Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NAB Reads Orbitcast

Well, it seems that NAB reads Orbitcast. Maybe that is where all the bandwidth is going. Not surprising really; Orbitcast has always been the leading source for anything satellite radio. In its latest Reply to Opposition filed by XM and Sirius, NAB immortalized a number of commenters from Orbitcast. There's Joe, Flap Jackson, PFreak, Anonymous Coward, JohnG, and Mr. FancyPants.

Here are the latest Orbitcast commenters to reach fame and glory in a NAB filing:

“Officially count me as being opposed to the merger . . . it opens up too many doors for the consumer to get screwed. They are already showing signs of being misleading when they said earlier that the prices would not be raised and that all of the current radios would work . . . both statements are true, kinda, but not really in the nature of which they were made.”
Posting by Joe to Orbitcast

“The merger doesn’t benefit the customer anymore, in fact, it will make it worse with all these new plans to keep track of. . . . NO THANKS!” Posting by Flap Jackson to Orbitcast

“Finally, as the ‘details’ begin trickling in people are starting to wake up and realize this is a bad deal for existing customers. . . . You will not be getting the best of both services, you will not be getting sports from each service, your bill is going to increase and you’re going to have to buy new equipment which I highly doubt will fill my needs immediately. . . .” Posting by PFreak to Orbitcast

“I love how it says the current price for XM and Sirius (select) is $25.90. Last time I checked you get way more channels when you subscribe to both of them for that price. It makes you think you are getting a deal but really you are only getting 10 Sirius channels and not all of them like you would if you did pay the $25.90.” Posting by Anonymous Coward to Orbitcast

“I agree with some of the previous posters regarding Mel’s smoke & mirrors. . . . The only thing an existing customer can do is keep what he has at the same price or pay more for additional stuff – unless he buys a new radio. . . . ‘A la Carte’ packages are a typical bait & switch. . . .” Posting by JohnG to Orbitcast

“These packages will make most of us spend the same or more if we want any SIRIUS/XM
Programming. I’m an XM sub[scriber] and I would like to add some of the SIRIUS rock stations. So I could either go with the A La Carte 2 of the Best of Both packages which are $14.95 or $16.95 respectively. So in the end if you want to cross over . . . then you can’t do so in any capacity without paying the same or more.” Posting by Mr. FancyPants to Orbitcast

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

WSI Announces Combined Cockpit Weather and SIRIUS Satellite Radio

Last Monday, WSI announced combined cockpit weather and Sirius Satellite Radio. XM no longer has a monopoly (at least for now) on satellite-based weather systems for the cockpit. Previously, only a marine package via the Sirius system was available from WSI.

Two new receivers are being offered, the AV-300 and AV-350. In addition to the weather services provided by Sirius, the AV-350 will include the Sirius audio channels. The Sirius-based weather system will obsolete the WSI InFlight AV100 and AV200 product lines. Similar as with the marine installations, WSI has extented a special transition offer to its existing InFlight customers.

Description:

WSI InFlight’s datalink service keeps pilots aware of situations as they unfold, increasing flight decision confidence. WSI InFlight delivers the most accurate, up-to-date weather and related mission critical aviation information to any aircraft equipped with the WSI InFlight antenna and receiver including the industry’s highest quality radar mosaic, WSI NOWrad®, Radar Summary with storm cell height, speed of movement and direction, lighting data from the long range United States Precision Lightning Network (USPLN), cloud tops and Canadian radar. WSI’s aviation weather content also delivers icing levels, surface analyses, winds and temperatures aloft, graphical and textual METARs,TAFs, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, TFRs, PIREPs and city forecasts directly to the cockpit. The AV-350 receivers can optionally add more than 130 channels of SIRIUS sports, news, talk and commercial-free music programming to an aircraft audio system, selected wirelessly via a remote control.

Units are expected to start shipping next month. The MSRP for the AV-300 receiver and antenna is $4,347, plus installation; the MSRP for the AV-350 $5,949 plus installation. The Weather data service starts at $29.99 a month.

To order your receiver now, see the Authorized Dealers here. Okay, maybe not. Check back; they may eventually get the link working.

