FCC authorizes digital on AM

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,216
Location
Bowie, Md.

I would imagine HD Radio will be the format everyone eventually uses. DRM has zero chance as it doesn't have deep pockets whereas HDR does, even though DRM has advantages. There has been an ongoing (and rather technical) discussion on this very topic in the DRMNA reflector. Mike
 

gmclam

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
5,750
Location
Fair Oaks, CA
First we made those old analog TVs obsolete, but did provide a converter (at least from ATSC 1.0). FM broadcast at least has IBOC (In band on channel) hybrid digital which keeps the old FMs from becoming totally obsolete. This change to the AM broadcast band will not only make every AM radio ever made since the beginning obsolete, it will likely turn the signals people do receive now which are usable into something often marginable at best.

I wonder how many people realize that AM Stereo was authozing (and put into use) in the last century. The problem was that a single standard was not selected (unlike TV) which made the market murky. Manufacturers were able to come out with receivers that could handle a number of the different protocols, but not without issues.

I know the AM broadcast model has been suffering, but the underlying problems are not usually technical. There are places that depend on this seemingly outdate technology. You don't realize that you need it until it's too late (disaster strikes and the only means of getting information is that old AM radio in your auto or just lying around).
 

JerryX

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2017
Messages
68
One of the primary uses for AM radio is during driving. How many existing cars have HDR-capable AM radios? I'll wager the answer is very very few, if any. Until that changes, HDR on the AM band will go nowhere.
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
13,801
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
$#!!
I really enjoy doing AM BCB DX. I have a few stations I listen to at night while out in my garage. Hopefully some of them stay analog AM. If HD does negate older radios, that's going to be an issue for a lot of people.

But, the AM band has been suffering for a long time. Will be interesting to see how this works out.
 

DS506

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
20
Location
Ohio
What did digital do for TV? In the 80's, we routinely watched stations 60 miles away, even logged a VHF from 290 miles. Today I am lucky to catch a digital TV station 12 miles away.
I would much rather listen to AM static or crashes from a distant thunderstorm than have digital dropouts on the radio.
You want digital, get on the internet.
 

N8FNR

Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
67
Location
Royal Oak Michigan USA
Everyone here is a serious radio enthusiast. Now let me ask how many here will replace their car radio with a HD radio? I will not spend money on this for a vehicle. How many average listeners will replace their car or home radios? Most people who listen to AM do that in their cars during their drive time. If their favourite news station were to go all digital I bet that most would say the hell with that and just listen on their phones. It would be cheaper to stream rather than buy new radios.
 

gmclam

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
5,750
Location
Fair Oaks, CA
What did digital do for TV? In the 80's, we routinely watched stations 60 miles away, even logged a VHF from 290 miles. Today I am lucky to catch a digital TV station 12 miles away.
I would much rather listen to AM static or crashes from a distant thunderstorm than have digital dropouts on the radio.
You want digital, get on the internet.
I agree and disagree. I not only remember DXing TV signals, I STILL DO! Presently I am receiving in the neighborhood of 130 digital channels OTA from my main antenna. Channel count from my secondary antenna vary as those signals come from farther away and with less power to start with. I routinely watch TV signals from over 100 miles away (as the crow flies) with "perfect" picture and sound.

Now if you just want to connect "rabbit ears" and see what you get, that's different. Certainly ATSC doesn't work that way (well). And the scan did you last night at 11pm will likely find more channels than the one you did today at noon. Just like everything else, it's best if you understand the underlying technology and implement as desired for your needs. Digital TV brought us sub-channels (more channels), more audio choices, multi-channel audio, more robust data (on-screen guide info) and lots more. ATSC 3.0 will bring even more (and have things we don't like).

The thing I mostly dislike about moving every signal on the AM broadcast band to digital only is that it disenfranchises all the existing radios out there. Considering that virtually every auto ever made that's still on the road has one, it's a HUGE number. At least when they did this to TV the government sponsored "free" converter boxes. Impractical to do for AM radio.
 

WB9YBM

Active Member
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
553
Location
Niles, IL

JerryX

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2017
Messages
68
What did digital do for TV? In the 80's, we routinely watched stations 60 miles away, even logged a VHF from 290 miles. Today I am lucky to catch a digital TV station 12 miles away.
That mirrors my experience with DRM on the SW broadcast bands. I can listen to AM stations that are barely moving the S-meter on my receiver, but have never been able to decode to audio a DRM broadcast that's less than about S9+10dB.
 

jwt873

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 1, 2015
Messages
985
Location
Woodlands, MB
The adoption of digital receivers will be the main sticking point. As mentioned above, AM stereo didn't really catch on. We had two AM stereo stations that played music where I am, but stereso AM receivers were far and few between. I had a GM Delco radio in one of my cars that decoded stereo. One gave up the AM band completely and went to FM and the other dropped stereo when they switched from music to all talk.

On digital TV.. In the summer on hot days, I can point my outside antenna south and pick up lots of stations 100+ miles away. I'll put the TV in 'scan channel mode', then see what I snagged once it's done.

