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FM on Portables Is Likely to Be a Big Focus at NAB Show

Show events begin this weekend

Exhibitors are on the floor setting up their booths, public radio engineers are gathering for their pre-NAB event and the Las Vegas Convention Center is getting ramped up for another annual confab of broadcasters.

This weekend, the National Radio Systems Committee will meet; among the topics is the reactivation of its RBDS Subcommittee. The Society of Broadcast Engineers Ennes Workshop takes place Saturday.

Radio World has heard from various sources that NAB Show attendance is likely to be down perhaps 20 percent; but official numbers won’t be out until next week. This pre-convention season has been marked by lower hotel rates, convention registration specials and reports that travel budgets are very tight due to the economy.

Last year’s convention attendance was reported at about 105,000, of which about a quarter came from abroad.

One likely focus of attention for industry advocates in Vegas will be the Radio Heard Here booth, where organizers will renew their argument that advances in technology are making it easier and more affordable to implement FM radio in cell phones thanks to low-cost ICs and embedded antennas. With Bluetooth ICs that include FM radio, the market outlook continues to improve.

NAB engineers recently called attention in their newsletter to two devices that benefit from advances that allow the FM antenna to be integrated into the cell phone, namely the Motorola ROKR EM35 and the Nokia 5030. Listeners can use wireless Bluetooth headsets or Bluetooth-enabled speakers for listening to the radio, a better consumer experience than the clumsier wired headset/antenna combo.

They’ve also pointed out the integrated FM antennas in devices like the Alert FM receiver and “smart” watches used with Microsoft’s MSN Direct FM subcarrier-based service. Global Security Systems, which makes Alert FM, has been an early proponent of the push for wireless carriers and others to activate FM capabilities in cellular handsets.

NAB President/CEO David Rehr has applauded Verizon Wireless and AT&T for including FM radio-capable handset devices, and he is lobbying Apple to begin including FM radio as a standard feature in iPhones and iPods.