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iBiquity Outlines Progress, Unveils HD Radio Brand

Home and car audio suppliers will be able to introduce digital IBOC AM/FM radios at CES in January for second- and third-quarter shipments now that Texas Instruments has begun shipping samples of a baseband chip that demodulates and decodes IBOC signals, iBiquity said.

TI plans volume production in the fourth quarter.

iBiquity, which developed IBOC (In-Band On-Channel) technology, also announced that it has trademarked HD Radio as the brandname for its technology. “Digital radio could mean different things to consumers,” senior VP Jeff Jury said in citing focus-group results. HD radio will “take out the confusion” and take advantage of consumers’ awareness of HDTV technology, he said.

In other updates, Jury told TWICE that at least two broadcast-equipment manufacturers will begin shipping IBOC equipment to radio stations beginning in September, and a third will begin shipping in September or October. Radio stations could begin digital broadcasts 20 to 45 days after receiving the equipment. Availability of the equipment is on schedule, Jury said.

A year ago, iBiquity president Robert Struble said he thought stations might be on the air as soon as May or June 2002.

By the end of this year, Jury said, anywhere from 50 to 100 stations will be transmitting HD Radio. “By the end of September, we’ll know the number much better,” he said.

Those stations will be concentrated in the top six early-adopter markets that iBiquity chose to stress: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Some stations will also be operating in the following markets: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

Before the stations can begin transmitting, however, the FCC must issue a report and order that HD Radio meets its criteria for delivering digital radio to consumers. “We had hoped for early September, but it now looks like late September or early October,” Jury said.

As for a timeline for HD Radio portables, TI said its chip consumes too much power for use in battery-operated devices. Portables based on TI processors won’t be available until 2004, at the earliest, said TI marketing manager John Gardner. TI is the only chip manufacturer licensed to produce HD Radio chips.

In another announcement, iBiquity said it acquired exclusive rights to Command Audio technology for use in all radios, including satellite radio.

iBiquity VP Pat Walsh said the decision will enable future iBiquity radios to deliver personalized content such as news, weather and other programs on demands. Users will scroll through electronic program guides to time-shift programming.

The first digital audio radios are expected to be shown in January at International CES by companies including Alpine, Kenwood, Harman Kardon and Visteon.