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How Satellite Radio Works

        Tech | Radio

Satellite Radio Systems

Satellite radio is an idea over a decade in the making. In 1992, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated a spectrum in the "S" band (2.3 GHz) for nationwide broadcasting of satellite-based Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS). Only four companies applied for a license to broadcast over that band. The FCC gave licenses to two of these companies in 1997. CD Radio (later Sirius Satellite Radio) and American Mobile Radio (later XM Satellite Radio) paid more than $80 million each to use space in the S-band for digital satellite transmission.

At this time, there are two space-based radio broadcasters:

  • Sirius XM Radio
  • 1worldspace

­ Satellite radio companies are comparing the significance of their service to the impact that cable TV had on television 30 years ago. Listeners aren't able to pick up local stations using satellite radio services, but they have access to hundreds of stations offering a variety of music genres. Each company has a different plan for its broadcasting system, but the systems do share similarities. Here are the key components of the two satellite radio systems:

  • Satellites
  • Ground repeaters
  • Radio receivers

Satellite radio works a lot like satellite TV -- you purchase a receiver and pay a monthly subscription fee for a certain number of channels. For the moment, there are slight variances in the three satellite radio companies' systems. In the next three sections, we will profile each of the companies and their current satellite radio services.

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