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Real-time traffic information will be available over HD Radio delivered by Clear Channel by the end of this year, said Clear Channel distribution development executive VP Jeff Littlejohn.
HD Radio will allow Clear Channel to deliver data almost 20 times faster than the RDS network on which Clear Channel now operates a leading real-time traffic service, Littlejohn said.
The new HD radio service will launch in 48 markets this year, while RDS is currently available in 49 markets (with Kansas City representing the difference).
Littlejohn said the faster speed of HD radio will be important to many drivers. “From the time that a consumer turns on his navigation unit to the time he makes his first turn is critical,” because drivers usually take one of two routes to work, and the first turn out of the driveway may determine that day's path, he said.
Approximately 100 stations will broadcast HD radio traffic information initially, spreading gradually to all Clear Channel stations, said Littlejohn. HD Radio based traffic modules will have a built-in HD Radio receiver.
Littlejohn said HD radio is expected to be the preferred format for automotive OEM GPS, while RDS will continue to be popular for handhelds and most after-market products because the receivers require less power consumption and the devices are cheaper. RDS is considered “more friendly for a battery-powered device,” he said.
The greater bandwidth in the HD radio signal is expected to enable enhanced services including weather forecast updates and point of interest (POI) updates. The POI updates are important for the OEM market. “When you receive the brand-new car in September, the map data is at a minimum, six months old and probably older, so every business added in that last six months is not in your data,” said Littlejohn, noting the large number of Starbucks outlets that open each year.
Regarding the success of its current RDS real-time traffic service, Clear Channel said its subscribers currently number in the “thousands.” Littlejohn claims the service “is trending a little ahead of where we thought it would be. We expected the ramp time would take a couple of years, and in the first year it's taken off.” He points to the significant number of suppliers who are offering the service, including Audiovox, TomTom, Garmin and Cobra.
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