Get Ready for Audio Bits in Space

Last week, USA Digital Radio, a partnership formed in 1991 with CBS Corporation and Gannett Co. Inc., announced the filing of a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking to permit digital radio broadcasting using In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) technology. The petition begins the process of acceptance of the USA Digital Radio IBOC system as the DAB transmission standard for the United States. According to a statement from Digital Radio, "the IBOC technology being developed by USA Digital Radio offers the most comprehensive digital radio transmission solution in history, and represents the most exciting change in broadcasting since radio's invention over 70 years ago."

Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is a digital method of transmitting "CD quality" audio signals to radio receivers. IBOC DAB is a broadcasting technology that uses the current radio spectrum to transmit existing AM and FM analog simultaneously with digital signals, which are claimed to eliminate multipath, noise, and reduce interference. The technology is said to allow broadcasters and listeners to convert from analog to digital radio without service disruption, while maintaining the current dial positions of existing stations. Broadcasters will use their current AM and FM frequency assignments to transmit simultaneous analog and digital audio, in addition to expanded auxiliary services. Listeners who purchase digital radios will receive radio stations in the new digital format and will have the capability to receive expanded auxiliary data services, such as station and program content, stock and news information, local traffic and weather, e-mail and Internet access, etc.

"We believe the FCC will play a crucial role in this historical event as the radio industry converts from 70 years of analog broadcasting to a digital age," said Michael Jordan, chief executive officer of CBS Corporation. "As a broadcaster, we are both excited and committed to this new and powerful digital transformation, which will revolutionize the public's listening experience."

According to Robert J. Struble, President and CEO of USA Digital Radio, "the establishment of a transmission standard for digital radio will foster a smooth transition for all key constituencies, and allow the entire radio industry, including broadcasters, manufacturers, trade groups, and the FCC, to focus their resources on a single approach to digital broadcasting."

It is estimated that there are over 550 million radio receivers in use today in the US, an average of 5.6 radios per household. Studies also show that over 95% of all people over the age of 12 listen to the radio every week. As of August 31, 1998, there were more than 12,300 licensed radio stations. The average American listens to AM or FM radio more than 22 hours per week. Digital Radio claims that the vast majority of Americans across the country will be impacted in one form or another by digital radio broadcasting.