WSI INFLIGHT SIRIUS TRANSITION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Technical Highlights of the XM/Sirius Opposition

XM/Sirius presented some interesting ideas that they hope will allow them to expand the number of channels, such that a subscriber for one service can receive the "best of" the other service. It was an interesting discussion on how the two encode their respective signals, the differences, and how these differences can be combined to create an even more efficient coding algorithm. The purpose of these Exhibits are to dispute the study by NAB that indicated that it could not be done.

There were to Exhibits: one on behalf of Sirius:

A Technical Report Regarding Coding Efficiency and the Sirius-XM Merger

Prepared by Dr. Deepen Sinha, ATC Labs

July 24, 2007

and one on behalf of XM:

Neural Audio Corporation

Report Regarding Certain Technical Aspects Of the XM-Sirius Merger

July 24, 2007

The Sirius exhibit is worth the read if you have the opportunity. The XM exhibit is not all that enlightening, nor does it really explain how channels will be added, other than the continued evolution of the various techniques. It did little to refute the NAB report, other than to point out a few errors of marginal significance.

Highlights

* CODEC efficiencies have evolved over time and will continue to do so

* Sirus has increased its efficiency by approximately 40% since 2002

* Sirius and XM technologies have progress through different technologies

* Sirius has focused on Psychoacoustic Modeling and statistical multiplexing, while XM has focused on optimizing the pre-processor configuration

* Combining the above "like would yield improved efficiency on both the systems"

* Sirus uses the PAC audio compression scheme (no mention of AAC or AAC+)

* XM uses AAC+

* Appling "an Enhanced Psychoacoustic Model (EPM) developed for Sirius and used in PAC" to the AAC CODEC (not AAC+) can improve its efficiency. On average, there was "a bit demand reduction" of about 8.5% without optimization when tested at 51 kps)

* XM is believe to have installed "hooks" in its firmware to implement statistical multiplexing

* "Statistical multiplexing operates by encoding multiple channels instead of a single channel such that channel capacity can be adaptively steered from one channel to the other. This improves channel utilization by allowing the bandwidth to be divided based on need."

* Statistical Multiplexing can increase efficiency by 30 to 40% in video broadcasting (oddly, the exhibit does not give statistics for audio)

* Efficiencies should allow an increase of 7 music channels and 4 voice channels (assuming an average bit rate of 40 kbps for music channels and 16 kbps for voice.

* HD Radio can't benefit for statistical multiplexing

* For XM, Neural Codec Load Analysis System (N-CLAS) is applied before encoding

* Channels can be added based on seasonal substitution

Our Thoughts

We notice that the EPM was applied to the AAC CODEC and not AAC+, which XM apparently uses. Also, it seems to be trying to accomplish the same results as the neural processing, but it a different way. Both seem to try to take advantage of how the human ear perceives sounds. It is questionable whether it would yield any more efficiencies if applied to the XM stream after the neutral processing. We don't know how it would react with the AAC+ CODEC combined with Spectral Band Replication (SBR).

Statistical Multiplexing would seem to hold great promise. Whether or not it can be combined with XM's other techniques is a big question. If XM indeed has "hooks" in its code, it may well have planned on this possibility. Let's hope so. It wouldn't surprise us to find out that its current technique only works on static bit rates. If so, it could be a significant development cycle.

I have first hand experience with "hooks". They can be useful, but one rarely anticipates everything that is needed. They are usually secondary and often don't evolve with the rest of the code. I was recently project manager for a development project in which we developed our application around vendor code that left "hooks" in its code for its customers to customize the application. How did that work out? Not too good. It turned out to be a fairly major development with the vendor making significant changes to these "hooks" to make them work. We discovered numerous errors it the code using these "hooks". I would venture that 50% or more of the "hooks" had some sort of problem. And this was for a worldwide distributor of equipment.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sirius Files for Experimental License to Test Repeaters

On Monday, Sirius filed for an experimental license "to carry out experiments with new models of satellite digital audio radio services (“SDARS”) terrestrial repeater equipment." "Recently, Sirius has been updating its repeater/antenna design and technology." Rather than test them on site, Sirius would like to set up a test site to test the repeaters before deployment. It intends to test repeaters at or below 2,000 Watt EIRP average, the power level for which the FCC has given recent approval. Power levels above 2,000 Watt have been vigorously opposed by the WCS Coalition. The area Sirius has chosen is Las Vegas, where conveniently it has not been able to get approved to operate a replacement repeater operating above 2,000 Watt. Sirius plans to test up to 10 "relatively low power repeaters" at this site. The area will be an 80 kilometer radius around Las Vegas.

