The owner of HD Radio technology, not surprisingly, hopes the FCC will allow individual AM-band stations in the United States to switch to all-digital transmission if they wish.
Xperi said it will work with the broadcast, consumer electronics and automotive communities to push forward all-digital MA3 broadcasting if the FCC adopts the proposed rule. Comments to the commission about all-digital AM (Docket MB 19-311) are due today (March 9). Reply comments are due April 6.
The FCC proposed last fall to allow U.S. AM radio stations to turn off their analog signals and broadcast in the in-band on-channel (IBOC) mode known as MA3. Analog-only receivers — of which there are countless millions — would not be able to receive the all-digital stations; but the growing number of cars equipped with HD Radio receivers would.
[Read a new commentary from Xperi: “Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station?”]
Xperi told the FCC that HD Radio broadcasting provides many benefits over traditional analog radio, including crystal-clear, static-free sound, multicasting, enhanced metadata — including artist, song title, and album information — traffic services and enhanced digital emergency alerts.
For broadcasters with cost concerns, Xperi says it is prepared to make the transition affordable. “Currently, Xperi offers AM stations a license to use all-digital technology in perpetuity without any initial or ongoing licensing fees.” It noted the cost to upgrade facilities to accommodate all-digital operations will vary by station. “By providing broadcasters with the flexibility to transition if they want and when they want, however, the commission will facilitate a transition driven by market forces rather than regulatory fiat,” Xperi wrote.
[Watch Radio World’s recent webinar “Digital Sunrise for AM,” available on-demand, for an extended exploration of this topic.]
The company addressed concerns about interference: “Because all-digital signals have less spectral occupancy, the potential for interference is greatly reduced as compared to hybrid mode. Moreover, the HD Radio system was designed to operate in a mixed environment of analog, hybrid and all-digital stations, with all-digital signals designed to protect analog and core digital services within their protected contours,” it wrote.
The company also continues to push the FCC officially to adopt the NRSC-5-D standard as the official standard for each digital radio station. “NRSC-5-D is a mature standard that already serves as the de facto standard for both hybrid and all-digital transmissions in the United States,” Xperi said.
Only one AM station, WWFD licensed to Hubbard Radio, operates in full-time all-digital under special temporary authority from the FCC.
The NAB has favored the FCC’s move to adopt all-digital AM.