Satellite Radios, XM Versus Sirius

Why do people need satellite radio that has a subscription fee of between $10 to $12 a month earmarked to it, when most of the programs are available on AM and FM radio for free? One reason is both AM and FM radio are more or less confined to the proximity of a given broadcasting station and if one leaves the particular range, there is a need to wait until there is another signal to be picked originating from another source, where there is another totally different broadcaster. Moreover, there are areas finding any kind of signal could be difficult. Even if that might not be the case, being coherent with one’s listening experience could suffer.

As a result, for those who are driving a considerable distance away from city hubs, like commuters who have to drive on a daily basis from home to work and vice versa, will get undisrupted broadcasting by installing a satellite radio in their car. They can go anywhere on the continent USA, in fact 48 states, and they can have whatever they had paid for streaming down into their receivers with no obstruction or no degradation to the quality of the broadcasting, which comes close to a CD quality.

One other advantage also is the quality of the broadcasting that is not widespread in the AM and FM broadcasting world, even if digital broadcasting is slowly taking root, and there are at least some 370 digital radio stations that are broadcasting in a digital format, which is totally free of static, and the sound is as good as CDs. However, because of the price of the digital radio, where the cheapest starts at around $250, the number of digital radio owners in the country hovers around 10,000. In spite of the onetime cost and no monthly subscription, simply because of the few number of digital stations that are available and are concentrated in a given geographical area, digital broadcasting is not mainstream yet, creating unprecedented windfall for the satellite broadcasters, because of its near CD quality.

Another advantage is Satellite radio broadcasting is commercial free for the most part and if some of the stations have commercials, it is only six minutes out of every hour that is allocated for commercials in almost all cases, which will make it a better choice than the AM and FM broadcasting, whose main source of income is broadcasting commercials. At the same time, because it is subscription based, it seems that the volume and the quality of what could be streamed down to satellite radios is much higher, again availing another unmatched advantage for the subscribers. Yet, it could cost between $300 to $ 500 depending on the quality and sophistication of the receiving equipment, and the accompanying gears, to have the system installed. In some of the programs this initial amount will include a one year fee at a rate of $10 to $13, and each one of them has its own incentives where there is a rebate or the installation could be free.

The existing AM and FM radios do not receive the satellite signals unless an adopter, which has the satellite receiver and the control functions is obtained and is attached to it, or buying a radio which has a three band capable receiver is the other alternative. In addition, another shortfall is there is no satellite receiver that is capable of receiving both the XM and the Sirius satellite signals on the same equipment. There might not be a need to subscribe for both of them even if the XM had claimed it had seen a surge in subscriber number after it started carrying broadcasts of certain seasonal sport programs. Other than that, there is similarity in what they are carrying making dual subscription redundant.

It definitely is a tough choice and there will have to be a genuine need to go satellite when it comes to a satellite radio unlike TV, which has a much better advantage when comparison is made even if it costs a few cents a day. Let alone the few free channels that are available on UHF and VHF for free TV viewers, satellite TV beats cable easily when it comes to the number of channels that are available with their program, and the end result had been a much enhanced TV watching experience that is a notch higher than the competition, which is cable. And it seems that the two satellite radio companies are trying to repeat the satellite TV’s success rate, which is attained by availing a much enhanced TV watching experience than cable, even if both could go neck and neck as far as the essential programs are concerned.

There are three companies that are providing satellite radio as it is a new phenomenon and one of the satellite radio providers XM is boasting four million subscriber out 5.5 million total satellite radio subscribers, and that is a considerable figure at around $10 to $13 a month subscription and a one time activation fee of $15. The other one, the smaller player Sirius that has a close similarity with the XM satellite program is not falling behind either.

However, the third one, WorldSpace, which is another smaller player, is focusing on audiences outside of the US, and it is targeting Africa, Asia, Middle East, and some European countries. Even if it is planning to go public, it is still showing a loss like the other two players, which shows that satellite radio is not mainstream yet and is not profitable, and their might not be a great need for it, except for car use, for those who will have to move from place to place a lot, and those who could be attracted for its sound quality.

Both XM and Sirius obtained their license in the year 1997 and XM has two satellites orbiting the earth from 23,200 miles away. It uses two high-power HS 702 satellite manufactured by Hughes &space Communicates. The XM satellites are positioned in geostationary orbits at 85 and 115 degrees West Longitude to enable them to stream down a clear transmission across the US and are called Rock and Roll respectively, and the former covers the western side of the US while the latter covers the eastern side.

Sirius utilizes three satellites in inclined elliptical orbits over the equator. The elliptical orbit enables the satellites to downstream from a higher altitude and can avail two of its satellites over the US all the time. Both satellite broadcasters use terrestrial repeaters to enhance their broadcasting in areas where there are a lot of buildings, or to be able to get the signal while going through underpass and the like where receiving the signals could be obstructed.

As far as the programming content is concerned, both carry the major news networks like CNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, NPR, PRI, and ESPN. Sirius for example carries over 120 channels and out of it, the company claims 65 channels stream down commercial-free music of all kinds, whereas there are over 55 channels for sports, news, and talk.

XM claims to have over 150 digital channels, with 100 percent commercial-free music channels, and over 30 channels of news, sport, talk, instant traffic, and weather. One thing to note here is a good portion of what XM broadcasts are in house content and could have some uniqueness as far as their presentation format is concerned, while the rest are direct rebroadcasts with their commercials and the same applies with Sirius too.

Consequently, even if satellite radio might not become mainstream at all, regardless of the advantages it avails, where it can be used in the car, in the house, on boats, with one portable receiver, and at a very cheap price, with a high sound quality, and no interruption for the most part, the availability of the program for free on the AM and FM stations will make it unnecessary to attain a wide scale of acceptance. Yet, there is a niche market for it where the mobile population will definitely be benefited from its existence so that the marauding crowd, whether it is pleasure, business, or making a living can go around the country without the fear of going with no means of communication with the outside world. As far as the sound quality is concerned MP3s and portable CD players could match it.

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