Update: Application dismissed without prejudice on October 17, 2007, because Sirius failed to provide the AFTRCC coordination paperwork requested by the commission on September 13, 2007. Sirius' top engineer, Terry Smith, did reply to the request on October 15; it was either inadequate or too little, too late.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sirius/ICO/TMI Connection

This is a followup to the followup on ICO, the company that filed comments in the XM/Sirius merger proceedings indicating that it might be in position to compete for dash space with satellite radio.

There is a Sirius connection that goes back to 2005, when the FCC was trying to determine what to do with 24 MHz of bandwidth in the MSS spectrum when 3 licensees surrendered their authorization to use it. On July 13, Sirius urged the FCC not to give this recently freed up spectrum to ICO and TMI--the only remaining licensees for MSS-- and to consider alternatives.

Later, on July 29, 2005, Sirius proposed itself as the beneficiary, encouraging the FCC to give nothing to ICO and TMI and to give all 24 MHz to satellite radio and in particular to give it all to Sirius, because it was out of bandwidth to expand its service. Naturally, this generous proposal was not well received by others attempting to gain access to additional spectrum. Sirius reiterated its stance in its reply to comments.

This time frame coincided with the time XM was attempting to acquire additional spectrum in the wcs band from WCS Wireless.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Sirius Hocks Trademarks

Sirius recently hocked some of its more famous trademarks to Morgan Stanley Senior Funding. Sirius apparently had to put these up as collateral for the recent borrowing. Trademark applications include: Stilleto, SIR, Sirius Internet Radio, Sir Sirius Internet Radio, The Best Radio on Radio, Stratus, and Speedster.

Update 07/23/2007: Sirius has also hocked all its patents and patent applications, except one for interoperable radios. XM does this too with its patents and patent applications. The trademarks seem to be a bit trivial.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sirius Files Application to Operate Repeaters at the Great American Trucking Show and the CEDIA EXPO 2007

In one of two applications filed today, Sirius requested authority to operate 200 Watt repeaters at the Great American Trucking Show (August 23-25, 2007) at the Dallas Convention Center and the CEDIA EXPO 2007 (September 3-9, 2007) at the Colorado Convention Center. Sirius will carry out equipment and service demonstrations at these trade shows.

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Sirius Files Application to Operate 5 Low Powered Repeaters

Today, Sirius filed for special temporary authority (STA) to operate 5 new low-powered repeaters. Repeaters will be located in the following locations:

Cincinnati (84-23-19.0, 39-13-10.0)
St. Louis (90-31-53.4, 38-45-10.2)
(2) Houston (95-31-02.70, 30-00-35.60), (95-25-35.4, 30-07-18.6)
Miami (80-26-25.9, 25-33-44.5)

All repeaters are operated at 2,000 Watt EiRP.

Sirius made one interesting note in its filing that is likely to haunt it:

Sirius does not anticipate any in-band or out of band interference from these repeaters. As noted above, these low-power repeaters will operate at or below a power level that has been deemed presumptively acceptable by both the Commission and WCS licensees. In addition, WCS licensees will have an opportunity to comment on the STA during the public notice period; as a result, Sirius has not notified the WCS licensees in the affected MSAs prior to filing this request. Therefore, Sirius respectfully requests that the Commission promptly grant its proposed modifications to its STA.

