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HD Radio boss says their “new technology” is experiencing “growing pains”

Struble said there will be an HD Radio in here somewhere.

Last month I noted how Radio World columnist and HD Radio fan Thomas Ray encountered nothing but trouble when he tried to buy a new Ford with a factory-installed HD radio. Ray’s plight didn’t escape the notice of Bob Struble, the CEO of iBiquity, which owns the HD Radio technology. In a commentary published in the most recent issue of Radio World Struble pretty much begs for patience from Ray and other would-be Ford HD Radio buyers.

Struble explains the difficulty in finding a factory-installed Ford HD Radio as the result of

the growing pains which often occur when companies launch new technologies. Tom hit the lost as factory installed HD Radio receivers were just launching.

When I read that, all I could say to myself was, “really? New technology? Just launching?” The first HD stations went on the air in 2003 and the first car receivers went on sale in 2004. iBiquity’s own timeline claims for January 2008: “Ford to offer factory-installed HD Radio technology in Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury [cars].” So, it’s been six years since HD Radios were available in cars and 32 months since Ford announced factory installed HD receivers. For Pete’s sake, in January 2008 Apple’s original iPhone had been on sale for only six months and now we have the fourth edition of that device. In the tech world 32 months is an eternity. I guess that’s how cutting edge HD Radio is.

What does Bob Struble say the thwarted HD Radio buyer should have done? “[H]old out with his old Explorer for another couple of months” because then, “he would have been able to purchase an Escape with a factory installed HD Radio receiver as these vehicles hit dealerships the first week of August.” That’s like Steve Jobs saying, “just come back to the Apple store in a few weeks to get that iPhone. In the meantime hold on to that old flip phone that drops calls and is too old to text.”

Of course, people will line up outside Apple stores for the new iPhone debut, but that’s because Jobs also has a reputation for delivering highly desirably products…. on time. But, frankly, a radio is just an accessory to a much bigger item… the car. Folks might wait a few weeks to get the vehicle they want, I have a hard time seeing too many buyers waiting to get the right radio, HD or not.

If iBiquity wants to get HD receivers into the cars of more than five percent of buyers the company is going to have to offer something a lot better than excuses and pleas to wait a couple of months. Somehow, I just don’t see that happening.

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13 Responses to HD Radio boss says their “new technology” is experiencing “growing pains”

  1. Greg September 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    “Law Firm’s HD Radio Probe Still in Early Days”

    “Keefe Bartels, the law firm that’s looking into whether consumers are unhappy with their new HD Radio car receivers, is hearing lots of stories… Keefe became interested in the technology when he bought a new BMW a couple of years ago. He says the dealer told him HD Radio wouldn’t work but that it was built into the cost of the car, because the receiver was part of a package. He says the dealer threw in a set of floor mats to compensate… Keefe says it is receiving complaints from all kinds of people and wants to determine how individuals have been affected… He’s also getting an earful from radio industry people, so this should be interesting.”

    Struble has a new pain called, “Keefe Bartels” – LOL! No new automaker is going to go near iBiquity, now. Ford may have heard Keefe Bartels coming down the tracks, and is holding off HD Radio. From what I am reading, and hearing, this investigation may well escalate to include broadcasters, too. Didn’t these dummy automakers ever take this kludge out for a test drive?

  2. paul vincent zecchino September 21, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    What do they say about best laid plans? Wasn’t HD Radio, according to reports, an cronyistic sub rosa effort to jam public airwaves, so as to deny American citizens any ability to listen to analog AM&FM stations of their choosing, make them buy unreliable, quirky, costly, HD ‘stooge radios’ and ‘thin the herd of unncecessary AM radio stations’? Wasn’t that how some, according to reports, privately described the purpose of HD Radio?

    Wasn’t this cabal so overconfident in its scheme and so callously dismissive of the American citizens it is obliged to serve, and as well the existing broadcasters who wished to remain analog, that it actually admitted to knowing that HD interferes with other stations, gloating that jamming would “Thin the herd of unnecessary radio stations”?

