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Mexico City Preps for HD Radio Launch

Part of market-by-market rollout

Tech developer iBiquity Digital and its retail, receiver, transmission and automaker partners are preparing for an April 16 launch of HD Radio in Mexico City.

Last June the Mexican government approved the voluntary use of HD Radio on both AMs and FMs for the entire country. Previously, it had been restricted to the area near the U.S. border.

Some 20 million, around 16% of Mexico’s population, reside in its capital city, according to iBiquity.

Most of the stations airing a digital signal are FM however as Mexico is migrating its AMs off that band and onto the FM band.

All of the six stations airing a digital signal in Mexico City are FM, including commercial and noncommercial stations.

A little more than 20 stations are on the air with an HD Radio signal in the entire country; six are in Mexico City, iBiquity Director of Business Development for Latin America John Schneider told me.

“Our idea is to do a coordinated launch market-by-market,” said Schneider, who added that the stations are on-air now with a digital signal. They will begin to promote the technology on April 16. That’s also the day stores are committed to having HD Radio receivers — portable, tabletop, aftermarket and OEM — for sale at all price points.

Ford, Toyota and Volvo have sold vehicles containing HD Radios in Mexico with Ford specifically telling the tech developer it’s already sold 20,000 vehicles with its SYNC system with the MyFord Touch entertainment and communications system that includes HD Radio.

Sales training is underway at retailers and three major chains have committed to carrying the product initially, according to Schneider. Best Buy, one of those chains, will carry boombox and portable products initially while Pioneer will focus on the aftermarket car radios. Audiovox will market tabletops and portables.

Broadcasters are buying HD Radio transmission products from BE, Continental, Harris and Nautel.

Both Scheider and other iBiquity folks I’ve talked to about the Mexico plans expect the rollout in that country to be easier than it has been here because of several factors. The technology is more advanced at launch; HD Radio is on something like its third generation of transmitters; there have been several iterations of the receiver chipset and CE prices have come down.

As for Mexico specifically, commuters spend even more time on traffic-clogged roads than we do in the United States, making their commutes, and therefore, in-car and in-public-transportation listening time longer. They also get most of their news on radio (as opposed to television as in the U.S.). And finally, radio is still king of the uncluttered dash in Mexico.

IBiquity is planning an event to celebrate the Mexico City launch during the upcoming NAB Show in April.