HD Radio is the trademark for iBiquity’s in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology used by AM and FM radio stations to transmitaudio and data via a digital signal in conjunction with their analog signals. It was selected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2002 as a digital audio broadcasting method for the United States, and is the only digital system approved by the FCC for digital AM/FM broadcasts in the United States, officially known as NRSC-5, with the latest version being NRSC-5B. Other digital radio systems includeFMeXtra, Digital Audio Broadcasting , Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM and DRM+), and Compatible AM-Digital (CAM-D).
As a standard practice, the kilohertz signal rate is written next to its corresponding data transfer rate kilobits/s or kbits/s in HD Radio documentation. While HD Radio does allow for an all-digital mode, this system currently is used by some AM and FM radio stations tosimulcast both digital and analog audio within the same channel (a hybridized digital-analog signal) as well as add new FM channels and text information. Although HD Radio broadcasting’s content is currently subscription-free, listeners must purchase new receivers in order to receive the digital portion of the signal. As of May 2009, there were more stations in the world on the air with HD Radio technology than any other digital radio technology. More than 1,900 stations covering approximately 84% of the United States are broadcasting with this technology, and more than 1,000 HD2 and HD3 multicast channels are on the air. According to iBiquity’s website the “HD” is simply a brand name and has no meaning, although in its early whitepapers, iBiquity used the original name “Hybrid Digital”. That was later dropped. There is no connection with high-definition television (HDTV), although like HDTV the HD Radio specification provides enhanced capabilities over the old analog format, such as 5.1 surround sound.
The FCC has not indicated any intent to force off analog radio broadcasts as it has with analog television broadcasts, as it would not result in the recovery of any radio spectrum rights which could be sold. Thus, there is no deadline by which consumers must buy an HD Radio receiver.