One major difference between HD Radio transition and HDTV transition is the broadcast of an analog signal. Unlike the digital video spectrum, there is no timetable set for "turning off" analog radio, nor will there be for many years. IBOC allows broadcasters to transmit (a.k.a., simulcast) an analog signal and a digital signal at the same time. "What we have advocated is that we see this as a market-based transition," said Jury, who is well aware that the installed base of analog tuners in the United States is too great (at almost 80 million) to expect a quick and complete transition. Indeed, the company predicts it could take up to 12 years before the last of the analog tuners achieves museum status. In the meantime, digital is making use of the analog signal as a back-up channel for digital. In a case where the digital signal is weak and cuts out completely, a fading analog signal can fill in, letting the listener know that he or she is getting out of range.
Despite the predictions of a long turnover time, there seems to be a general sense of excitement about the technology in the manufacturing and broadcast communities. Kenwood, Delphi and JVC all made announcements regarding it at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, pledging products this year. Initially, HD Radio will make its appearance in the mobile electronics category.
In the second quarter, Kenwood will ship an HD Radio tuner (model KTC-HR100), and eight of its latest in-dash DVD and CD receivers, under both the Kenwood and Kenwood Excelon brand names as HD Radio-ready. One caveat is that the KTC-HR100 HD Radio tuner can only be used with Kenwood receivers. Delphi is also moving into the consumer and OEM space, building products for both the install and aftermarkets. With no solid plans yet, Delphi still expects product this year. JVC also has announced plans, but a company spokesperson said they are not yet firm enough to make an announcement. Though no major company has talked about a product targeted to home users, a Korean-based company, Personal Telecom, demonstrated a prototype of a portable HD Radio product at CES.