HD Power Increase Gets FCC Okay

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After months of wrangling, the word has come down from on high: HD radio transmission is getting a boost. It’s a 6dB boost to be exact — a nearly fourfold increase for most stations. The FCC has handed down a notice that they have given the okay to a ten percent increase in HD transmission power.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and iBiquity have lobbied for this change for a while now. It is not only supposed to boost HD radio range but also to help reduce and prevent the signal dropouts that have been an issue for some users.

Radio World brings us the words of iBiquity’s top dog in reaction to the good news:

“The commission has worked closely with the radio broadcast industry on this item,” [iBiquity President/CEO Bob] Struble said, “and chose a prudent course for the power increase which met the needs and addressed the concerns of the key constituents. This is another fine example of successful collaboration between the government and the private sector, and it promises to further enhance the benefits of HD Radio Technology to all Americans.”

This is great news for HD. The multichannel content offered by the medium is brilliant, but it does little good if you can’t get a signal. This signal boost will do a lot towards further mainstreaming of the medium. Another nice thing is that there is also a remediation procedure built into it that allows the settling of interference disputes within 90 days. Since interference with traditional stations has been a worry in these debates, having a standardized means of addressing disputes will do a lot towards smoothing implementation.

Here is the full text of the FCC notice:

The Federal Communication Commission’s Media Bureau adopted an Order that permits FM radio stations to voluntarily increase digital power levels up to ten percent of analog power levels and establishes interference mitigation and remediation procedures to promptly resolve complaints of interference to analog stations.  These rule changes will substantially boost digital signal coverage while safeguarding analog reception against interference from higher power digital transmissions.

In 2002, the Commission adopted the in-band on-channel digital audio broadcasting system developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation (“iBiquity”) as the de facto standard for FM station digital operations.  Stations are currently permitted to transmit digitally at one percent of analog power.  In June 2008, iBiquity, 18 group owners of 1200 radio stations and four major radio equipment manufacturers requested that the Commission increase digital power levels by 10 dB, i.e., to ten percent of analog power levels.  Both iBiquity and National Public Radio have submitted detailed studies assessing the potential for improved digital service and increased interference to analog reception.

The Bureau Order will:

• Permit most FM stations to immediately increase digital power by 6 dB, a four-fold power increase;
• Limit power increases for stations currently licensed in excess of class maximums, i.e., “super-powered” stations, to protect analog radio service from interference;
• Establish application procedures for power increases up to 10 dB;
• Establish interference remediation procedures that require the Media Bureau to resolve each bona fide dispute or impose tiered power reductions within 90 days; and
• Reserve the right to revisit the issue of digital power levels if significant interference results to analog reception.

Action by the Media Bureau, January 27, 2010 by Order (DA 10-208). Docket 99-325.

Image: FCC log / Fair Use: Reporting

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