Who invented the Satellite Radio

The History Of Satellite Radio.

Any examination of the story of radio programming delivered from space will only be in its first chapters, but the tale is intriguing. The story of delivering radio signals through terrestrial methods, from Short Wave and Long Wave radio signals to today’s (2010) more commonly used AM and FM signals is at present much longer than the relatively young story of satellite radio. Radio from satellites and the history behind it is obviously inextricably linked with the history of satellite exploration itself.

The launch of satellites and communication satellites in particular began in the late 1950’s with the Soviet Union and the United States of America dominating events. Important dates in this development are:

  • 1957 The Soviet Union launched – Sputnik 1 the first satellite.
  • 1958 The United States launched – Explorer 1. A mainly scientific exploratory unit.
  • 1962 First Telstar satellite launched carrying TV pictures and other signals from Europe to the US.
  • 1963 Syncom 2 launched – the US’s first successful communications satellite
  • 1965 Intelstat – the first commercial communications satellite
  • Late 1970’s HBO start broadcasting satellite TV signals to cable companies,
  • 1973 – Canadian Satellite Anik 1 provides domestic customers in Canada with Satellite TV signal, followed in the next few years by similar developments in the US and USSR.

Although the satellites launched into the earth’s orbit over the years has burgeoned into the thousands, only a few hundred are currently active, and much of the broadcasting activity from these satellites are signals other than radio programming direct-to-homes. The take-up of satellite radio by consumers has been much slower than that for corresponding TV programming.

Satellite Radio in the USA, and Canada

Regardless of what’s happening in space above the earth, it’s what’s happening in their receivers on the ground with the provision of radio programming that primarily affects the radio listener. In the US, the FCC and Satellite information websites Satellite Radio.com and Satellite Radio usa.com all seem to agree that radio was taken out of the terrestrial service environ seriously for the first time in the US with the establishment in 1992 of the Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A subsequent auction in 1997 resulted in two companies, one of which would become XM Radio and another which would end up as Sirius Radio, being awarded licences to broadcast from satellites. It wasn’t until 2001 that XM Radio began broadcasting radio shows and in 2002 Sirius Radio started broadcasting to four states in the US quickly followed by national coverage in the forthcoming months.

In 2007 the two companies announced a merger and the merger was approved in early 2008 by the FCC. Sirius Canada was launched to cover Canada in 2005 and the service extended to Puerto Rica in late 2009 utilising the same satellites on an orbit over North America, as well as simultaneously broadcasting via the Internet.

Currently (2010) figures suggest Sirius FM has over 19 million subscribers in the US, and over 1 million in Canada.

Satellite radio differs from any terrestrial provision in the main because by and large listeners have to subscribe to the service to receive it through an encryption service. The competing terrestrial services on AM and FM are provided free.

The Rest of the World

Interest in the provision of radio by satellite over the rest of the globe outside the Americas and Canada, despite its huge advantage in covering vast distances with the same signal and output, is perhaps hampered by the massive set up costs. This may explain:

  • Why there are few consortia interested and involved in satellite radio
  • The one company that is involved Worldspace is experiencing financial concerns
  • Listeners’ reluctance to pay for a service when Terrestrial radio is provided free at the source of listening.

Worldspace filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2008 but after the assets were bought by former owners now operates as 1Worldspace in Asia and Africa, and Worldspace Europe in Europe but reports suggest still with some financial difficulty.

The Future of Satellite Radio

2010 sees satellite radio as a viable operation currently broadcasting mainly in North America, as a stand alone subscription based service. In the rest of the world it is available to subscribers and on freeview platforms along with television services and on the internet.

Much of the discussion will resolve the debate in the radio industry but its participants have still to decide the replacement digital service for Am and Fm feeds and indeed in some markets whether a replacement is necessary at all.

2 thoughts on “Who invented the Satellite Radio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *