Satellite Radio : Digital radio receiving signals broadcast by communications satellite
By Michael Sanford
A satellite radio or subscription radio (SR) is a digital radio
that receives signals broadcast by communications
satellite, which covers a much wider geographical range
than normal radio signals.
SR functions anywhere where there is line of sight
between the antenna and the satellite, given there are no
major obstructions, such as tunnels or buildings. SR
audiences can follow a single channel regardless of
location within a given range.
Because the technology requires access to a commercial
satellite for signal propagation, SR services are
commercial business entities (not private parties), which
offer a package of channels as part of their service
¡ªrequiring a subscription from end users to access its
channels. Currently, the main SR providers are
WorldSpace (Intl.), XM Radio & Sirius (U.S.), as part of their
each being proprietary and non-compatible signals,
requiring proprietary hardware for decoding and playback.
Both these and other services have news, weather, sports,
and several music channels.
We all have our favorite radio stations that we preset into
our car radios, flipping between them as we drive to and
from work, on errands and around town. But when you
travel too far away from the source station, the signal
breaks up and fades into static. Most radio signals can only
travel about 30 or 40 miles from their source. On long trips
that find you passing through different cities, you might
have to change radio stations every hour or so as the
signals fade in and out. And it's not much fun scanning
through static trying to find something -- anything -- to listen
Now, imagine a radio station that can broadcast its signal
from more than 22,000 miles (35,000 km) away and then
come through on your car radio with complete clarity. You
could drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Washington,
D.C., without ever having to change the radio station! Not
only would you never hear static interfering with your
favorite tunes, but the music would be interrupted by few or
XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have both
launched such a service. Satellite radio, also called digital
radio, offers uninterrupted, near CD-quality music beamed
to your radio from space.
Car manufacturers have been installing satellite radio
receivers in some models for a few years now, and several
models of portable satellite radio receivers are availabel
from a variety of electronics companies. In this article,
you'll learn what separates satellite radio from
conventional radio and what you need to pick up satellite
Satellite radio provider XM wants to put a satellite radio
receiver into a wide variety of electronics, including alarm
clocks and DVD players, but the technology is not ready
yet. In fact, the current goal of satellite radio, a wearable
device, is not even practical, since the receiver will not pick
up a signal if the person doesn't remain stationary.
However, experts predict that satellite radio reception will
someday become standard in a wide variety of electronics.
Although XM Satellite Radio Holdings and Sirius Satellite
Radio are posting higher-than-expected earnings and
signing up record numbers of new subscribers, their
expenses remain far higher than revenues. Both
companies reported spending more on marketing in the
fourth quarter of 2004 than they brought in from subscriber
XM Satellite Radio Holdings surprised investors with
better-than-expected earnings this morning, and the sky
seems to be the limit for satellite radio.
Revenue is growing, subscriptions are booming, the
industry is attracting high-class talent, and automobile
manufacturers are putting satellite radio receivers in
millions of cars.
XM (nasdaq: XMSR - news - people) and Sirius Satellite
Radio (nasdaq: SIRI - news - people) have boasted stellar
growth numbers, but their finances are soft and their
revenues are far outweighed by spending.
Meanwhile, competing technologies threaten to overtake
the satellite vendors the same way they've undercut
XM has a market capitalization of $6.5 billion, 26 times
what it booked in revenue for 2004.
"Based on where they are right now, the stocks might be
considered ahead of themselves," says Barrington
Research President James Goss.
But traditional radio might not be the benchmark to watch--
a number of technologies are threatening to undercut
"The terrestrial broadcasters, the satellite radio companies,
Apple and all the iPod clones, they're all competing for the
same thing," says Goss.
Apple has sold in excess of 10 million of the devices, and
more than 7 million MP3 players of all brands were sold in
Once roads are covered by emerging wireless standards
such as WiMax, which has a range of 30 miles, or by mesh
networks (which use short leaps from antenna to antenna
to create an ad-hoc network, passing the connection from
car to car), it'll be easy for drivers to stream audio off the
Web, play tunes off their home computer or even connect
to other cars and listen to whatever songs are in their
Samsung is in talks with XM Satellite Radio to develop a
flash memory player that comes with a kit that would allow
satellite radio access, and Cnet reports that the system
would come with a home or car dock that would allow
recording of radio shows.
About the Author
For more information on Satellite Radio please visit the Satellite Radio resource center at http://www.satellite-radio-resource-guide.info
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