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But the company is still committed to unlocking the FM chip in all phones and carriers

INDIANAPOLIS — NextRadio recently announced the launch of FM radio streaming capabilities for all smartphones, including an iOS version for iPhone mobile device users in Mexico , according to TagStation .

TagStation’s NextRadio app utilizes the enabled FM chip inside select Android devices to tune to local FM stations; if a listener’s Android device has the FM chip enabled, NextRadio saves data and battery life (when compared to streaming) and works when power is out and cell towers are down.

“We want to empower all users to enjoy local FM radio without having their content restricted by geographic location or choice of device,” Tagstation President Paul Brenner said in a press release.

Even though NextRadio now features the option to stream on unsupported devices, it is still committed to unlocking the FM chip in all phones. However, NextRadio developed this streaming version until the goal becomes a reality.

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Digital radio listening in the UK now stands at 50.9% up from 47.2% a year ago


LONDON — In the United Kingdom, the use of digital sources for radio has reached 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago, accounting for the majority of all listening for the first time, according to RAJAR Q1 2018 data.

“With the 50% digital listening threshold now met, it is anticipated that the UK government will undertake a review to assess digital radio progress and determine next steps in due course,” according to a Digital Radio UK press release.

Digital listening share is comprised of listening across all digital platforms: DAB in homes and in cars, apps and online (which includes the growing number of smart and voice-controlled speakers) and DTV — and this is the first time that listening to digital has been greater than analog platforms — FM and AM.

Other measurement data provided by RAJAR show the following:

  • Overall, in the UK digital listening hours grew by 7.8% compared to Q1 2017
  • The greatest amount of digital listening takes place on over-the-air DAB radio which now accounts for 36.8% of all listening and 72.2% of digital listening, with hourly growth of 8.9% year over year
  • Online and Apps now accounts for 9.3% of all listening and 18.3% of digital listening, with the greatest percentage hourly growth of 17%
  • Listening via digital TV meanwhile accounts 4.8% of all listening and 9.4% of digital listening
  • 63.7% of adults now have access to DAB digital radio at home, and more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers
  • Digital radio is in over 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33% of all cars in the UK, and 90% of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard equipment [Source: CAP/SMMT Q1 2018]

“Across the UK the success of digital radio has been driven by industry investment in DAB coverage; the availability of DAB in cars; the development of mobile and online apps along with the proliferation of smart and voice-controlled speakers with IP radio capability; combined with a huge expansion in the number of digital stations available,” according to DRUK. “This growth in availability has been matched by an expansion of national and local DAB coverage which is now available in over 90% of the UK due to the launch of an additional 435 digital transmitters, as part of a program of work supported by government and broadcasters.”

The UK’s three leading radio broadcasters — the BBC, Global and Bauer, which collectively account for over 90% of UK radio listening — are “fully committed to delivering a digital future for radio and look forward to working with government and the supply chain to continue the transition to digital radio.”

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Its servers were hacked by unknown cryptocurrency miners during a fundraising drive


PORTLAND — An Oregon community radio station is still battling the after-effects of an April 28 cryptocurrency attack, according to Katie Shepherd of Willamette Week .

KBOO(FM) Community Radio’s servers were hacked by unknown cryptocurrency miners during the last week of the noncom’s fundraising drive. Because of its website’s 80% slowdown, KBOO reps said the station saw a decrease in online fundraising efforts during this crucial fundraising period.

However, the station did not have any of its files breached — a somewhat dim silver lining, all things considered.

[Read about The Wandering Engineer’s fears of the coming It Apocalypse.]

As of May 11, the station’s website is still down — more than two weeks later — as part of efforts to scrub the system of the malicious code. According to the Willamette Week, the station aims to be back online in the next day or so.

KBOO was far from the only victim of the attack, known as “Drupalgeddon2.” Other affected organizations include Lenovo, the University of California at Los Angeles and the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. The hackers exploited websites that had not updated a patch that fixed a problem in the Drupal content management system.

This is another unfortunate reminder that stations need to pay close attention to cybersecurity protocols at all levels in order to reduce vulnerability, as cybercriminals become increasingly determined and inventive.

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Apple’s grip on the market expected to loosen, but the trend is gaining traction



Bragi Dash Pro wireless headphones

MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif. — Anyone traversing sidewalks, trains, buses and running paths have noticed the white sticks sticking out of the ears of a growing number of people. Apple’s completely wireless AirPods — a type of completely wire-free earbuds that wirelessly connect via Bluetooth not only to a smartphone or music player but to each other — are ever-present, a new cultural must-have.

Yes, Apple dominates this new “true” wireless category, also referred to as “hearables” to differentiate them from more traditional behind-the-neck wireless Bluetooth earphones. According to The NPD Group, Apple accounts for 86 percent of the dollar volume in this nascent headphone sub-category category.

