Thursday, August 27, 2009
The IBOC Mess In North America
NOW FOR A RANT.
"Bacon frying in a pan", that's what the co-channel interference sounds like when you are 10-20 KHz from one of Ibiquity Digital Corporation's AM HD Radio-equipped stations. At nighttime in the northeast part of the US, a veritable RF storm of digital hash appears across the entire AM broadcast band precluding reception of many distant stations. What a mess.
Huh? I'm not sure why they call it "In-Band, On-Channel" - it most certainly is NOT "On-Channel". The 15 KHz digital sidebands either side of the main carrier bleed fully beyond the adjacent AM channel center and into that adjacent station's far sideband. No filter, on any receiver, regardless of bandwidth, can reject it. In order to provide room for these expanded sidebands superimposing digital information on top of analog audio, stations also have had to narrow their audio response to an absolute 5 KHz maximum, further reducing standard analog audio quality. Adherence to strict technical standards is now an absolute imperative, both in the transmitter, modulation technique, and antenna or you have an even worse interference problem. And we all know radio stations often fail in this area of strict adherence. This, currently, is what the FCC calls "Hybrid" digital operation, the precursor to going fully digital at some future date.
ENTER MONEY AND BIG BUSINESS
Now on to money and big-business, which seems to fuel today's society more than ever. Have you ever seen the licensing agreement that radio stations must capitulate to in order to broadcast under Ibiquity Digital Corporation's patents? Well, here it is:
Here's the meat of it, and what the radio station must agree to if they wish to broadcast IBOC HD Radio:
1. The agreement is perpetual. You are handcuffed to Ibiquity, your provider and benefactor, forever.
2. Pay a one time fee of $25,000 to Ibiquity for rights to broadcast the Main Audio Channel. A station now pays a private, for-profit company for the right to broadcast its main signal.
3. Revenue sharing (part of your profit goes to Ibiquity). Pay 3% of incremental net revenue derived from any supplemental audio services made possible with HD Radio technology (a minimum of $1,000 per year per audio channel).
4. More revenue sharing (more of your profit goes to Ibiquity). Pay 3% of incremental net revenue derived from transmission of Auxilliary Data (Secondary and Tertiary digital data not associated with the Main Channel Primary Data).
5. Pay me again. Software upgrades to the existing HD Radio system must be licensed by paying an extra annual fee or the prevailing rate at the time of increase.
ENTER THE GOVERNMENT
And sad to say, the US Government (in name of the FCC) acts as a money-funneling agent for Ibiquity in their authorization of Ibiquity as the sole supplier of HD Radio technology. Call it monopoly if you wish. Yeah, yeah, I know - so Ibiquity has the patents on this technology. So what. Money, money, money, and more money. What ever happened to the PUBLIC INTEREST?
THE BIG DELAY
One more thing. Did you know that HD Radio is delayed by several seconds because of the technical encoding requirements? The figure most often seen is 8 seconds. No more taking the radio to the ballgame and listening to the commentator instead of the stadium announcer. No more listening to your favorite radio announcer describing the game while you watch it on TV.
SOME INTERESTING INFORMATION
As of this writing, some 289 stations broadcast in HD on the AM band in the US. Recently the FCC has added a link to their web page which provides a list of them:
Click on the "AM" link on the page. The FM list is also available by clicking on the "FM" link.
Here's another useful page which attempts to document all AM IBOC stations, and stays fairly current:
If you dislike IBOC, be sure to check out the Stop IBOC web site:
An interesting article on Ibiquity's web site on technical requirements:
And Ibiquity's licensing FAQ page:
Some other links:
Let's hope from a radio enthusiast and DXer's standpoint that IBOC eventually fails when radio stations give up on the technology. Some have started to do that.