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What is Satellite Radio?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated May 16, 2024
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Satellite radio is a relatively new entrant into the radio market. Traditional radio stations broadcast their programs via large antennas to provide reception in the surrounding area. The most powerful broadcasts are accessible over 100 miles from the source, although most broadcasts reach about 35 miles.

As the name suggests, satellite radio uses satellites to deliver audio content to huge swaths of land. XM, Sirius are two such services that provide satellite radio broadcasts and their signals are available all over the United States. Worldspace provides digital broadcasts for most other places in the world. Satellite radio signals are broadcast in digital form which drastically improves the quality of reception. In fact, the quality of these digital broadcasts approaches that of CD audio!

Both XM and Sirius offer around 100 stations and Worldspace's programming guide seems to be growing and growing. Many of the programs are either commercial free or close to it. Programming varies from news to talk to all sorts of music stations.

Receiving satellite broadcasts requires special satellite receivers, and the service also requires a payment, usually around $10 per month. The first satellite radios were installed in cars, but now more and more are becoming available for the home and in portable devices.

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Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On Jun 19, 2014

@Vincenzo -- I saw a study not long ago that found satellite radio is very popular among truckers because they can be picked up everywhere. Here's another feature the study found truckers like -- there are plenty of satellite stations that offer a longer format than music stations do. People with satellite radio in their vehicles, then, can listen to entire talk shows, sporting events or even old time radio programs without driving out of range of them.

By Vincenzo — On Jun 19, 2014

The fact that satellite radio can be picked up all over the place is the very thing that makes it a popular option. That feature is so compelling, in fact, that there are plenty of new cars that offer a free subscription for a certain amount of time. The theory is that once people get used to satellite radio, they'll gladly pay for a subscription after the trial period had ended. There was some risk in going that route, but it seems to have paid off for satellite radio providers.

It is annoying to take a trip, find a radio station you like and then drive out of range. That problem is virtually eliminated with satellite radio.

By Markerrag — On Jun 18, 2014

One thing that people might not realize about satellite radios is the the subscriptions have changed in a way to make them more appealing. For example, it used to be that you had to buy a subscription for every device you owned. Got a satellite radio in your home and car? That meant you had to buy two subscriptions so you could listen on each device.

That changed so that you could listen to multiple devices through one account. The drawback to that system is that you can only access satellite radio through one device at a time. That might be fine for an individual, but what about a family full of people who love satellite radio? If they don't want to share, then the old multiple subscription model may be better for that family.

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