to pay premium prices for new radio technology if they don’t grasp its advantages.
Compounding Lowry’s pessimisitic outlook is the fact that early adopters seem to be giving the technology mixed reviews online, while popular media remains fixated on glam technology like Apple’s Iphone and in-vehicle broadband networks. And the negatives keep coming, as the article concludes with statements from Wall Street analysts who opine that even with widspread penetration of the technology, any gains realized by broadcasters will likely be “nibbled away” by broadband and satellite-delivered services.
TI Developing Single-Chip Receiver
A single chip could soon bring HD Radio into a host of consumer devices at low costs if a collaborative effort between Texas Instruments and two University of Arizona scientists bears fruit. According to a Jan. 26 article on the uanews.org website, Asst. Professor Dongsheng (Brian) Ma, and doctoral student Inshad Chowdhruy, both of UA’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, are working closely with Paul Prazak, director of Analog Front End Products for TI in Tucson, to produce a complete HD Radio receiver package on a single, low-power chip small enough to “slip into an Ipod.”
The UA team is currently working on designing and optimizing the RF side of the receiver up to the antenna terminal. “By its very nature, DSP is very noisy, but analog is very sensitive to noise,” said Chowdhruy. “So we have to combine the DSP and the analog signal processing on the same chip without the DSP noise compromising the analog performance. That is where a lot of our research will be focused.”
When complete, the chip will encompass the functionality of a complete receiver, including the audio stages. TI currently manufacturers an HD Radio chip set designed to work in tandem with OEM RF front ends. But if the current project is successful, the collaborative partners believe the impact of the new chip could be “revolutionary.”
Ibiquity Licenses Italian Transmission Vendor
Ibiquity Digital has licensed R.V.R. Elettronica S.p.A. to develop, manufacture and market HD Radio exciters for AM and FM broadcasters. R.V.R. Elettronica installed power amplifiers and a RF combiner for 88 Radio Sunshine, located near Lucerne, Switzerland. That station served as the test bed in Europe’s first HD Radio technology trial.
“We hope that this agreement will allow us to play a prominent role not only in the Italian and European roll-outs of HD Radio technology, but also in other countries around the world,” said R.V.R. Sales Manager Valentino Biavati.
The list of countries testing or licensing HD Radio technology outside of the United States now includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand and Ukraine.
BE Schedules Showcases, Presentations, Workshops
Broadcast Electronics (BE) is gearing up to take HD Radio on the road again with a showcase planned for a Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) event slated in Dallas for Feb. 9 through Feb. 10, and a variety of presentations planned for April at NAB2007 in Las Vegas.
Visitors to the RAB event at the Hyatt Regency Dallas will witness a showcase for Tune Fly, a new messagecasting application for radio that features music bookmarking, Contest Connect contest flagging, personalized off-air dedications and Snowfly scrolling text features.
At NAB2007, BE will present a series of informational presentations and demonstrations during the four-day show. Complementary engineering sessions are also being offered at the company’s annual HD Radio seminar on Saturday April 14, in room N-211 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition, a number of technical papers by BE staff will be presented at the NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference. Full details on all of BE’s HD Radio presentations can be found at www.bdcast.com.
IBOC Across America
IBOC By State: Minnesota
Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by state looks at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.
There are 20 stations in Minnesota broadcasting 32 HD Radio channels.
MarketStationHD1 FormatHD2 FormatHD3 FormatOwner AustinKNSE-FM 90.1News/Info–Minnesota Public Radio Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MNKCCD-FM 90.3News/Talk/Info–Minnesota Public Radio Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MNKCCM-FM 91.1Classical–Minnesota Public Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKDWB-FM 101.3CHR–Clear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKEEY-FM 102.1CountryNew Country-Clear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKFAN-AM 1130Sports/Talk–Clear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKNOW-FM 91.1News/Talk/InfoClassical-Minnesota Public Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKQQL-FM 107.9Oldies80s-Clear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKQRS-FM 92.5Classic RockKQ Blues-ABC Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKSJN-FM 99.5ClassicalJazzKNOW-News/TalkMinnesota Public Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKTCZ-FM 97.1AAAAcoustic AOR-Clear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKTALK-FM 100.3News/TalkClassic CountryKFAN-AMClear Channel Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKXXR-FM 93.7RockComedy-ABC Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulKZJK-FM 104.1JackSmooth Jazz-CBS Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulWCCO-AM 830News/Talk/Sports–CBS Radio Minneapolis-St. PaulWLTE-FM 102.9Light ACNews, WCCO-CBS Radio RochesterKLSE-FM 91.7Classical–Minnesota Public Radio RochesterKZSE-FM 90.7News/Talk/Info–Minnesota Public Radio St. CloudKNSR-FM 88.9News/Talk/Info–Minnesota Public Radio St. CloudKSJR-FM 90.1Classical–Minnesota Public Radio
Coding Technologies Releases MPEG-4 Upgrade
Coding Technologies has released a significantly upgraded version of its MPEG-4 AAC Plus Audio encoder engine. The audio coder is currently used in a number of applications including MPEG, DVB, DMB and 3GPP. The company claims its enhanced encoder achieves significant improvements in audio fidelity and listening experience with no increases in bandwidth, allowing some content service providers to reallocate available bandwidth with no sacrifice in audio quality.
One example of the new encoder’s advantages include the delivery of 5.1 Surround Sound at 128kb/s, as opposed to 160kb/s. Coding Technologies also boasts that the improved AAC Plus coder delivers audio quality at 48kb/s rivaling that of MP3 at 128kb/s. But perhaps the greatest selling point of the improved coder is that the performance increases can be achieved with previous generation AAC Plus decoders including those in PC applications, set-top boxes, mobile phones, and digital music players or radios.
HD Radio Terminology
An introduction to the new language surrounding HD Radio.
Exgine: A component of the HD Radio transmission system that is part of the exciter. The exgine accepts coded audio and data from the exporter through a LAN. Part of the generation 3 HD Radio system.
Exporter: The device that encodes main program service (MPS) audio. The exporter also accepts program-associated data (PAD) for the main-channel audio and coded secondary program service (SPS) audio and Advanced Application Service (AAS) data from an importer. Part of the generation 3 HD Radio system.