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All-Digital AM Field Tests to Wrap This Fall

Walden: “Analog’s time is past. It’s time to move on”

NAB Labs has tested AM all-digital technology on seven stations now and the data shows the all-digital signal is significantly better than hybrid digital AM, according to NAB Senior Director of Advanced Engineering David Layer. The NAB Labs project has three components: field testing, lab testing and allocation studies, he told Radio Show attendees.

Testing should wrap up this October on AMs KRKO/KKXA in Seattle. Station President Andy Skotdal tells Radio World he’s applied to the FCC for permission to air an all-digital signal for testing purposes. Thinking ahead to the future should the FCC authorize stations to go all-digital on their AMs, he’d like to do so starting on weekend evenings, and promote that during the week. “It’s an incentive for people to hear it. For stations that want to go in this direction why hold them back?”

Glynn Walden, senior vice president for engineering for CBS Radio and former iBiquity Digital engineering executive, noted that the current hybrid digital system was always meant to be temporary, as stations would make the digital transition when it made economic sense.

Going further, Walden says he fears there’s not much indoor listening to AM happening much anymore due to the ever-rising noise floor. “Offering digital service is imperative. Analog’s time is past. It’s time to move on,” Walden declared.

During a brief discussion of BMW leaving AM out if its i3 and i8 electric vehicles due to presumed interference from the electric motors, CEA’s Mike Bergman said car manufacturers prefer to put together parts [like the tuner] as “components that don’t require a lot of babysitting. If AM radio can’t mitigate that to some extent, how can you get the word out about digital?” He characterized all-digital AM as sounding “fabulous.”