FCC Approves IBOC; Powell Calls Order 'Historic'
The FCC has approved in-band, on-channel digital audio broadcasting as the technology U.S. stations will use to go digital. The decision clears the way for stations to use the system developed by Ibiquity Digital Corp.
Although the commission said it is no longer considering using TV Channel 6 for digital radio use, it did not close the door on systems requiring new spectrum, should such new spectrum be identified.
The Report and Order allows FMs to transmit both a digital and analog signal both day and night, and AMs during the day only. Stations that want to begin digital transmissions would need to file a request for Special Temporary Authorization with the FCC.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell called the decision historic and said he is glad to see radio join other media in going digital. "I'm thrilled to see the radio wagon train get to the other side."
Commissioners praised the Ibiquity Digital Corp. system for its spectral efficiency; both Commissioners Katheen Abernathy and Michael Copps said they can't wait to purchase IBOC receivers. (Those are slated to be introduced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.)
Ibiquity was pleased with the action. Vice President, Broadcast Engineering, Glynn Walden said, "IBOC is a concept rooted in the American concept of a free over-the-air broadcast system...a concept and a technology that allows each and every broadcaster to transition from an analog world to a digital future while re-using the existing infrastructure and allocated broadcast spectrum. IBOC is such a compelling concept that technology was developed. With this FCC decision, those benefits are now available for broadcasters to bring the benefits of HD digital radio to the U.S. public."
The FCC Media Bureau staff feels they will learn a lot about IBOC technology when stations start to transmit a digital signal. If any interference occurs from a station that is transmitting both signals, especially interference to first adjacent channels, or to services broadcast on FM subcarriers, the commission hopes the parties would work it out. The agency would be ready to intervene in cases where stations are unable to come to an agreement about how to solve the interference, officials said.
They said it was too soon to tell when the FCC would promulgate final IBOC rules, with licensing details.