Bringing Music Bits to Radios Everywhere

In another milestone for digital broadcasting, Lucent Digital Radio announced last week that it has successfully tested its In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) system, live and over the air, with National Public Radio (NPR) member station WBJB-FM of Lincroft, New Jersey. According to Lucent, the tests showed that there was no degradation of the host FM analog channel during the transmission of the digital FM signal over the same band.

Lucent says it began field-testing with WBJB-FM in April 1999 to evaluate a range of technical issues associated with digital FM radio. (WBJB is the first NPR member station to test the current generation of IBOC DAB systems.) Lucent Digital Radio expects to have complete results from its IBOC testing by the end of 1999, and hopes to complete its IBOC system by 2000.

IBOC, one of the leading candidates for the US standard for DAB, uses existing radio-spectrum allocations---no new allocations or auctions are required. IBOC DAB could provide AM radio with interference-free "FM audio quality," according to Lucent, and FM with "near-CD audio quality." The company claims it will be able to accommodate up to 100Kb/s of data transport for new data services. IBOC DAB is both back- and forward-compatible: current AM/FM receivers will still be able to receive existing analog signals in the new system. If a station elects to turn off the analog signal in the future, IBOC DAB-compatible receivers will operate with the remaining all-digital signal.

In January, Lucent Digital Radio announced another technology for DAB, called Multi-Streaming. (See previous report.) The company claims that Multi-Streaming solves the problem of providing high-quality digital audio reception over a coverage area equal to that of current analog FM stations.

Suren Pai, president of Lucent Digital Radio, says that "this successful test of an IBOC signal during a live broadcast is an important step on the road to providing digital capabilities for enabling new radio features that consumers want. We are on target and on time with our system testing. Working with WBJB-FM allows us to test our system with an organization that is in the technical vanguard of radio."

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