Earlier, Sirius noted:

Indeed, WCS licensees have deemed the installation of repeaters at or below 2000 Watt threshold unobjectionable.3

Footnote 3 explains:

See, e.g., Petition to Dismiss or Deny of BellSouth Mobile Data, Inc. and BellSouth Wireless Cable, Inc., File No. SAT-STA-20060623-00067 (filed September 18, 2006) at 6 (“BellSouth believes that terrestrial repeaters operating below 2 kW peak EIRP will not cause undue interference to its WCS operations”).

"Peak" is the key word. No doubt, Sirius is talking about average. It is almost as though Sirius is trying to antagonized the WCS Coalition. We suspect we will see a response.


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Sirius Responds to Primosphere's Motion to Consolidate

Yesterday, Sirius responded to Primosphere's motion to consolidate an old application into the current application of XM and Sirius to merge in a bid to claim a slice of the satellite radio bandwidth.

Primosphere lost its case in the DC Court of Appeals and withdrew its Application for Review from the FCC. The Commission never officially accepted; therefore, Primosphere feels that it is still valid.

Sirius, on the other hand, rightly feels that when Primosphere withdrew its application, that was the end of it. As Sirius so poetically put it, "There is no way for Primosphere to un-ring this bell three years later."

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A Delphi Patent Application to Satisfy the RIAA?

Delphi had a patent application disclosed today for a satellite radio receiver that records information into a satellite radio receiver from the satellites or from the internet that can include the functionality of a PDA and an MP3 player and is encrypted with a local key. The local key prevents the sharing of content with other users. The content can only be played back a limited number of times. These feature are implemented to placate the recording industry.

Hopefully, this will satisfy the needs of the recording industry, and satellite radio, XM in particular, can move on with radios that enhance the audio experience for subscribers.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

XM Requests Repeater for Sturgis Bike Rally

It's one of those Monday's for XM. It submitted a 30 day application to operate a very low powered repeater at the Sturgis Bike Rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, from August 6-12, 2007. XM had to withdraw the application and resubmit it again. Apparently, the original application had errors.

The application is for one 0.5 Watt average EIRP repeater for operation at the Rushmore Civic Center. In this case, a mini repeater located in the Civic Center containing the same receiver, transcoder, and upconverter of a terrestial repeater will receive the XM signal from the east coast satellite. It will transmit the signal via coax directly to a very low powered repeaters, where the signal will be amplified and re-transmitted.

We don't recall XM being there before at the bike rally. Perhaps this is a new venture for XM.

To find out more about the Sturgis Bike rally, check out this site: sturgiszone.com










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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Followup on New ICO

SiriusBuzz covered the FCC filing of New ICO in the XM/Sirius merger comments that seemed to indicate that ICO might be competition to satellite radio. We have taken an initial look into ICO to see what they are about.

In 2001, the International Bureau of the FCC authorized eight entities for mobile satellite services: "The Boeing Company; Celsat America, Inc.; Constellation Communications Holdings, Inc.; Globalstar, L.P.; ICO Services Ltd.; Iridium LLC; Mobile Communications Holding, Inc.; and TMI Communications and Company, Limited Partnership." Each was authorized to operate in an equal, 3.5 megahertz segment of spectrum in each of the 1990-2025 MHz and 2165-2200 MHz bands. Two of the entities were foreign: ICO Services (UK) and TMI Communications (Canada). The later two are the only remaining entities for MSS.

ICO Services has gone through bankruptcy and reorganization. TMI Communications is now controlled by TerreStar, which is majority owned by Motient of XM fame and has ties to Mobile Satellite Ventures (where Gary Parsons is Chairman of the Board) and SkyTerra.

In 2005, after the others surrendered their authorization for bandwidth, both ICO and TMI were assign 20 MHz of bandwidth: 10 MHz for upload; 10 MHz for download.

