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HD Radio Clears a Big Hurdle in Mexico

Telecom regulator endorses voluntary transition

Mexico’s telecom regulator has given its thumbs up to HD Radio and IBOC, and laid out a proposed plan for a voluntary transition to that technology.

IBiquity Digital President/CEO Bob Struble called the announcement “a major milestone made possible by many years of hard work with Mexican broadcasters and regulatory officials. … As the process moves forward, we will be working closely with station owners in Mexico, retail partners, OEM Auto and CE product manufacturers for a rapid launch of HD Radio Technology.” Regulators made clear that the decision regarding voluntary use of IBOC does not prevent continued evaluation of other broadcasting technologies in other bands. Mexico currently allows HD Radio broadcasting in certain areas near the U.S. border. The latest step could lead to IBOC adoption throughout the country.

The Federal Telecommunications Commission of Mexico, or COFETEL, is sending its recommendation to COFEMER, the Federal Regulatory Improvement Commission, which will hold a public comment period.

IBiquity provided the following translation of a press release from COFETEL:

“…[M]embers of the full commission agreed to send to COFEMER the agreement for the adoption of the IBOC (In Band On Channel) standard for terrestrial digital radio (RDT) in Mexico. The decision of the regulatory body is based principally on the international experience and recommendations of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which distinguishes the IBOC standard as being the only one presently recommended for operation on the 535–1705 kHz AM radio band, as well as the 88–108 MHz FM radio band.

“The IBOC standard constitutes an important technological advance and was designed to operate in hybrid mode, which allows the transmission of analog and digital signals on the same transmission channel and within the bands presently used for radio, which results in its name ‘in band on channel.’ The standard is a technology that allows the most efficient use of the transmission channels that broadcasters have licensed in the AM and FM bands, which will promote better service to the public by means of more program offerings, better quality and more information which is complimentary to the service of radio broadcasting, such as images and information about traffic, weather or the photograph of an artist.

The announcement continued: “The document approved by the COFETEL commissioners contains a policy for transition to the IBOC technology, whose principal elements are:

  • a) Voluntary use for AM and FM station licensees.
  • b) The IBOC standard will be used in hybrid mode, maintaining the continuity of analog service and avoiding interference with other services.
  • c) It will be possible to transmit multiple programs within the assigned bandwidth, by taking advantage of the characteristics of the standard.
  • d) If only one program is transmitted at the same time, it must be the same program transmitted in analog, but with better quality. In the case of AM, the quality can be similar to that transmitted by FM stereo, and in the case of FM the quality can be comparable to a compact disc.

“The decision regarding the voluntary use of IBOC does not prevent the continued evaluation of other broadcasting technologies in other bands of frequencies assigned to broadcasting. This decision seeks to promote investments and developments of the digital infrastructure within the bands that are currently used for AM and FM radio, with the goal of offering better service to the public.

“COFETEL will send the agreement to the Federal Commission for the Improvement of Regulations, which will perform a consultation process within the framework of improved regulatory processes, as foreseen in the Federal Law of Administrative Processes.”

Mexico Is Set to Elect IBOC” (April 2010)

Canada in Digital Radio Limbo” (Oct. 2010)