Digital FM gets nod from key industry group, goes to FCC
Originally published in Current, Dec. 3, 2001
By Mike Janssen
The radio industry's sole model for digital FM broadcasting won approval last week from a subcommittee the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), clearing another hurdle toward becoming the technology that stations will someday adopt. The digital radio subcommittee asked the FCC to support the new technology.
The in-band, on-channel (IBOC) technology has been developed by iBiquity Digital Corp., formed last year by the merger of Lucent Digital Radio and USA Digital Radio and based in Columbia, Md. iBiquity's IBOC model flanks a station's analog signal with two low-level digital signals. The analog signal takes over if the digital transmission can't be picked up. iBiquity says its technology will also be able to send wireless data such as traffic and weather information, possibly to specialized radios and personal digital assistants.
Subcommittee chair Milford Smith says the evaluation determined that iBiquity's technology is a "substantial improvement" over analog radio and that stations will be able to use it with little to no interference with analog signals.
Smith says the FCC must now decide how to handle the NRSC's recommendation. Though it could ask the NRSC for further evaluation, he predicts that the agency will invite public comment. If the response is mostly positive, the FCC would then propose implementing iBiquity's system, Smith says. It's possible that the FCC will wait for the NRSC to evaluate iBiquity's digital AM technology before moving ahead. Smith says his subcommittee expects to get the first reports on AM in a few weeks.
iBiquity has been field-testing its iDAB system at stations around the country, including public radio stations KNPR in Las Vegas, WBJB in Lincroft, N.J., and WETA and WAMU in Washington, D.C. The NRSC also based its recommendation on lab tests and sound quality evaluations by 480 listeners.
iBiquity will unveil its IBOC transmission equipment at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in April.
To Current's home page Earlier news: Forerunners of iBiquity tested their digital radio systems in 1999. Outside links: National Radio Systems Committee and iBiquity Digital Corp.
Web page posted Dec. 3, 2001
The newspaper about public television and radio
in the United States
A service of Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.