ICO originally intended to implement a complex constellation of 12 non-geostationary satellites and planned to compete with Iridium and Globalstar. Its first satellite blew up on the launch vehicle. Its second satellite was successfully launched in June, 2001, meeting an important deadline for having launched two Boeing satellites. It came down to the meaning of the word "launch". After that, ICO scaled back its system to one Loral geostationary satellite and terrestrial repeaters. ICO was supposed to have this satellite in operation this month, but recently received authority to delay the launch to December of this year. The satellite will initially provide ubiquitous coverage to all 50 states, with capability of providing coverage outside the US. Its MSS/ATC systems "is being designed to provide wireless voice, data, video, and/or Internet service throughout the United States on mobile and portable devices." It has a November launch slot. Here is a description of its planned infrastructure:

Our MSS/ATC System infrastructure is expected to include the following:
  • One orbiting GEO satellite, which will utilize a "bent pipe" architecture, where the satellite "reflects" the signals between the end-user equipment and the gateway ground station.
  • Ground-based beam forming ("GBBF") equipment that is expected to be located at the gateway ground station.
  • A land-based transmitting/receiving station utilizing large gateway feederlink antennas, with the gateway ground station connecting to our network through high-speed interconnection links and providing the interface between the satellite and the network.
  • A core switching/routing segment, consisting of equipment used to route voice, video, and data traffic between our network and the public data, telephone, Internet and mobile network, and integrated with the satellite and ATC segments.
  • An ATC terrestrial network that will provide terrestrial wireless communications services that will be fully integrated with the satellite segment to provide ubiquitous national coverage to end users.
  • End-user equipment capable of supporting satellite-only and dual-mode (satellite/terrestrial) services.
It appears that Sirius COULD have competition for its backseat video and could provide competition to both XM and Sirius for data services. Its biggest advantage is that it is a two way service.

TMI, now TerreStar, plans one Loral geostationary satellite employing hundreds of spot beams covering the US (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada. Terrestar recently ran into a delay in the delivery of the satellite. It hopes to take delivery next year. It plans to provide 4G cellular services.

MSS have had a troubled past. Be careful with this one.

Other information:
2006 ICO Investor Presentation
August 10, 2006 FCC Filing (good back ground info)
ICO Report

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sea Launch Neglects to have Licences Transferred

Opps! Seems that when Sea Launch was re-incorporated on January 1, 2004 as a Delaware Limited Liability Company under the name Sea Launch Company, L.L.C., it neglected to request that the licenses be transferred. Now that the error has been discovered, Sea Launch has asked the FCC to transfer the license as though the mistake never occurred. In order to ensure that that doesn't happen again, it has made arrangements with its "largest equity holder, Boeing, to assist in the management of its FCC license resources. Boeing’s Frequency Management Services (“FMS”) includes a large professional staff of RF engineers and administrators, who are extensively trained in the FCC’s regulatory and procedural requirements."

XM and Sirius know well the woes of startup companies in navigating the government bureaucracy. The two made mistakes in how the repeater networks were managed. We say that Sea Launch deserved some measure of forgiveness.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Satellite Radio Provider?

As a few of you may recall, Primosphere was one of the four original bidders for a satellite radio license. It is still one of four permitted to hold a satellite radio license. Ultimately, the Commission narrowed the number of licenses available. Primosphere's application to launch and operate satellites for satellite radio service was dismissed. In December 2001, Primosphere requested a Application for Review of the dismissal. Finally, in April 2004, Primosphere submitted a motion to withdraw the Application for Review. Well, it seems that the FCC never got around to acting on this motion; therefore, the motion remains active, according to Primosphere.

Primosphere has now withdrawn it motion to withdraw the Application to Review. As a direct result of the proposed merger of XM and Sirius, Primosphere, on July 03, 2007, submitted a Motion to Consolidate the application of XM and Sirius with its application to launch and operate satellites for satellite radio service.

That's interesting enough, but consider that there are only two bands approved for satellite radio. On March 19, 2007, Primosphere submitted a Supplement to its Application for Review, where it asked for a portion of the bandwidth granted to XM and Sirius (and use of the combined company's satellites) in the event the merger is approved. This way, they could begin service almost immediately, providing competition to the merged entity.

On April 23, 2007, Sirius submitted a Motion to Strike, saying that Primosphere's motion to withdraw was effective immediately. On May 08, Primosphere countered with its Opposition to the Motion to Strike, countering the arguments made by Sirius.

