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Sprint To Offer Sirius Programs

Sirius announced an agreement with Sprint to offer select Sirius programming through the Sprint cellular network.

Sirius said this is the first agreement of its kind and that it opens a pipeline for satellite radio into a market of approximately 180 million U.S. cellular subscribers.

Some of the music channels being evaluated by Sprint and Sirius for the new service include new hits, classic rock, hip-hop, country, blues, soul, jazz and Broadway’s best music. The new Sprint service will be available nationwide later this year, and both companies plan to announce more details, including price, later this year.

Sprint currently offers its subscribers eight channels of music through Music Choice and 13 channels of music, news and sports through MSpot. Sprint will retain these music channels in addition to the Sirius programming, said a spokeswoman.

Sirius also announced several other developments this month. The company said Ford Motor Company agreed to extend its exclusive OEM deal with Sirius through September 2011, with an option to further extend to September 2013. Sirius’ previous agreement with Ford was slated to end 2008, with the same option to extend to 2013.

In a third announcement, Sirius said it developed a new proprietary technology that will increase the company’s total network capacity by 25 percent, within its existing digital transmission system.

The new technology, known as hierarchical modulation, does not use compression and will not degrade sound quality, said a spokesman. Modulation may also allow even further increased capacity, beyond 25 percent, in the future, he said.

The new technology requires new hardware and will be available in future products. It is not backwards compatible with current Sirius receivers. Present users will not lose any of their current Sirius content, but they will not receive additional channels resulting from the modulation. A spokesman noted that future services such as traffic and weather data and video would require new receivers anyway.

Sirius said the increased capacity could also be used to add new music and talk-show channels.

XM countered by stating it is currently testing hierarchical modulation. “As we get closer to offering this as a service, we will make an announcement,” said a spokesman, adding, “We already have 25 percent more programming than Sirius today. We have 153 channels, more than 30 additional channels over Sirius. We already offer multiple data services, including XM NavTraffic and XM WX (for the marine/aviation market).”