A new company whose major backers include Beasley Broadcast and former FCC Chairman Mark Fowler believes it can significantly improve the HD Radio experience. It aims to make a big splash at the upcoming NAB Show.
Digital PowerRadio, based in Palm Beach, Fla., says its technology will improve HD Radio performance and coverage through enhancements in baseband receiver chips, whereas much emphasis in the industry to date has focused on the transmission end through techniques like power increases and asymmetrical sidebands.
Specifically, the company says computer models show coverage gains of approximately 5 dB for hybrid FM signals in mobile handsets and smartphones as well as tabletop receivers in buildings; and approximately 7 dB of gains into auto receivers. It says it can achieve similar gains in AM.
It will introduce its work at two sessions of the NAB Show.
Radio World Editor in Chief Paul McLane asked Managing Member Mark Fowler for more information:
Mark, what is Digital PowerRadio; who owns it and where is it based?
Digital PowerRadio’s technology improves hybrid HD Radio AM and FM coverage by making the baseband receiver chip in the radio receiver more sensitive. The effect is to provide the substantial gains in HD Radio signal strength stated in the press release. Technically, the signal itself is not made stronger; but because the chip can pick up weaker signals and decode them, the effect is the same as improving signal strength.
This is a receiver-side improvement for hybrid AM and FM; no changes are needed on the transmit side.
DPR is owned by Beasley Broadcast Group Inc. and the Fowler Radio Group, including Brana Vojcic, the chief inventor.
How does a former chairman of the FCC get involved in this?
I met the inventor Brana Vojcic in 2010 on another project. At one point, he mentioned that he believed he could improve the HD Radio technology with a year or more of work, assisted by other advanced radio technique Ph.D.s from around the world.
How did the relationship with Beasley Broadcast come about?
I sit on the board of directors of Beasley Broadcast Group Inc. I have always been impressed with their work ethic and their integrity, starting with George Beasley.
I was aware of the challenges facing broadcasting in becoming successful in a digital world, and brought the inventor to a meeting with George and Caroline Beasley. He briefed them on the outline of the invention; with the input of their CTO Mike Cooney, they decided to invest and back the work needed.
You make some bold promises about improving HD Radio performance, including better receiver performance inside buildings, and better user experience at the digital/analog transition point. Can you quantify these improvements?
Our claims are based upon computer simulations, which in today’s world are seen as superior to in-the-field measurements, because computer simulation results are generally very accurate, and you can measure hundreds of different environmental scenarios, which would be cost-prohibitive if field testing, not to mention months of time.The chip industry evaluates chip technologies in this way.
You mentioned that if the industry ever goes all-digital, the improvements would be even better?
Yes. That is correct, but more long-range. Eventually, it should happen.
Tell us about Brana Vojcic.
One word: brilliant. He is a world-renowned expert in what are called “advanced radio techniques.”
For the industry to benefit from your ideas, presumably you’ll need buy-in from receiver or chip manufacturers. What’s your assessment of that happening?
Excellent. We’ve had good meetings with several chip manufacturers, looking towards licensing our technology.The technology also improves television over-the-air coverage as well as enhance performance of the signal when received on cable. We have had discussions with at least one major group television broadcaster. It would also help them with mobile TV.
What do you want broadcasters or their industry leaders to do?
Hopefully provide support and encourage main players to work with us cooperatively for the benefit of broadcasters and the American consumer.
Fowler also provided a résumé of Brana Vojcic, the main inventor. He is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The George Washington University in Washington, and is president of Xplore Wireless, with extensive technical consulting, research and teaching work, as well as being a senior member of IEEE and author of various articles and publications.