But Apple’s early dominance of the true wireless market doesn’t mean other manufacturers — and non-Apple retailers — can’t or won’t get involved.

“Apple has earned its large share for now by leading the pack in two features consumers really like: tight integration with the iPhone and Siri, and its development of the W1 chipset that has offered easy and highly reliable pairing,” explained Robert Heiblim, principal of BlueSalve Consulting. “Many other headphones on the market have lagged Apple in both these elements, but we know this will change rapidly as Alexa and Google Assistant integration is coming full strength and newer Bluetooth chipsets improve and simplify connections.”

Thanks to the buzz generated by Apple and its AirPods, true wireless buds are quickly transforming from a “what if I lose one” curiosity niche into a mainstream category. According to Futuresource Consulting’s latest “Worldwide Headphone Report,” true wireless earphones accumulated only .4 million in unit sales worldwide in 2016, but ballooned to 11.5 million last year, a tiny but growing portion of the 350 million headphones sold. In the US, NPD’s U.S. Retail Tracking Service reports that truly wireless ear buds saw a 17-point dollar share growth and 11-point unit share growth in 2017 vs. 2016.

Like AirPods, all true wireless buds include a battery pack to triple, quadruple and even quintuple their relatively meager three- to five-hour battery life. Most incorporate noise-suppression technology and modes to hear ambient noise and even conduct conversations without removing one or both buds, and either sweat- or waterproofing.

“As more traditional audio companies enter this market, I think we will see an added emphasis on sound quality in truly wireless earbuds,” noted Ben Arnold, NPD executive director and consumer electronics industry analyst. “Already, we’ve seen sub-segments in the market emerge around fitness via heart rate sensors and hearing assistance and augmentation via adaptive noise canceling.”

Bragi, for instance, calls its Dash Pro an “in-ear assistant.” Designed with hearing aid maker Starkey, the Dash Pro includes not only an array of workout and fitness features, but iTranslate, a built-in language translator sort of like “Star Trek’s” universal translator. In April Nuheara started shipping its second-gen IQbuds Boost designed to also aid the hearing impaired thanks to its proprietary Ear ID that automatically calibrates varying listening and hearing settings. And Jabra’s pending third-generation Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t buds have added smart voice assistant access.

“Look for an avalanche of new products closing the gap with Apple,” adds Heiblim. “Consumers can be sure they will have plenty to choose from .”

NPD’s Arnold echoed this, addressing the challenges non-Apple CE retailers may face when selling this category. “I think one way retailers can compete is if the rest of market outside of AirPods develops interesting and compelling products,” he said. “We could also see segments of this market that cater to specific users such as fitness — via embedded sensors — or audio enthusiasts with high-end audio that can play to the strengths of other retailers.”

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The series features two “Tips n Tricks” sessions, as well as discussions on HD Radio in Canada and engineering recruitment and training issues

HACKKETT’S COVE, Nova Scotia — Nautel is starting off a new webinar series this month with two “Tips n Tricks” sessions, followed in June by discussions on HD Radio in Canada and engineering recruitment and training issues. 

All webinars begin Wednesdays at noon EDT and qualify for ½ SBE Certification Credit.

The first session, to be held May 16, is entitled “Care and Feeding of AM Transmitter Sites.” Nautel’s Jeff Welton will bring his popular “Tips n Tricks” to discuss maintenance, troubleshooting, grounding, lightning protection and other issues associated with AM transmission sites. The webinar will run 45 minutes with time for questions afterward.

Welton returns on May 23, for a second session entitled “Care and Feeding of FM Transmitter Sites.” As with his first webinar, he plans to cover maintenance, troubleshooting, grounding, cooling, air handling and site security, this time for FM transmission sites. The webinar will run 45 minutes, again with time for questions.

On June 6, the implementation of HD Radio in Canada will be discussed by Nautel’s Chuck Kelly and Gary Manteuffel, along with special guest Paul Brenner of Emmis Communications. The discussion will cover the current status of HD Radio in Canada; the number of radios equipped with HD reception capability; regulatory issues; and implementing HD Radio at a station. The webinar will run 30 minutes plus time for questions.

“Broadcast Engineers and Technology: Training and Recruitment” will be covered in a webinar on June 13. Nautel’s Kelly will be joined by special guests John Poray of the Society o Broadcast Engineers and Wayne Pecena of Texas A&M University. They will discuss the scarcity of trained broadcast engineers in the U.S. and abroad; the effects of the increased pace of technological change; and the sources and strategies for training and recruiting to the radio broadcast industry. The webinar will run 45 minutes plus time for questions.

Register for the webinars online .

