Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Cell Phone Radio Chip

The development of the NAB suggesting that in exchange for agreeing to some fees with the Music First group on royalty fees congress would add a provision to have FM radio chips required in all Cell Phones is an interesting one.   Of course Radio would like to expand the reach and having a tuner in every cell phone by 2014 or so would be great (remember it only takes around 3 years to get an innovation into the majority of cell phones with the get a new phone every 2  years approach).  

Yes we will need to step up our programming and start addressing the whole mobile world - there is a lot more on any phone to do besides tune in the radio.  

A tuner would also be a benefit the cell phone networks as the new smart phones suck up so much bandwidth - imagine if lots of the users started streaming all kinds of Internet and local stations what would happen.  We could have apps that use the GPS to see where you are and then either turn on the FM tuner or go to the on-line stream if you are out of town.  It would also help in times of emergency.   Also adding an FM tuner really won't cost but a few cents to build into the chips already in the phones.

So why is the Cell Phone industry banging the drum in any way to stop this?  They want to control what is on your phone and they don't want congress potentially limiting their potential or income.   They want to charge for music if at all possible in some way.  They also want to control your ability to listen to music on 'their' devices.  So what if it takes up tons of space on the network to stream - we'll just push the data rates up.  If we have to expand the network it will be because there is revenue potential in it.

Their attack is lined with 'radio is dead' - 'why should we support old tech.'  While some of that might be true I bet we end up with FM chips in our cell phones pretty soon.  In the world the research shows around 40% of the folks in Canada and Europe want FM tuners in their phones - here in the U.S. it's around 30% - the same as their desire for bigger screens on smart phones.   Look at the Vision Critical independent study here .  

While this rolls through congress we need to start working a lot harder on our wireless strategies in radio.  It doesn't matter if we get FM chips or not - the cell phone is vital to our survival.

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