Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Dallas Texas
Interopperable Radios: What's the Deal?
**I originally wrote this at work at around 430 this morning, so if it is a bit wordy, I appologize. For some reason, my IT department sees the Siriusbuzz forums as "adult content". Dont get me wrong, I can still read the forums, I just cant post to them! **
The never ending debate about interopperable recievers has finally made it to the SiriusBuzz discussion boards.
The key to the Sirius/XM merger is the migration of all Sirius customers to XM's satellite systems. Why? Because of the use of the codecs that each company uses. Sirius Satellite uses a PAC codec, while XM uses AAC+. AAC+ is a much more efficient codec, which is why XM is able to have 170+ channels, while Sirius has only around 130. The problem is that both companies have vowed that no radio will ever become obsolete.
You can not just duel broadcast channels. Broadcasting "best of" channels on both XM and Sirius channels uses up double the bandwith, and you cannot save bandwith by cutting out duplicated content. You can save some money, but not bandwith.
How then do you open up the bandwith? It has been said (and generally accepted) that electronics chips, while programed to recieve a narrow scope of bandwith, can be expanded to recieve a larger scope very easily. The problem lies within the codecs. Short of switching out all of the radios, you would need a radio that had BOTH codecs programmed into the radio. Supposedly, this is not something that you can add by a firmware update, at least that is what Sirius has claimed in an FCC filing.
Interopperable radios were mandated by the FCC when the initial licenses were handed out. Sirius and XM cofounded Interopperable Technologies, a subsidiary of both companys that was responsible for developing an interopperable radio. This radio has been designed and prototyped, and Mel Karmazin has one in his office. According to the two companies, this interopperable radio "is not economically feasable for commercial production" but state that they have complied with the FCC mandate because it called for the design, which they did.
A few "conspiracy theorists" suggest that many radios out there are already capable of recieving both signals. Others find this hard to beleive. Depending on the way you read many of the FCC filings and testimony in front of Congress, you can form your opinions either way (though you have to read a LOT harder into them to read that you have interop radios.) The conspiracy theorists state that it is all in how you read these filings. When they look at Sirius' filing that says you cannot add the codec with a firmware update, they will tell you that perhaps that is CORRECT, but if the codec is already programmed on the chip you can ACTIVATE it by firmware upgrade.
Others claim that if Mel Karmazin and Sirius have been attempting to decieve the government with verbage such as this, it puts them at risk for serious fines and possibly even prison time for obstruction of justice and/or pergury.
The facts of both sides are compelling. Sirius has at least one employee on staff that, according to his resumee, was "responsible for adding the AAC+ codec onto second generation Sirius chips". But AAC+ is a pay-for-use service, which according to quarterly and annual filings, Sirius does not appear to be paying for. In addition to this, there are a lot of "tweaks" that XM has made to the codec and this is considered Intellectual Property that Sirius could not use without the express permission of XM, which no one knows if that has been granted.
According to Mel Karmazin, the interopperable radios have not been produced because the cost is around $700 and the manufactures will not subsidize them and XM/Sirius will not subsidize them because they cannot guarentee a subscription from them, but that they do subsidize the single band radios because they can guarentee the subscription. The problem with this statement is that they do not say how much it costs to produce their radios currently. Many radios can be bought at retail ranging from $40 up to $450. If they are subsidizing these $450 radios, how much are they originally? How much subsidy goes into them? What is the actual cost difference in the chip sets that go into the interopperable radios as compared to the single band radios?
Many questions remain unanswered about the interopperable radios or the plans going forward when/if the merger between the two companies is approved. All of this is speculation to which no one except those on the inside actually know. The controversy will continue until something definative is released.
Until then, post your thoughts on the issue
Joined: Feb 2008
Interopperable Radios: What's the Deal?
There have been many articles written about this issue. This information was posted at the FCC already. I feel you don't understand completely and It may well be worth your effort to read the articles I posted in my message below.
Sirius, XM receivers may play both sides
Interoperable Radios: Are they already out there?
SIRIUS & XM Satellite Radio Interoperability
Satellite Radio Receivers to Play Both Sirius and XM After Firmware Upgrade?
I hope this helps!
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Dallas Texas
Yes, you posted these same links to my post on Fool.com.
The problem with them is that they were posted way back in March and does not take into account much of the information that has come out since then. As far as FCC filings are concerned, I have read each and every single one of them. I understand what Sirius is saying, and I am not saying that I necessarily beleive that Interop radios are available at this point, activated or not. I am simply stating some points for others to follow, but your links are a great source for people who have not looked into the situation much.
Post some comments on any additional information you have found or any opinion you have on the situation. What is Sirius's plan post merger?
Joined: Mar 2008
certification may not be an issue?
These radios would need to be certified by the FCC as they would be operating on a frequency they were not licensed for at the time. Although the FCC has created rules in anticipation of software defined radio (SDR) where these devices can be changed on the fly via firmware updates and the entire tuning portion and decoding portion is software based. Therefore, certification should not be an issue.
Comment by Michael Hartleib - March 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm
As I have said certification may not be an issue?
FCC Rules on FOSS and Software-Defined Radio
July 6, 2007
1 Executive Summary
The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has examined the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) rules, which go into effect today, governing Software Defined Radio (SDR) devices and concluded that the rules do not restrict the activities of independent developers and distributors of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) designed for use with SDR devices. While the FCC’s position on FOSS is more conservative than is necessary, the FCC has given a qualified endorsement to the use of FOSS by SDR manufacturers by recognizing the benefits of using FOSS in wireless products. The FCC’s SDR rules create an opportunity for wireless hardware manufacturers, the FOSS community, and the FCC to communicate openly and productively about the ability of public disclosure and open standards to strengthen the security and robustness of wireless devices.
2.1 FCC SDR Rules
On March 11, 2005, the FCC released a set of rules outlining an alternative method for certification of devices whose radio frequency and power characteristics can be modified by software (such devices are designated Software Defined Radio devices).1 The rules allow manufacturers who have certified under the new process to update the software on the devices without re-certifying the devices with the FCC.
The rules require any manufacturer certifying a device under the new process to take steps to prevent “unauthorized” changes to the software on the device that might alter its radio frequency and power parameters in a way that takes it out of compliance with the regulations known as FCC Part 15 regulations.2 The specific technology implemented to accomplish this task is left to the manufacturers seeking certification, although the FCC suggests several possible mechanisms that can serve as such “security measures.”3
In response to a petition from Cisco Systems, Inc., the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order on April 25, 2007, making two clarifications to the rules.4 First, the FCC clarified the scope of the rules to require certification under the new process of any device that uses software to comply with the Part 15 regulations if such software is “designed or expected to be modified by a party other than the manufacturer.”5 Second, the FCC stated a position regarding the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) on SDR devices. The FCC acknowledged the use of FOSS by device manufacturers and noted some of the advantages of FOSS for the industry. However, citing concerns regarding publishing information relating to security measures, the FCC stated that a SDR device which uses FOSS to build the “security measures” protecting the software against modification would face a “high burden” during the certification process “to demonstrate that it is sufficiently secure.”6
Comment by Michael Hartleib - March 17, 2008 at 3:37 pm