What Is Satellite Radio?

Satellite radio offers commercial-free music, news, sports, talk and comedy. Learn about this exciting new entertainment technology and see if it's for you.

Satellite radio, also called digital radio, is a subscription-based service that provides near CD-quality broadcast of music, news, sports, talk and comedy.The music is static-free, and the artist/title of the music is displayed while playing.Originating from satellites up to 22,000 miles away, it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.There are currently three satellite radio broadcasters: Sirius, XL and WorldSpace.For those technically inclined, transmissions are in the "S" band at 2.3 GHZ.Internet users can listen to the music from their computers as well.Although originally intended for the car market, the home entertainment sector has been increasing in focus.

How it Works

The radio signals originate from the company's studios (XM in Washington, D.C., Sirius in New York) and are transmitted to satellites in orbit.The satellites beam the signal to the customer's satellite radio capable receivers on the ground.In urban areas where the satellite signal could be blocked by buildings, the broadcasts are augmented with ground transmitters.Because it's a pay service, the transmissions are encoded and only can be decoded by a satellite radio; your current car radio won't work.

Prices are currently from $9.95 to $12.95/month.

The Three Satellite Broadcasters


XM (formerly American Mobile Radio) has two satellites launched in 2001, named "Rock" and "Roll."They have agreements with both GM and Honda.

XM's announced channels include (this list changes frequently):

* CNN/fn

* CNN/Sports Illustrated

* The Weather Channel

* USA Today

* Black Entertainment Television

* 5 music channels by the Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation

* Bloomberg News Radio

* C-SPAN Radio

* CNN en Espanol

* One-on-one Sports

* AsiaOne

* Salem Communications

* BBC World Service

* PBS's News Hour with Jim Lehrer

* Johnathan Schwartz


Sirius Satellite Radio (formerly CD Radio) has three satellites, launched in 2000.They sport more that 120 channels, 65 with commercial-free music, traffic and weather every 4 minutes in 20 major cities.They have car systems and home entertainment systems, as well as a conversion kit to upgrade your current car radio to satellite capability.Sirius' announced channels include (this list changes frequently):

* C-SPAN Radio

* Bloomberg News Radio

* Sports Byline USA

* National Public Radio

* SpeedVision

* OutdoorLife

* Music Channels organized by:

* Country

* Classical

* Rock

* Hits

* Country

* Classical

* R&B

* Jazz

* Eclectica

* Rhythmic


WorldSpace is more of a global company than Sirius or XM.They estimate that in other countries, there are 4.6 billion potential customers who can't currently pick up a radio signal.The U.S. isn't currently part of WorldSpace's broadcast coverage area, but they have an agreement with XM to share technology, so something may eventually develop.


Sirius and XM have agreed to define a unified standard for satellite radios and produce a radio that can receive broadcasts from either company.No information has yet been released on when this radio will be available.

Decency Standards

At the time of this writing, there are no decency standards yet for material transmitted via Satellite radio as there are for AM/FM radio and television, although the FCC is said to be considering such standards.

© High Speed Ventures 2011