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FCC Approves FM IBOC Power Increase

HD Radio advocates secure a win at the commission; most can increase 6 dB right away

The Federal Communication Commission’s Media Bureau has approved a voluntary digital power increase — up to 10 percent of a station’s analog power — for FM stations transmitting HD Radio.

The order also establishes interference mitigation and remediation procedures to resolve complaints of interference to analog stations promptly.

The FCC said the changes “will substantially boost digital signal coverage while safeguarding analog reception against interference from higher-power digital transmissions.”

Currently, stations may transmit digitally at 1 percent of analog power. In June 2008, HD Radio developer iBiquity Digital Corp., 18 group owners of 1,200 radio stations and four major radio transmission equipment manufacturers — Harris, Broadcast Electronics, Nautel and Continental — requested that the commission allow an increase in digital power levels by 10 dB, i.e., to 10 percent of analog power levels, in the hopes of booting indoor and mobile reception on HD Radio receivers. At the current power levels, proponents say, the digital coverage does not replicate the analog coverage areas.

Both iBiquity and National Public Radio have submitted detailed studies assessing the potential for improved digital service and increased interference to analog reception.

The Media Bureau Order will:

• Permit most FM stations to immediately increase digital power by 6 dB, a four-fold power increase;

• Limit power increases for stations currently licensed in excess of class maximums, i.e., “super-powered” stations, to protect analog radio service from interference;

• Establish application procedures for power increases up to 10 dB;

• Establish interference remediation procedures that require the Media Bureau to resolve each bona fide dispute or impose tiered power reductions within 90 days; and

• Reserve the right to revisit the issue of digital power levels if significant interference results to analog reception.

Read the text.