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HD Radio Could be in Cellphones by 2012, iBiquity Says

Company talks to wireless executives at CTIA

While iBiquity previously has sent some of its executives to the annual CTIA wireless convention, this year it sent a larger group of staff who can have less theoretical, more concrete business conversations with carriers, cellphone manufacturers and chipmakers about including HD Radio in mobile phones.

“We’re talking to handset manufacturers and smartphone carriers as we look to put HD Radio on next-generation products,” iBiquity’s Jeff Jury told me from the show, being held this week in Las Vegas. “We’re looking at other MP3 players, where people get their entertainment. HD Radio needs to be there.”

Now that smaller, more power-efficient HD Radio chips are available, the ones found in HD Radio portables like the Insignia HD and Zune HD, iBiquity is telling wireless executives those chips will work in cellphones too. IBiquity is mentioning the SiPort SP1010, available now, and the SP2021/31, which SiPort expects to be available in Q3.

When I asked when we could see HD Radio in cellphones, Jury estimated 2012 but said the company is trying to accelerate that to 2011. And to be clear, we’d see FM HD Radio in cell phones first, before AM.

We told you iBiquity released the results of a survey at the wireless convention showing that a majority of people would listen to or are interested in hearing HD Radio broadcasts over their cellphones.

A brochure iBiquity executives are handing out promotes HD Radio’s cost-effectiveness and spectrum efficiency. It emphasized that the infrastructure costs for wireless carriers of supporting HD Radio are lower than those associated with Internet radio services such as Slacker or Pandora.

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This image is from an iBiquity brochure handed out at CTIA. It demonstrates integration of HD Radio technology into a mobile handset.
An AT&T wireless executive keynoter — repeating a theme that has been in the news in recent months — said data use is outpacing bandwidth capacity for wireless carriers; iBiquity says this trend boosts its argument that HD Radio is complimentary to cellphones and becomes an easy way to deliver music on a mobile device.

Jury says the company is hearing interest from wireless executives but said penetration of the cellphone market won’t happen overnight. Just as we’ve seen automakers adopt the digital radio technology over time, that’s how this will play out, he said.

You’ve got to start the conversation sometime. Also, the iBiquity pitch mirrors that being made on behalf of radio itself getting into more devices.

And I sense the recent FM digital power increase gives them another way to stress to the cellphone industry that HD Radio is on solid footing and has a future among broadcasters.