**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