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Verizon’s fixed 5G service is intended to compete with wired internet services and cable MSOs by “blasting” a 5G connection from a nearby cell site to receivers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Samsung recently acknowledged the FCC certified both the company’s indoor and outdoor 5G home routers. The company said the new routers are meant to work with Verizon’s 28 GHz fixed wireless deployment, according to fiercewireless.com .

Samsung described the router as “a small consumer device that receives and transmits the 5G signal to provide ultra-high speed broadband wireless service…[that] can enable broadband service up to 18x greater than the current average U.S. broadband.”

Verizon’s fixed 5G service is intended to compete with wired internet services and cable MSOs by “blasting” a 5G connection from a nearby cell site to receivers either outside or inside users’ homes or offices. Mobile 5G, on the other hand, is designed for portable devices like smartphones and tablets. Verizon announced late last year that it would turn on fixed 5G services in up to five cities, including Sacramento , in the second half of 2018.

Verizon’s mobile 5G service will launch around six months after the carrier turns on its fixed 5G service, according to Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam. “Those comments are notable because Verizon hasn’t offered too much detail about how it might roll out mobile 5G — although Verizon’s CFO said last year the carrier wouldn’t launch mobile 5G services in 2018,” according to the same article.

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New England grass roots effort may offer new hope for the movement

CONCORD, Mass. — It seems like technology companies have become immensely powerful and seemingly accountable to no one. 

In Radio Magazine Today, we’ve used a lot of space reviewing recent federal rollbacks of net neutrality. Is there anything to be done by the average citizen? According to an opinion piece in the Washington Post , there is — through internet service provided by local governments, which are directly accountable to citizens.

Mark Howell is the chief information officer for the town of Concord, Massachusetts, and he writes: “I’ve overseen the creation of a successful municipal broadband system by treating Internet service like what it really is — a public utility, like water and electricity. We’re providing residents with broadband Internet service that is inexpensive and reliable and respects net neutrality and privacy principles.”

So just how was this accomplished? Concord has had a municipal electric utility since the early 1900s. 

“At our town meeting in 2009, citizens approved a plan for the utility to build a fiber-optic network because it needed upgrades to support such “smart grid” functions as advanced meter reading and load-management programs.” In 2013 the town meeting approved a plan to use that network to provide Internet service.

“Although we spent money to invest in this new infrastructure, once we started working on the system, we found that we could save money. We used our fiber-optic system to interconnect the schools, library, other town buildings and water system sites, saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on expensive and increasingly unreliable telephone lines. Once we started providing our own Internet service, the town saved even more.”

The city offers simple, flat-rate pricing without any of the “confusing packages” that customers of private telecoms have to deal with, and twice in four years Internet speeds have increased with no price hike.

“Our Internet service operates under rules set not by a for-profit company but by locally elected leaders and residents who volunteer to serve on the service’s board,” writes Howell. “We strictly abide by the principles of free speech and net neutrality, which means that all Internet traffic is treated equally. We also protect privacy by not sharing customer information with anyone.”

The city issued bonds to get started, and they will eventually be repaid by revenue from customers. Broadband revenue is covering the operating costs. The debt is financing the cost of adding about 300 customers per year, and according to Howell, “we project that by 2020, revenue will be covering these expansion costs as well. On top of that, there are the benefits that come with being a place that offers high-quality, high-speed Internet to homes and businesses.” 

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If approved by regulators, the new company would be henceforth known as T-Mobile

BELLEVUE, Wash., and OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — T-Mobile US and Sprint Corporation on Sunday announced they have entered into a definitive agreement to merge. The combined company will be called T-Mobile.

The combined company will have “lower costs, greater economies of scale, and the resources to provide U.S. consumers and businesses with lower prices, better quality, unmatched value, and greater competition,” according to this press release about the merger. “The New T-Mobile will employ more people than both companies separately and create thousands of new American jobs.” The same document goes on to say that from the first day Sprint and T-Mobile combine and every year thereafter, the new company will employ more people in the U.S. than both companies would separately; more than 200,000 people will work on behalf of the combined company in the US at the start.

[Read about Sprint and T-Mobile’s on again , off again merger history.]

The question is, how and why will that happen? According to the same release, “the New T-Mobile plans to invest up to $40 billion in its new network and business in the first three years alone, a massive capital outlay that will fuel job growth at the new company and across related sectors. This is 46% more than T-Mobile and Sprint spent combined in the past three years.”

“This combination will also force AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Verizon, and others to make investments of their own to compete, driving billions more in accelerated investment.”

You really need to take what is said in press releases like this with a grain of salt but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt right now.

“Neither company standing alone can create a nationwide 5G network with the breadth and depth required to fuel the next wave of mobile Internet innovation in the U.S. and answer competitive challenges from abroad. Only the combined company will have the network capacity required to quickly create a broad and deep 5G nationwide network in the critical first years of the 5G innovation cycle – the years that will determine if American firms lead or follow in the 5G digital economy.” 

