FM Radio Receivers in Mobile Phones

The Facts AboutFM Radio In Mobile Phones

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FM Radio in a Mobile Phone

FM Radio Receivers in Mobile Phones

There is a strong belief among many in the radio industry that FM radio receivers should be incorporated into virtually all mobile devices, including mobile phones. Such a move helps to perpetuate the ubiquitous nature of radio and to provide a communication lifeline during times of crisis or natural disaster. Some may wonder why FM radio receivers are necessary when many mobile devices already have access to radio through internet connections. When radio is needed most it's least likely to be available through an internet connection on a mobile device and only available when a mobile device has an FM receiver built-in.

Radio's Importance in Times of Crisis

In January 2009, parts of the Midwestern United States were struck by a voracious winter storm. Combinations of snow and ice virtually paralyzed many areas. Owensboro, Kentucky was one area struck exceptionally hard and declared a federal disaster area. Residents were without power, land line communication, mobile phone communication and cable television. The only functioning source of information was "over the air" broadcasting. A nearby radio station run by the Cromwell Group was broadcasting. However, residents could only tap into the radio station with a radio receiving device that did not require an external power source (such as a battery-operated or crank radio, or a mobile phone with a built-in FM receiver).

Mobile phones were incapacitated because the mobile phone infrastructure was not working. That means internet access over the mobile phone network was also incapacitated. Access to information using a mobile phone was only possible if the mobile phone contained an FM receiver.

Capacity and Bandwidth: Over the Air Radio Versus Internet-Based Radio

What about cases in which the mobile networks are still functioning? Mobile networks are built assuming that only a percentage of users will use the network at the same time. On occasions in which usage begins to exceed capacity, the networks begin to exhibit stress (we've all experienced the "all circuits are busy" message from time to time). In times of crisis when all other means of communication have been disabled, usage of the network to talk and to access information using a mobile internet connection has been shown to skyrocket. Will networks be able to handle the burden and still be able to support access to critical information from radio broadcasts over mobile internet connections? With FM receivers in mobile devices one would not need to worry about this issue. Essential information would be available from nearby radio stations via "over the air" signals that are unaffected by network burden.

Bud Walters, owner of Cromwell Group, summed it up succinctly after January's Midwestern storm by saying, "If there ever was a case for FM radio receivers in cell phones, this is it. Everyone has a cell phone, now useless. The cell phone would not be useless if it had an FM radio in it."

The Current State of FM Radio Receivers in Mobile Devices

Why not add an inexpensive analog FM radio receiver into all mobile devices? It provides essential access to critical information over the air during times of crisis using a device that consumers will already be carrying.

Broadcom recently announced an integrated circuit device that combines WiFi, Bluetooth and FM on a single "chip," making it easier for manufacturers to integrate essential functionality in one chip.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are including FM radio-capable handsets in their offering and the radio industry is working on getting Apple on board as well. In fact, the Apple iPhone 3GS includes the Broadcom chip described above which has FM receiver capability. It is not a current function of the 3GS but can be easily included in a future upgrade since the FM-capable device is already present in the current design.

Nokia has sold more than 700 million devices with built-in FM radio receivers worldwide, demonstrating consumer recognition of the value.

What Can You Do?

Tell us your thoughts on this initiative by visiting Spread the word among your radio industry colleagues and ask them to do the same. Spread the word to listeners over the air and on your radio station website and ask them to voice their support for FM radio on cell phones. Together, we can mobilize this initiative throughout the industry and the listening population to demonstrate the fundamental necessity for FM radio receivers in mobile devices.

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