Il miglior pesce d’aprile radiofonico l’ha scovato Antonio Tamiozzo sul sito di informazione sul DAB, DAB Ensembles Worldwide. La “notizia” di quattro licenze DAB+ in Banda L rilasciate per gli Stati Uniti dalla FCC “con effetto immediato”. Abbastanza surreale la valutazione secondo cui grazie agli impianti su location come l’Empire State Building, i quattro licenziatari erano da subito in grado di coprire un bacino di 16 milioni di ascoltatori tra New York, San Francisco e Detroit. Inutile andarci adesso sul sito di DAB Ensembles, il testo è stato rimosso. Per fortuna Antonio lo aveva salvato questa mattina.
Is HD Radio the new HD DVD? The American regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, is to permit DAB test transmissions within the United States. Three licences have been granted with immediate effect, indicating that discussions leading up to yesterday’s announcement have clearly been in progress for some time. The ensembles are licensed in San Francisco, New York and Detroit and will use DAB+. At a stroke, DAB will become available to a combined population of just over 16 million. With just three metropolitan areas licensed, the United States already becomes a significant market for portable and in-car receivers. If only one person in one thousand bought a DAB radio, that would still be over a million units sold. All three ensembles will operate in L-band, using the frequency of the original San Francisco trials. The inclusion of Detroit is significant, being the home of the American automobile industry.
The broadcasters participating in the trials include some of the most vociferous members of the Anti-IBOC Alliance. In San Francisco, the location of a technically successful DAB pilot in the 1990s, a Single Frequency Network will operate from Sutro Tower, San Bruno Mountain and Mount Allison. New York forgoes the Empire State Building sledgehammer for a more robust SFN with sites at 4 Times Square, Fort Lee (NJ) and Staten Island. Detroit will operate from Southfield with a downtown filler at Cadillac Square. The result will be a coverage area almost identical to that of the Canadian ensemble from Windsor, Ontario. When Windsor’s Block L19 transmissions resume, listeners in Detroit and Windsor will have access to DAB services from both sides of the border.
Although the licences represent a new departure for the FCC, they were presaged in its 2002 decision selecting IBOC for the AM and FM bands. At that time the FCC stated they were not ruling out new-spectrum solutions such as Eureka 147 for consideration in the future. Should new spectrum be identified, the FCC said at the time, both IBOC and non-IBOC approaches may then be considered. Announcing yesterday’s decision, the FCC spokesperson said “IBOC, or HD Radio as it’s marketed, has effectively stalled. The future development of radio in the United States demands the consideration of alternative solutions.” Given the nature of broadcasting in the USA, where frequencies and station contours are jealously guarded, it will be interesting to see whether yesterday’s announcement results in a rush to land grab other available frequencies, or whether other broadcasters will be content to wait and see. iBiquity, whose HD Radios have spectacularly failed to fly off the shelves, have not so far reacted officially to yesterday’s news, but have clearly been caught completely unawares. When contacted by Wohnort, a spokesperson asked simply “Is this some kind of joke?”.