One thing about digital TV is that it's there or isn't. I'll get a crystal clear TV picture with no 'snow' from 200 miles away. But once it starts fading, it will glitch with little squares, then quickly drop out completely. We'll no doubt see the same with AM digital.
 

Kaleier1

Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2019
Messages
227
One thing about digital TV is that it's there or isn't. I'll get a crystal clear TV picture with no 'snow' from 200 miles away. But once it starts fading, it will glitch with little squares, then quickly drop out completely. We'll no doubt see the same with AM digital.
That's been said about every digital mode and is simply not true. From the Sprint Direct Connect years ago where marginal signals sounded like someone underwater and completely unintelligible but the transmitting unit had no indication that their signal didn't go through like when the receiving radio was completely out of range to tday's digital TV where you get a picture when the signal is weak but it's blocky, discolored, and jerk but the picture is there.
 

jonsmth

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 20, 2006
Messages
39
Location
Peru, MA
The FCC has been trying to "salvage" the AM band for some time. IBOC AM Stereo came out in the 80s, but was so bad that most stations chose to abandon it and go back to their mono analog signal. The FCC then authorized AM stations to receive licenses for Low Power FM Translators to simulcast their AM signals. Still, that really hasn't helped AM Radio that much. About the only thing that action has accomplished is to further clutter the FM Band. As for making the AM signal digital, unlike FM HD Radio, where the transmitter transmits both analog and digital signals simultaneously, AM stations will completely abandon their heritage analog signals to start transmitting digital signals, mainly due to the limited bandwidth of an AM frequency vs the bandwidth of an FM signal. I can't help but feel that once an AM station abandons it's analog AM signal for the digital signal, then the station will be "cutting it's own throat" and death will soon follow. The point has been brought up several times in this post; "Where do you go to buy an AM Digital Radio?" IMHO this shows how dire the AM Radio situation is. The fact that the FCC would just come out with authorization for an AM Broadcast Station to abandon it's analog AM signal just staggers the imagination. I just can't help but feel that it's only a matter of time before AM Broadcast Radio will be known as a thing of the past.
 

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,216
Location
Bowie, Md.
Keep in mind that it's the station's choice to make the switch to digital. So what we may end up with is a mish-mash of digital and analog signals where the digital signals, at least for now, can't be widely heard due to a lack of compatible radios, as has been stated.

One word- KACHING!!! (Lots of money falling....) Mike
 

N8FNR

Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
67
Location
Royal Oak Michigan USA
Even though DRM would likely be superior it does make sense for the FCC to pick HD Radio as apparently half of all cars now sold in the US are equipped with HD Radio receivers.
Here are the brands; New Cars - HD Radio
 

JerryX

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2017
Messages
68
My car, a Tesla, doesn't have an AM receiver, analog or digital. Most of my drive time listening is via streaming, which I find much better than either AM or FM radio stations as there's no fading and/or picket fencing.

I, for one, think the AM band is too crowded with stations carrying similar, if not identical content. I'd like to see a return to the way things used to be with true clear channel stations. Many AM stations these days are owned by big conglomerates who own hundreds of stations, so it would make sense for them to have a few 50kW clear channels rather than a bunch of lower powered stations in every city.
 

Boombox

Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2012
Messages
911
Where do you buy an HD radio with HD-AM capability? First, nearly all HD radios will receive HD AM. Second, you can get those radios online, at places like Amazon, etc. They're out there, and at reasonable prices in many cases.

I think 30% or more of new cars have radios with HD capability. Radio listening in general is about 30% work, 30% home, and 30% in the car. So that could be a plus, potentially, for HD AM stations.

I think the approval is a good move, but I don't see many stations going in that direction. The economy is down, radio economy is down, and new equipment costs money. HD is a nice idea but it won't save AM radio, any more than anything can save radio in general. What can save radio is revenue, and right now the internet is eating away at it, and has been since around 2005.
 

WB9YBM

Active Member
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
553
Location
Niles, IL
The FCC has been trying to "salvage" the AM band for some time.
Even before all this talk of digital started, a lot of broadcasters lost interest in AM because of a better "sound" on the FM side of things--that's why so many AMers dropped music in favor of some kind of talk format--air time's also gotten so cheap on AM that everybody and their uncle buys time for whatever they want to put on the air (I'm thinking mainly of all of the foreign language broadcasts I'm hearing on AM in the Chicago area and I'm sure there are other examples out there too).
 

MTS2000des

Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
3,548
Location
Cobb County, GA Stadium Crime Zone
Lack of quality programming issue aside, with the noise floor being what it is not just in homes and businesses, but the average car is chock full of CANs, computers and noisy engine control, what is the point? IBOC won't eliminate interference. AM is DONE. Thank a combination of corporate conglomeration destroying programming, cost cutting on engineering (many stations sound like total guano even with a solid city grade signal because NO ONE CARES about audio quality, nevermind the NRSC curve that makes current analog AM sound like a Baofeng), and now the plethora of garbage pail part 15 noisemakers filling the airwaves and the landscape.

Hey FCC, up yours. Your useless as usual. You deregulated everything down to a cesspool. Allow anything and everything that emits RF a rubber stamp to fill the marketplace, and now you want to "save AM radio"? Last call at the bar folks.
 
Top