IBOC update, part II

In a way that never ceases to amaze me, Bob Strubel spins another yarn about HD Radio.™  According to Bob:

Tom’s experiences at the Ford dealership are disappointing. We believe they reflect the growing pains which often occur when companies launch new technologies. Tom hit the lot as factory installed HD Radio receivers were just launching.

Well, then, I guess that explains that.  If I went to a Ford dealership today, I’d find plenty of models with HD radio(s)™ stock, right?

As far as new technology and growing pains, let us pick that apart piece by piece:

  • IBOC has been in development since 1990 or thereabouts.  Not really new technology.  Apple’s iPhone and iPad are new technology (2 years and 3 months respectively).
  • Ford Motor Company has been an HD Radio™ partner since 2007.  One would think that all the kinks would be worked out by now.
  • The IBOC roll out hit a wall around 2008 and hasn’t grown since then, both the AM technology, which appears to be shrinking, and the FM technology, which appears to be subsidized by the US government.

To test Mr. Strubel’s next statement:

Had he been able to hold out with his old Explorer for another couple months, he would have been able to purchase an Escape with a factory installed HD Radio receiver as these vehicles hit dealerships the first week of August.

It is now the third week in August, I stopped by three Ford dealerships in reasonable sized cities around here.  Not really wanting to waste a sales person’s time, I cut to the chase and asked about vehicles with HD radios.  Here is the response:

  • Dealership #1 said they knew about HD radio, but none were in any of their stock vehicles.  They also could not give me an idea of how long I’d have to wait to receive one, if ordered separately.
  • Dealership #2 pointed me in the direction of SiriusXM, saying that satellite radio was digital radio, or HD Radio™ or whatever it was
  • Dealership #3 never heard of HD Radio™ and said that all their radios were digital (Like, Duh!)

Finally, there is this standard iBiquity statement that seems to go well in any situation:

…it’s ironic that his negative experience happened at a time when the consumer rollout of HD Radio Technology is stronger than it has ever been. We are seeing dramatic receiver sales increases across all segments – OEM auto, consumer electronics, and the new portable HD Radio category. Overall sales of HD Radio receivers will more than double in 2010, and that is on top of a doubling from 2008 to 2009. Can anyone point to any other facet of AM/FM that has seen this sort of growth over the last several years?

Sure, analog AM and FM receivers continue to fly off the shelves in all the markets quoted above too.  Furthermore, doubling receiver sales from one small number to another small number is not that dramatic.  Like Mark Twain said: “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics.”  It’s like the rookie batting 1000 after his first time at bat; it happens occasionally, it is really not that dramatic or remarkable.

Comparing new technology such as the iPad to middle aged technology such as IBOC is silly.  The iPad has all sorts of neat features, interactive programs, applications, etc.  IBOC is just a one way radio that does sound any better than the old style radios.

IBOC update

Harris Dexstar exciter
Harris Dexstar Exciter

I was reading several very interesting IBOC related articles and posts today.  First of all, if Tom Ray, engineer from WOR and strong proponent of AM HD Radio seems a little reticent lately, well, perhaps this explains a few things:

Tom Ray finds himself discouraged based on a Ford shopping experience.

I’d recommend reading the whole thing, however, here are some of the highlights:

  • Fear of HD radio going the way of FM Quad and AM Stereo
  • Asks for a HD radio at the Ford dealership, no one can figure out what HD radio is
  • WOR news director states “HD radio sucks” then asks to have his car radio programmed for analog only
  • HD radio less known than Apple iPad product
  • Joe consumer would not be able to make heads or tails out of it.

RBR has more here.

It is telling that one of the most vocal proponents of IBOC would publish an article such as this.  It seems to be diametrically opposed to the latest press release from iBiquity insisting all is well, never fear, etc.  Perhaps it is meant to spur things on, rally the troops as it were.

The second item I found very interesting, Paul Riismandel from Radio Survivor fools around with a Sony XDRF1  HD receiver.  He posts a great deal of information about his experience.  It is a good read.  To summarize some of the points of this story:

  • It is difficult to receive HD radio signals in the Chicago Suburbs.
  • When FM HD radio is in use, it is difficult to tell the difference in sound quality between the analog and the IBOC programming
  • Secondary channels have low bit rates and are not suitable for listening to music

Finally, Radio World, again, states that after six months 86 FM stations have completed the allowed IBOC power upgrade.  That information is from the NAB.  I cannot find any official FCC information regarding this, I would like to know if any of those 86 stations are around here.  By the way, 86 out of 1,524 stations represents 6 percent of existing IBOC stations have upgraded.  That makes 0.9 percent of the total number of FM stations licensed to the US running -14dBc IBOC carriers.

I will allow the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.

FCC opens consumer complaint center

I found this interesting article in Inside Radio: FCC simplifies complaint process.

This is part of the “Reboot FCC” initiative which started many months ago.  While I applaud the FCC acknowledgement that they are essentially a slow, plodding government bureaucracy, saying something about it and doing something about it are two different things.

The Consumer Help Center is a website where the public can complain about such things as junk faxes, telemarketers, TELCO billing issues, ISPs, indecent language and a whole host of other topics.

My question is, what happens to the complaint, once it is received?  I’d like to hear if anyone has tried this and what the results were.  Perhaps they will include a section for reporting IBOC interference on the broadcast band.

If the CRTC has any sense….

They’ll run away screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” to this notion:

Canada’s plan “B” might include iBiquity.

(as reported by Inside Radio)

Let’s just hope that this is more of iBiquity’s wishful thinking, which is often presented as actual important news being based in fact.  By iBiquity.

Why does the CRTC need a plan B anyway?  Is in not enough that Eureka 147 failed mainly due to lack of public interest?  If it was something that was commercially viable, wouldn’t it have taken off on its own?  Now they are thinking of ruining the FM broadcast band, which, in my experience in Canada, is working perfectly fine.

Who says “digital” is better?  If anything, what has been discovered in this country is when it comes to HD radio, digital is worse.  Thus far, HD radio has the following going for it:

  • Proprietary system with expensive licensing fees
  • Complicated infrastructure
  • Insufficient building penetration
  • Poor performance in mobile reception evironments
  • Lack of original programming
  • Adjacent channel interference
  • Poor receiver sales
  • Lack of general interest and/or knowledge by public

All of these things have been well documented.  If you work for the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and are thinking about this, contact me.  I’ll even invite you down for a drive around and you can experience HD radio, in all its glory, first hand.