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IBOC Gets Noticed

NEW ORLEANS In-band, on-channel digital audio broadcasting is getting some respect. IBOC technology had a higher profile at this year’s NAB Radio Show than it has enjoyed in the past.

NEW ORLEANS In-band, on-channel digital audio broadcasting is getting some respect.

IBOC technology had a higher profile at this year’s NAB Radio Show than it has enjoyed in the past.

“IBOC is the right system for U.S. broadcasters at the right time,” said NAB President and Chief Executive Officer Eddie Fritts at the Radio Luncheon.

NAB is bullish on digital radio, he said, because it will improve radio’s service to local communities, especially as stations face new competition from satellite radio.

It will be harder to combat satellite if terrestrial stations still broadcast analog signals, said Ibiquity Digital Corp. President and CEO Robert Struble. Ibiquity has spent nearly $1 million on developing its technology so far, a fraction of the $100 million XM Satellite Radio plans to spend just on advertising.

Wall Street analysts are asking Ibiquity what radio is doing to prevent the satellite companies from stealing their markets, Struble said. Working with equipment manufacturers to have product ready to sell is one way of doing that.

Some of Ibiquity’s manufacturing partners plan to have IBOC-compatible equipment ready for sale at the spring NAB2002 show. Two of Ibiquity’s RF manufacturing partners, Broadcast Electronics and Nautel Ltd., have progressed from signing development agreements to executing licensing deals with Ibiquity for a new line of IBOC transmitters and exciters. Ibiquity announced a similar deal with Harris at NAB2001.

Ibiquity is giving its partners technology specifications, a so-called “reference” design, to follow so the equipment can pass the IBOC waveform. Under the agreement, Ibiquity receives a percentage from the sale of each piece of equipment.

On the receiver side, Ibiquity finalized development agreements with Philips Semiconductors for ASIC receiver chips and Toko for IBOC-compatible tuner modules. The combined Toko/Ibiquity components will speed the receivers’ time to market, according to O’Connell Benjamin, senior vice president, Ibiquity. The company already has a deal with Texas Instruments for DSP chips.

For Ibiquity’s effort to get receivers to consumers, Crutchfield has agreed to carry some IBOC receivers in its catalog.

To continue the focus on consumers, Ibiquity plans to host a digital radio wireless data conference Oct. 18 at the Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit. The conference is being held at the same time as the Digital Car Show, attended by automotive electronics and telematics suppliers.

The conference launches Ibiquity’s efforts to work with industry participants to define the standards for formatting and presenting wireless data using Ibiquity’s technology.

On the exhibit floor, Impulse Radio’s display of IBOC data capabilities for front- and rear-seat entertainment in Ibiquity’s booth focused on front-seat applications. Stations may use the Impulse software to enhance their receiver displays. They could, for example, create different images of buttons on the receiver for traffic or weather. When the driver pushes the button, the music fades to the background while the traffic or weather information is spoken to the driver.

The three new FCC commissioners listened to an IBOC demonstration in Ibiquity’s booth. All three were positive about radio’s expected digital transition.

When asked how a possible FCC reorganization might affect the resources the agency can commit to crafting DAB rules, answers ranged from “no effect” to “that remains to be seen.”

Elsewhere in the convention center, NAB conducted IBOC listening tests taken by about 100 show participants. The setup was similar to the tests previously conducted by DynaStat. The company conducted those listening tests with consumers and included them as part of Ibiquity’s test results to the NRSC.

NAB will forward results from these new tests to the NRSC and also intends to make the results public by the end of the year.