This will be accomplished using Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum and T-Mobile’s nationwide 600 MHz spectrum, and other combined assets. “Compared to T-Mobile’s network today, the combined company’s network is expected to deliver 15x faster speeds on average nationwide by 2024, with many customers experiencing up to 100x faster speeds than early 4G.”

Time will tell if that comes true of course. First the merger has to really happen. Following the closing, the new company will be headquartered in Bellevue with a second headquarters in Overland Park.

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2018 Geneva Motor Show gave a glimpse into OTA radio’s place in the car of the future

GENEVA — The 2018 Geneva Motor Show has come and gone, and it provided a good opportunity to see how vehicle OEMs are treating over-the-air radio in the dashboard.

“Radio listening remains strong in cars, but the broadcast industry needs to consider cars as important a platform for digital growth as mobile apps and connected home devices have been in the past, get in the driver’s seat and make sure its services remain visible and attractive propositions,” according to the EBU .

Interestingly, there is a new requirement—called the eCall initiative–for all new cars sold in the EU from April onwards to have at least minimal connectivity for recovery and safety reasons, and it is likely that the OEMs see a new business in becoming service providers for media, according to the same article.

[Read about a new aftermarket head unit from JVC Kenwood featuring NextRadio.]

Options for reaching listeners in cars are now wider than ever; models with only FM/AM connectivity are in the minority, and DAB/DAB+ receivers are standard equipment (or at least as an accessory) across the majority of brands. Touchscreens often completely replace hard buttons, making the dashboard entertainment system look more like a tablet. Many vehicles also include Android Automotive or Apple CarPlay support, meaning that your phone could be used to entirely control the interface.

Some short videos showing examples taken from the floor of the show are: the Skoda ; the Toyota ; the Ford ; and the Citroen .

“The dashboard is changing faster than ever. The outlook for radio services is that they still form part of that, but perhaps not as the default audio option. A number of initiatives are seeking to improve this, from the , , and others. Broadcaster-created connected car apps that can respond to voice control may provide a means of prominence for certain key brands, but means of discovering others could suffer,” according to the EBU. “One thing is for certain — what happens to radio in the car during the next few years will be crucial.”

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No business is unaffected by cybertheft, State Department’s Strayer warns

WASHINGTON — Cyber-attacks on “critical infrastructure” and theft or espionage involving commercial intellectual property remain the top concerns of the global cybersecurity community, Robert L. Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State said April 19.

In remarks at the Media Institute’s monthly luncheon in Washington, Strayer emphasized, “No business is unaffected by cybertheft” and warned that “we will continue to see threats to the digital ecosystem.”

Strayer declined, when asked by MCN, to specify media or telecom operators, including cable TV, as part of the “critical infrastructure.” But he acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies are constantly examining ways to foil “bad actors” who could disrupt or hack into the operations of American companies.

He said U.S. and global partners “have to think of all the misuses” of cyber systems. He emphasized the growing role of the digital economy and noted that international groups such as the G7 and G20 nations “are increasingly looking at technology issues” such as blockchain, that are affecting traditional global systems.

“As we look around the world, we want to assure an open flow of data,” Strayer said, but at the same time “it is absolutely critical to preserve a decentralized model.” He emphasized that many countries want to regulate the internet, but that U.S. policy will continue to “push back against that.”

Strayer acknowledged that in the US and most democracies, the digital infrastructure is in the hands of the private sector.

“We should not expect companies to operate in cyberspace any differently” than they do in conventional environments, Strayer said, but he warned that the task – including public/private collaboration – may be very challenging.

New cybersecurity standards will be “voluntary,” he said, adding that “industry is driving the solution.” He cited the need “to achieve maximum economic value” as companies battle cyberattacks.

Strayer cited Europe’s “General Data Protection Regulation” that goes into effect on May 25, restricting many ecommerce and digital media practices in an effort to assure consumer privacy. He did not offer an opinion about whether such restraints may eventually emerge in the U.S., especially amid the current furor over activities at Facebook, Google and other companies that collect personal data.

He focused, instead, on ways that federal enforcement agencies are developing systems “to improve our defenses” and create a “cyber-posture” to fight cybercrimes. He said that systems are now “so interconnected that these threats can race around the world” almost instantly.

To battle such scourges, Strayer explained that the State Department and other U.S. agencies have about 150 “digital economy officers” at embassies and other locations worldwide to identify potential cybercrimes and to development enforcement tactics, often in collaboration with host countries.

Strayer also cited forecasts that estimate about 200,000 people will be needed to handle America’s cybersecurity requirements in the coming years — a significant job creation stimulant.

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