On May 18, both XM and Sirius filed a reply to the Opposition to the Motion to Strike, again saying that Primosphere's original withdrawal was final. They also asked the Commission to strike the Supplement to the Application for Review as fatally defective.

We can't say who is correct, but Primosphere seems to be trying to exploit a legal technicality. On the other hand, XM's and Sirius' claim that once a withdrawal has been made, it is over may not be correct either. For example, XM withdrew its application to operate very low powered repeaters once the application became moot (SAT-STA-20070508-00067 STA). The Commission later issued a public notice acknowledging the withdrawal, offically accepting it.

This may be all XM and Sirius need to see their wish granted. Be careful what you ask for.

Update July 13, 2007: It seems that Primosphere has filed multiple Applications for Review. The International Bureau records only go back to the latest one. The FCC formally denied Primosphere's first Application for review. The Commission was very explicit on that one:

On November 30, 2001, the Commission denied both of Primosphere’s applications for review and reaffirmed the October, 1997 Bureau Orders granting CD Radio and AMRC’s applications for the two available SDARS licenses. Therefore, Primosphere’s application is moot.

Primosphere filed another Application for Review when Motient transferred the satellite radio licenses in 2000. Below is a history from a SEC filing:

CHALLENGE TO XM SATELLITE RADIO'S LICENSE.                             

In June 1997, Primosphere, one of the two losing bidders in the
Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) auction, filed a Petition to Deny the
application of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and subsidiaries (the
"Company") for an FCC license. Primosphere alleges that an entity,
WorldSpace, had effectively taken control of the Company without FCC approval
and that WorldSpace has circumvented the FCC's application cut-off
procedures. (WorldSpace is no longer a stockholder in the Company.)

The FCC issued a decision denying Primosphere's petition. Primosphere
filed an Application for Review of this decision, but the FCC has not acted on
the Application for Review, which has been pending since November 1997. The
FCC's order granting the Company its license remains in effect during the
pendency of this Application for Review. In March 2001, Primosphere asked a
federal court of appeals to mandate that the FCC act on its Application for
Review.

In December 2000, the FCC approved a transfer of control of the
Company's FCC license from Motient Corporation to a diffuse group of owners,
none of whom has a controlling interest in the Company. Primosphere objected to
the transfer, and the FCC has conditioned its approval on the ultimate outcome
of Primosphere's Application for Review, but declined to act on the Application.

The Company believes that the award of its license will continue to be
upheld. The Company of course cannot guarantee the ultimate outcome of this
challenge. If this challenge is successful, the FCC could in its discretion take
a range of actions, which could harm the ability of the Company to continue its
satellite radio service.

The above predates the earliest Application for Review on record with the International Bureau. The text of this application has not be located. Apparently, the latest Application of Review was yet another one. Enough's enough.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Merger Comments on Satellite-based Weather Systems

There were a couple of interesting comments posted today concerning the merger of XM and Sirius and the satellite-based weather systems (SBWS). This is an often forgotten part of the satellite radio business. Most people think about the music when they think about satellite radio, but it is much more than that. XM and Sirius to a lesser extent are the only two commercial providers of SBWS. If the two combine into a single entity, it will be a monopoly.

One filing was by Rockwell Collins. It rightly points out that in the SBWS market, the combination of XM and Sirius will be a merger from duopoly to a monopoly. However, Rockwell Collins never takes a position on the merger. Rather, it suggests that the Commission impose two conditions.: 1) that both services be maintained and that prices remain relatively unchanged; and, 2) no customer discrimination.

Rockwell Collins believes that competition in the SBWS market will keep prices down and thus promotes safety in the skies. A monopoly might raise prices making the units less affordable. Some pilots might dispense with SBWS. The second point comes about because Rockwell Collins feels that it has be locked out by exclusive agreements between XM and Garmin and Heads Up Technologies such that the playing field is not level. Rockwell Collins does make a SBWS, the Pro Line 21; however, XM has refused to enter into a direct licensing agreement with Rockwell. Rockwell Collins would like to develop and market SBWS. It seems grateful that there is an alternative in Sirius.

