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Pioneer, Ibiquity at Odds Over Future Satellite Radios

Lobbying at the FCC reveals the fault lines over satellite, HD-R and consumer electronics companies.

Pioneer and Ibiquity are turning up the intensity in their dispute over whether HD Radio receive capability should be in all new satellite radio tuners.

Neither company has stated a public position over whether the FCC should approve the satellite merger; but they differ about conditions that should required should the deal be approved.

Ibiquity, NAB, Clear Channel and some other radio groups support a condition requiring that HD Radio be mandatory in any future sat rad tuners; Ibiquity worries that a combined satcaster would have more clout to block HD-R from automobiles and the retail chain in general, while Pioneer’s position has been that mandating HD-R in any new sat rad tuners restricts features it can offer and raises costs.

In meetings this week with staff for Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, a Pioneer rep said mandating whether to include HD-R “cuts by at least half the number of choices we may offer to our customers,” according to a company filing.

Such a condition would limit which component suppliers’ products be designed into radios, “granting some form of oligopoly” to Ibiquity and component manufacturers that incorporate IBOC technology, wrote Pioneer. It also argues that adding HD-R would decrease AM/FM analog tuning performance, because “existing AM/FM/HD components have poorer AM/FM [analog] reception capability than the existing AM/FM devices.”

Ibiquity has argued to the commission that both it and the satcasters are very involved in the design of their radios and it’s unlikely that low-cost producers could provide their own expertise to design the devices without the input of the technology owners.

It described a hypothetical example of the increased clout Sirius/XM would have: The merged entity would have financial resources freed up to increase commissions for sales of satellite receivers at retail and in car dealerships in a way that steers sales toward satellite radios at the expense of HD Radios.

For OEM receivers, Ibiquity says the merged entity should be required to ensure that all factory-installed satellite radios, sold either as standard or optional equipment, include HD-R technology. Aftermarket satellite radios that include analog AM/FM should include HD Radio if the listener operates the terrestrial and satellite functions using the same controls and screen, it argues.