NPR and iBiquity Join Forces to Boost HD Radio

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Ibiquity-200x92_BCEHDRHD Radio is a terrific medium that has had trouble getting momentum. One of the issues holding back progress has been the FCC-regulated power limitations, and the attendant reports of poor reception.

In a collaboration reminiscent of the “Super Hero Team-Ups” popular in comic books, NPR and iBiquity have joined forces to request that the FCC institute a fourfold npr_logo_2-thumb-200x66increase in transmitting power for FM HD Radio. This is no small thing. More power means better reception, and better reception means more use of the medium. It could also play a crucial role in the realm of portable HD players, making them more reliable and, thus, a more attractive option to consumers.

Both commercial and noncommercial stations were included in the dialogue. The data from those talks and NPR Labs’ “Advanced IBOC Coverage and Compatibility Study,” filed this week with the FCC, formed the basis of the joint recommendation. In addition to the blanket power increase, NPR and iBiquity have made a commitment to add specific enhancements to HD Radio, which include¬† filling gaps in signal coverage creating broadcast standards that reduce the opportunity for interference with nearby non-digital stations.

RadioInk brings us the following quotes on the subject from NPR, iBiquity, and our colleagues over at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). My own commentary appears between the quotes.

“We are delighted that the radio industry is now poised to push this technology ahead together,” iBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble said. “We’ve found practical and balanced solutions that will greatly improve reception while limiting interference to existing analog operations.” […]

Many fans of the medium will be thrilled at these improvements as they address issues frequently brought forth by critics of HD. In addition, I think we can all agree that improved reception is always a great thing when speaking of broadcast media.

NPR Labs Exec. Director Mike Starling said, “We are optimistic about the future of HD Radio broadcasting, and eager to continue to work with iBiquity on the developments that will make this power increase work to everyone’s advantage — stations, listeners, and receiver makers.” […]

Having NPR behind this speaks volumes. They’ve been at the forefront of radio’s efforts to embrace Internet technology and social media for some time now. Having public radio involved in the continued evolution and development of HD, a very young form of radio, help to point up its status as an advancement in broadcast media.

NAB EVP Dennis Wharton said, “NAB is encouraged by this consensus agreement of iBiquity and NPR for optional increased digital power for FM HD Radio stations. We urge the FCC to move quickly and allow stations to operate at increased power according to the criteria in the agreement. This will result in greatly improved indoor reception for digital signals, including multicast signals, and pave the way for greater service reliability using portable HD Radio devices.”

As the first generation of portable HD receivers is currently on the market, reliability and reception are factors that will be of vital importance for market adoption.

This looks like another jump forwards for HD radio. Personally, I’m looking forward to it. I love the options offered by its multicast capabilities in particular. We shall see how the FCC receives this request and then I shall revisit the topic.

Image: iBiquity and NPR logs / Fair Use: reporting

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2 Responses to “NPR and iBiquity Join Forces to Boost HD Radio”

  1. Michael N Says:

    Delighted to hear that the FCC could take action soon. Glad I installed a HD radio a year ago in both my car and my wife’s. Finally HD radio may become a “real” enhancement to FM reception unlike right now with 1% power where HD radio reception is only good when the analog FM is good. Hopefully now suburbanites (those over 25 miles from the transmitters) will at last hear clean noise free reception where they live and drive. I will soon be able to confidently recommend HD radio to my friends which I haven’t been able to do up to now.

  2. George Williams Says:

    @Michael It has been a slow but steady progression so far, I know. Being an urban dweller I’ve only had the reports from those in outlying areas to go on as far as reception issues are concerned. I’m extremely excited that this may well remove a lot of those issues.

    HD multicast options are my favorite thing about this tech. Where before you had a favorite station, now you may have several additional channels from that station that each focus on a different aspect of what they do. I’ve heard dedicated bluegrass channels, for instance, coming from stations that would only do a bluegrass show before HD gave them the option to expand.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. Let us know how it works out if this goes through, I’d love to hear the practical side of things from a suburban end user like your self!

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