Satellite car radio service planned for Europe

A planned Europe-wide satellite radio service this week claimed to have passed a key milestone when one of the world’s leading automotive systems companies agreed to design car radios that support its technology.

Luxembourg-based Global Radio has signed a development deal with Delphi, the US automotive components giant, which will design and build satellite radios for use in vehicles across Europe.

Global Radio plans to transmit hundreds of channels from three satellites when it begins broadcasting in early 2005.

It claims to be on course to become the first in Europe to launch a commercial satellite digital audio broadcasting (S-DAB) service.

Like its terrestrial DAB equivalent, S-DAB technology offers broadcasters high audio quality and the ability to transmit additional data such as text and diagrams.Satellite broadcasting allows a much bigger geographical reach and the opportunity to transmit a large number of channels.

Global Radio said listeners in each EU country would be able to receive an average of 70 individual stations. Some of these will be pan-European while others will transmit local language content to particular countries or regions.

Global Radio said its technology will be designed to support a range of interactive services. Many of these will be aimed at Europe’s 250 million vehicles, including navigation aids and traffic updates.

Revenue from these telematics services is likely to be the key to the commercial viability of Global Radio, which plans to generate income from a mixture of subscriptions and advertising.

Delphi already manufactures radios for two US satellite broadcasters, XM Radio and Sirius. Early take-up figures for S-DAB by US consumers have been relatively healthy. This has prompted would-be European operators to claim that satellite radio could catch on here, despite competition from more established formats such as FM and terrestrial DAB.

Delphi will design multi-mode receivers for Global Radio, allowing them to receive broadcasts in other formats alongside satellite-based transmissions. It will also offer an S-DAB tuner that can fit on to existing radio units.

Global Radio said it expects to announce further development agreements with third-party manufacturers during the next few months. The company’s backers include broadcasting group NTL and investment bank Wit Soundview Group.

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