The second filing was by the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA), representing 412,000 members. Like Rockwell Collins, the AOPA takes no position on the merger. However, they would like the Commission to apply conditions. The organization insists that SBWS remain a part of satellite radio post merger. It wants the same assurances as the audio portion of satellite radio: the current subscription prices must be maintained and the equipment must not be made obsolete by the merger.

Garmin also commented back in April. It fears that XM and Sirius might settle on a different format, costing them millions of dollars. Garmin was insistent that the XM system be maintained in its present form. It was not concerned with competition and seemed to care less about Sirius. One can read the comments here.

This often forgotten service could very well derail the merger on the outside chance that it otherwise passes muster with the DOJ and FCC.

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WCS Coalition Proposes Compromises to Coexist with Satellite Radio

Yesterday, the WCS Coalition filed a proposal that would allow the WCS licensees and satellite radio to coexist. This is a significant departure from their scorched earth policies of no compromise of the past. It is a breakthrough. The Coalition seems to be making a sincere efforts this impasse.

Of course, there is something in there for them. The Coalition wants higher out of band emission limits to make their service more practical. The Coalitions makes the point that the Commission imposed the present limits based on the worst scenario for WCS implementation. Today, the WCS licenses belong to a handful of companies that intend to implement WiMax. The strict limits, they argue, are not applicable. The higher out of band emission limits could results in interfere to satellite radios.

As a compromise, they have agreed to accept repeaters operating at 2,000 Watt or less AVERAGE EIRP. In the past, the Coalition has insisted on PEAK. It is really a moot issue as the FCC has recently approved repeaters based on average power, deferring the final decision. The Coalition had already seemed to have lost this issue, but this would make it official.

However, the Coalition steadfastly refuses to accept the "grandfathering" of the the existing, higher powered repeaters.

With the two sides seemingly willing to talk to each other, the a resolution of the repeater issues may be at hand.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Satellite Weather: Sirius Battles XM

The May issue of Powerboat Reports featured a comparison between Sirius' and XM's marine weather packages. They compared such items as features, update speed, costs, user interface, and data presentation.

The winner won based on the quality of the data and ease of use. One was much less expensive and all inclusive; the other, relatively expensive, requiring the top of the line package for the discriminating boater. The winner? Read the article.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Asian American Justice Center Comes Out Against the Merger

The Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) today came out against the merger. They are one of very few non-NAB related groups to oppose the merger.

The AAJC opposes the merger on the following grounds:

* Would create a monopoly and a single gatekeeper
* A merger would decrease chances of minority related programming
* Detrimental impact on terrestrial radio
* Likelihood of price increases

The AAJC believes that XM and Sirius have made little effort to date to serve the Asian community and the combined entity would be even less inclined to do so.

They made the point the combined company cannot add channels, only swap one channel for another. They believe there is little opportunity for Asian specific programming to be added.

The AAJC makes some good points. XM and Sirius have been mis-leading, in our opinion, about the addition of channels and programming. The only way they will increase diversity is by giving up something else. As profit maximizing firms, one would have to conclude that the programming diversity in place today is to attract the maximum number of listeners and to produce the maximum ad revenue. We see no incentive for satellite to change this formula, unless it increases their profits. A merger doesn't make programming diversity any more attractive.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Update on the Adjustment of Rates and Terms for Preexisting Subscription and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services

Below is an update on the hearing for the adjustment of rates and terms for satellite radio as taken from the Copyright Royalty Board website:

Hearing Information

The trial to determine the reasonable rates and terms for preexisting subscription services and satellite digital audio radio services began on Monday, June 4, 2007. The Services (XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio) and SoundExchange presented their direct cases from June 4 through June 28, 2007. Music Choice and SoundExchange reached an agreement and therefore no further proceedings are necessary for them.

There is now a break in the trial while the parties prepare their rebuttal cases. However, Dr. Michael Pelcovits, a witness for SoundExchange, was unavailable the week of June 25; consequently, his testimony will take place on Monday, July 9, 2007, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Room LM-408 in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.

Rebuttal hearings are scheduled to take place August 15 through August 30. More detailed information will be posted closer to the start of the rebuttal hearings.

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