    Thin the herd of unnecessary stations? Which? Those you count upon for breaking news, hurricane reports and other vital information? Those ‘unnecessary stations’? Who are these insider Elite cronies to make your choices for you?

    Isn’t high-hat arrogance always the undoing of greedy bullies? American citizens in recent months have successfully expressed their disapointment with arrogant bullies, haven’t they? Did callous dismissiveness and high-handed glib sloganeering ever play well in Peoria, or anywhere else in America?

    But there’s more, isn’t there? According to reports, when industry leaders known for their integrity dared to remark the obvious about HD’s many apparent deliberate flaws, let alone its questionable bottomless funding, weren’t they told in no uncertain terms to remain silent, on threat that “CBS and the rest of the radio industry wants HD and will sue anyone who dares question it, to their ruin’?

    What good product is sold by means of obfuscations, fanciful tales, and threats? What decent salespersons would resort to those tactics to sell a worthy innovation?

    In recent months, the American citizens have awakened to those who resort to these tactics to promote their questionable schemes, haven’t they?

    That’s long been the problem for those who seek to loot the public trust, isn’t it? Once their design is pointed out, their gaseous threats deflate like a rotten souffle as the public quickly and forever abandons them, having realized they’ve no clothes, don’t they?

    Wasn’t the HD Radio gang’s plan for we, the American citizens, to awaken one morning to hear nothing but screaming digital noise on our radios? Weren’t they to then tell us it was time to buy HD ‘stooge’ radios – which shortly would become pay-to-listen radios?, according to reports – or hear nothing but screaming digital trash all over the formerly pristine public airwaves?

    Haven’t many broadcasters, tired of the threats from this peculiar little gang, now come forward to publicly express their many concerns about the HD Radio scheme, while at the same time turning off their HD transmiters in the name of respecting the American citizens’ right to listen to what they want when they want, rather that whatever the HD gang deems fit for them to hear?

    If this product is so good, why was it sold by means of fanciful boasts, obfuscations, denials, and litigious threats? If it were any good, wouldn’t it have sold itself long ago? Wasn’t 2006 supposedly the Big Year of the HD Rollout? Or was it 2004?

    When you think of how quickly iPods and their related devices have sold to delighted customers around the world, as compared with this endless promotion of a serially-superseded, long obsolete, troublesome product promoted by means of questionable tactics, the truth becomes yet more manifest, doesn’t it?

    Paul Vincent Zecchino

    Manasota Key, Florida

    20 September, 2010

  3. Paul Riismandel September 21, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Greg: the lawsuit is a very interesting angle indeed. I’m still catching up on my HD Radio post queue. So expect something on that soon.

    Paul Vincent Zecchino: I can’t find a thing to argue with you about. I’ve tried to be objective and fairly evaluate if maybe the performance of the technology could possibly outweigh its history and context. As my recent posts show, it fails to do so.

  4. Mike Stupak September 21, 2010 at 7:11 am #


    Digital radio is experiencing the same sort of problems that FM experienced. In order for receivers to sell at low prices, you need high volume. In order to drive volume sales you need more stations. It’s the chicken and the egg.

    Fortunately for iBiquity, consumers, and broadcasters, it all appears to be coming together now, and it took a lot less time than it took FM radio! HD receiver sales volumes are skyrocketing and prices are coming down. The majority of urban FM stations have upgraded to HD. More and more automakers are offering HD as standard or optional equipment. The power increases are beginning which is expanding coverage and quality. The HD2 content is outstanding, it’s the alternative type programming you used to hear on FM before FM became mainstream, and there is minimal advertising.

    It’s also important not to get distracted by the alleged “lawsuit.” There is no lawsuit of course, just an “investigation” by a personal injury law firm (the same kind you see advertising on television imploring people to sue their doctors).

    People need to learn to read between the lines and follow the money. Who is really behind the disinformation campaign against HD Radio? It’s those companies that stand to lose money as HD Radio takes away business from them: paid radio (satellite), paid music downloads, paid on-line streaming services, wireless carriers, etc.

