by Matt Barstow
Millions of radio listeners in the United States and all over the world have become so much happier with the introduction of satellite radio. Now, people can listen to literally hundreds of stations that offer music, news, radio talk shows and more in virtually real-time and at a much higher audio quality than that which FM or AM radio provides.
With conventional radio, land-based stations broadcast their signals to your boom box, computer, or car radio via the earth's airwaves. With satellite radio however, providers transmit encrypted signals to satellites they launched in outer space; these satellites in turn beam the signals to customers' listening devices. But you can't use just any radio; you need a special receiver (which is available at electronics retailers) and a satellite radio set. You can also listen to satellite radio broadcasts in your car since many new cars rolling of the assembly lines have satellite-ready equipment already installed. All you would need to do is pay for your monthly subscription.
In the United States, service is offered by XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Sirius, a company based in New York City, has over 125 channels from which to choose, 67 of them dedicated to commercial-free music and the rest to various other content. XM, on the other hand, offers more than 160 channels, which offer content that is as diverse as that which Sirius extends to its customers. The services are available coast-to-coast, so geographical availability of programs is not an issue. A customer in Los Angeles, for example, can listen to the same talk show that another customer in say, Boston, is listening to at the same time, and with no degradation in audio quality. Remember that satellite radio also means digital radio -- sound is crystal-clear. There's none of the static or hissing you would sometimes hear on FM or AM radio. Non-US residents can also take advantage of the benefits of satellite radio; XM and Sirius offer their services in Canada, while WorldSpace broadcasts its service across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Australia has several providers of its own also.
Factors that attract people to sign up for satellite radio subscriptions are numerous. For one thing, there's the pleasure of listening to commercial-free music. Since the providers make their money from subscriptions, there is still no pressing need for advertising revenue. Another attractive feature that this service offers is that information about the song being played at the moment is displayed on your radio set -- a small convenience for those people who have to know about who is singing what song right-now. The fact that satellite radio programming is completely uncensored at the moment is also a draw for many people. Noteworthy personalities, such as shock jock Howard Stern (who was kicked out of network radio programming) has made satellite radio his new broadcasting home. Whether you want to listen to hip-hop music, stand-up comedy shows, or news programs, satellite radio offers them -- all completely uncensored.
Because Sirius, XM, and other providers are the ones who set the channel selections, some people might find it a bit inconvenient that they won't be able to listen to their local radio stations and get information on local goings-on. However, Sirius and XM do provide traffic and weather data for major cities, so that should be a bit of a relief for city residents. And if you think about it, not getting access to one local radio station wouldn't seem to be such a bad deal if you compare it to the ability to listen to hundreds of channels of commercial-free music and unregulated non-regulated shows.
Sirius and XM plan to add even more features and functions to offer to their subscribers. Sirius, in particular, is readying the launch of a Windows Media Video 9 service and the company plans to offer several channels dedicated to children. That's one more thing to keep the kids occupied and not distract their parents on long road trips. XM plans to release a similar video service. The two companies are anticipating that this will add to the number of their subscribers -- Sirius has over one million, trailing after XM which has more than three million.
If you're an avid radio listener and you're finding yourself becoming fed up with the constant barrage of commercials on regular music stations or if you're looking for more no-holds-barred commentaries or radio talk shows, you probably wouldn't mind forking over the $12.95 monthly subscription for satellite radio service charged by Sirius and XM. And with the increases that the two companies see in their subscriber numbers, it's evident that a lot of people feel the same way.
About the Author
Matt Barstow offers valuable tips and information about satellite radio, players, and services. Read his latest report answering the most popular questions about satellite radio. http://www.satellite-radio-review.net.