Tests of all-digital AM HD Radio technology begin Oct. 2 on Seattle AM stations KRKO and KKXA. The FCC has approved a request for experimental test authority on the ninth such group selected for testing by NAB Labs.
This is the largest market for testing so far; Seattle-Tacoma is Metro Rank #13 based on population, according to Nielsen. The next-largest market so far for all-digital AM testing has been Tucson, Ariz., Metro #62 and home to KTUC(AM).
We reported from the Radio Show that station president/GM Andy Skotdal had asked for permission to transmit an all-digital AM signal for the testing. During a discussion of all-digital technology at the show, Skotdal said “I’m a fan of digital sunrise for the FM band,” noting that “we could see” all-digital AM after FM. He adds “AM is going to be harder to bring along” as some owners will have trouble redoing their antenna system.”
The 50 kW stations will turn off their analog signal for periods of time for the duration of the NAB Lab tests, which are due to run through Oct. 6.
NAB Labs is collecting test data to better understand the performance characteristics of all-digital transmissions via AM radio. Results of all the tests will be processed and submitted to the FCC in 2015. NAB Labs hopes to have a session at the spring show discussing the tests.
According to the Seattle Area Radio Association and iBiquity Digital Corp., there are approximately 223,907 HD Radio-equipped vehicles in Seattle.
“Listeners in King County with analog radios can receive approximately 26 FM signals, but those who have radios with HD Radio can receive an additional 33 channels, many of them commercial-free,” said Chuck Maylin, executive director of the Seattle Area Radio Association.