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Xperi Says It’s OK With a Geo-Targeting NPRM

The HD Radio developer says it is satisfied by GBS’ plans for testing

GeoBroadcast Solutions has secured a supportive recommendation from the developer of HD Radio in its quest to get the FCC to open a notice of proposed rulemaking about FM geo-targeting.

GBS wants to be able to sell its ZoneCasting system to FM broadcasters in the United States. It says the technology, using synchronized boosters, would give stations the ability to add very localized ads, information and alerting during parts of a broadcast hour.

This would require a rule change, so it has asked the commission to open a notice of proposed rulemaking with that in mind.

The NAB has given its qualified support to the FCC taking next steps. But some in the engineering community are dubious that it could work; and several influential companies have said it’s too soon even for an NPRM, expressing concern about interference and listener confusion. They asked the commission to wait, lest it indicate implied endorsement before the idea has been fully tested.

[Read: Large Groups Raise a Caution Flag on Geo-Targeting]

Among companies raising a caution earlier was Xperi Corp., parent of HD Radio. It filed comments saying the FCC should hold off in order to gather specific information on how the ZoneCasting technology would affect the listener experience. At the time it expressed concern with the impact on HD Radio, noting that a key requirement of its digital system is the simulcasting of the analog service on the HD1 digital channel and noting that radios are designed to blend between analog and HD1 digital audio during initial tuning or under weak signal conditions.

But GBS apparently has been working hard behind the scenes with broadcast industry players to advance its proposal. And now Xperi has updated its recommendation to the FCC via an ex parte letter explaining why:

“Since filing our comments, we have engaged in conversations with GeoBroadcast and understand that it is planning demonstrations for how ZoneCasting will be deployed in a digital setting,” Xperi wrote.

“These demonstrations will involve local broadcasters and be overseen by third-party engineering consultants Roberson and Associates. Xperi will work with GeoBroadcast to develop appropriate test plans to provide data demonstrating the ZoneCasting experience on HD Radio stations. Xperi also will provide technical support in implementation of the tests and evaluation of the results.”

It now suggests that the commission “continue with the process to move toward an NPRM. The NPRM process will give all parties ample time to explore these various issues.”

In a statement reacting to this letter, GBS said it “has been continuously refining and simulating the models that will successfully integrate geo-targeting within HD Radio, and look forward to working closely with Xperi in the field and at our headquarter laboratory in Chicago. We are confident that by working closely with the industry our technology will continue to be refined.”