    If you ever look at the reviews of HD Radio from non-profit, independent organizations, with no money at stake, it’s clear that the sound quality is better than FM analog, satellite radio, or low bit-rate free streaming services. Maybe not quite “CD quality” unless the CD is played over a low end car audio system or listened to through ear buds from the dollar store!

  5. Greg September 21, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    @Mike Stupak: “Whether any of us believes there’s a chance the victims will win, the litigation will cost a fortune. The lawyers are looking for victims and witnesses. Since I’ve probably done more field testing than anyone and own 5 of those 23 receivers, I’ve been asked to participate either as a witness or a complainant. It seems they’ve been monitoring these lists. I haven’t decided if I’ll participate or wait for a subpoena. If they use my market as a test they’ll probably have an air tight case. IBUZ here is an absolute disaster. HD-2 is useful only as an STL to feed a translator. The antennas don’t move and it’ll give the local engineers an incentive to actually keep it on the air. As it stands, IBUZ can be inoperative for weeks at a time on stations run by the industry’s largest corporations. There’s a lot of money to be made here. I just hope I can get my lawyer correspondence course finished in time to get some of it. I’ll bet it’ll be in litigation as long as the BP lawsuits will.”

    Rich Wood would disagree with you, SMS.

  6. Mike Stupak September 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Greg, just who would they sue in the highly unlikely event there was ever a lawsuit?

    No one ever promised perfect radio reception for any radio band, be it AM, FM, HD, etc. Automakers issue thousands of TSBs and the vast majority of them are not because of a defect, but to explain the operation of a specific sub-system and why it operates as it does.

    But you keep taking your lawyering correspondence course, LOL.

  7. Greg September 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    @Mike Stupak: The point to the lawsuit is that at lease BMW and Volvo had issued TSBs against HD Radio, with no procedures available to “fix” the problems (the system is inherently flawed), yet contuned to push HD Radio onto unsuspecting customers through expensive navigation systems and standard HD Radio, including the costs of HD Radio in the price of the vehicles. HD Radio is supposed to be an “upgrade” to analog AM/FM, as it truly does not work as Struble promised (it’s acually a “downgrade”). Systems such as iDrive have had TSBs, too, but those probelms have been fixable, unlike HD Radio. You can continue to blow this off, like you do in ba.broadcast, but it is going to happen, an non-HD broadcasters are gatting involved, too, so expect the investigation to escalate. I am hoping that the scope of Struble’s fraud will also escalate into a criminal investigation, as it should. These lawyers will go after anyone with deep pockets, and Rich Wood had obviously been talking with them:

    “It’s so difficult being a prophet. This was on my list of probable

    outcomes. We all know the attorneys will go wherever the deep pockets

    are. The carmakers dumb enough to install it, the stations dumb

    enough to deceptively promote it along with the IBUZ company dumb

    enough to invent it will be among their targets. Let’s not forget the

    receiver manufacturers. I recall warning car companies that cars would come back with a radio operating as designed that customers would see as defective. The dealer, on the front lines, is stuck with an angry customer and an albatross that doesn’t qualify under the warranty. This may make the Performance Tax look like lunch money.”

    Rich Wood

    A class-action suit can go on for years, especially if complaints keep being filed, and would cost iBiquity a fortune, and would probably bring them down. Once in a class-action-suit, those defendants are stuck for the duration, and you can bet that will be the end of Struble’s scam. Even with this publicity, no other automakers will go near iBiquity.

  8. Broadcast Engineer September 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    There are no grounds for a lawsuit.

    iBiquity, Volvo, BMW, etc., will not have to spend anything on a defense because there will be no lawsuit.

    There has been no deception.

    Automakers will continue to deploy HD.

  9. bobyoung September 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Broadcast engineer wrote:

    “There has been no deception.”

    How would you like to buy a car in which the heater or AC only works 10% of the time or just stops working all of a sudden with no advance warning? I bought a brand new car two years ago with a 6 CD changer, Satellite, FM and AM radio, all work as you would expect them to, the CD player is flawless, Satellite will drop out very occasionally and in predictable places, FM fades as predicted according to topography and AM, well AM will come in for 1000 miles at night if these is no HD signal next to the station you want to hear hashing it up. The AC cools the car, the heater warms the car, the engine starts up every time, in short everything works as it’s supposed to. What if I had paid $60,000 for a car and the radio dropped out to silence or telephone line quality sound over and over again within the city of license? Would I think it was defective? Would that be deceptive on the radio manufacturers part to not warn the buyer or seller that this radio is a half baked unreliable failed science project? People expect a radio to work as well as radios always have, all of a sudden you have a radio that’s lucky if it works 5, 10 or 20 miles from the transmitter. Deceptive? I can think of another term which is more appropriate: SCAM.

  10. paul vincent zecchino September 21, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Mr. Stupak –

    Comparing FM’s early days to HD is not merely unoriginal, it is as well a classic false analogy. Zealous HD promoters have many times in recent years publised the ‘FM early days vs. HD growing pains’ false analogy replete with tortured logic, baroque half-truths, and embroidered ‘facts’. And every time they tried to cart this chuck wagon full of bullshale into the dining hall of American consumer success stories, astute reviewers quickly debunked each and every dull point in its serial fallacious non-arguments.

    FM had growing pains sixty years ago or more when times and technology were vastly different. The temporal comparison is as false as the technological argument.

    Alright, you want to plod? We’ll plod. FM didn’t cause destructive illegal interference to any other service, as distinct from HD which destroys reception on AM by night and jams great swaths of it by day. FM HD has flooded the formerly pristine FM band with that charming buzzing sound, which many engineers affectionately dubbed, ‘iBuzz’.

    Let’s plod some more, shall we? Good. FM in its early days never jammed another service. Ever. And it still doesn’t.

    Now, please and by my express invitation, shall we treat ourselves to another fact? Good. We’re doing very well, aren’t we, Mr. Stupak?

    FM Stereo didn’t interfere at all with FM mono or anything else for that matter. Nor did FM SCA services cause one scintilla of illegal, destructive jamming interference to FM Mono or Stereo, did they? Nope, they didn’t.

    Now, here’s some really tasty fact treats for your larder of truth: RDS causes no intereference to FM Mono, Stereo, or FM SCA, nor do these multiplexing techniques cause any interference to one another.

    Amazing, isn’t it? How’d they do that, and without iNiquity’s braintrust and bottomless funding? No matter, they did.

    But HD does jam, doesn’t it? Oh boy, does it ever. And entirely too many people ’round the world have remarked upon it, making the shrill overblown denials of the HD claque ring all the more false and self-indicting.

    Even HD’s most vocal promoters who invested time, effort, and money installing HD and attacking ‘analog luddites’ and ‘analog buggy whip technology’ now admit they made a terrible mistake when they fell for what some say is a shonky, rotten, scheme to jam public airwaves.

    What next? Shall we compare HD’s ‘growing pains’ to the early trials and tribulations of the telegraph?

    The problem with schemes is that those who foist them often lose control of them, as the scheme takes on a life of its own and boomerangs to implicate the schemers, who grow increasingly adamant in their fanciful false claims and heated denials, as citizens walk away in droves.

    Paul Vincent Zecchino

    Manasota Key, Florida

    20 September, 2010

  11. MetricAmerican September 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    OH, please, this is America we are talking about, the behind the times nation, ‘oh please take my job’ country, the Metric-less land of the dead.

  12. SMS September 25, 2010 at 10:24 am #


    You come up with these amazingly false statements as to the operation of HD then pose a rhetorical question based on those mis-statements. You have no credibility. End of story.

  13. William Hepburn February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Any radio technology that relies on the hope and prayer that at least one of the adjacent channels is empty enough to allow the IBOC digital signal to decode is doomed from the start. In the real world, FM tropospheric scatter and AM ionospheric skip do their best to insure that adjacent channels are interfered with. In IBOC’s case, politics is irrelevant – since from day one atmospheric science has already guaranteed that this technology will be doomed. No suits at iBiquity can change the laws of physics.

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