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Satellite radio - the basic facts

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Satellite radio - the basic facts

When traveling coast to coast or even just statewide it is hard to find radio stations that will not fade to static the longer you drive. This sometimes can happen just when driving across town. Would it not be great if you could find a talk radio station or an alternative rock station that you could listen to without fade out? There is a way to achieve this, it is with satellite radio.

Satellite Radio has been around for over a decade but has just started to catch on with motorists. Before everyday drivers got turned onto the benefits of satellite radio it was the long distance truck drivers that took advantage of the technology. Trucks drivers are stuck in their cab for many, many hours so being able to find music or talk radio that can keep them going on the road has made their job a bit more enjoyable.

Instead of broadcasting from standard radio towers on the ground satellite radio beams their signals from highly advance technology based satellites up in the sky. By beaming the signals down, instead of the conventional tower to tower bouncing, the satellite companies are able to provide crystal clear broadcasts nationwide. This means you could drive from New York to Los Angles and listen to the same music or entertainment radio channel for the whole trip.

In 1992 the FCC allocated a special S band spectrum for the nationwide broadcasting of satellite based radio services. There were four companies that applied and bid on the license to broad cast through this satellite band. Two companies have ended up with the licenses.

When satellite radio started up there were two current satellite radio service providers for the U.S., XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Both companies provided their customers with high quality sound and over 100 channels of music, talk radio, entertainment or sports. Many channels have commercial free broadcasting, always a plus for when you are driving since on normal radio stations it always seem to miss music and only get the commercials. All this service is why the only way to get satellite radio is to pay for.

XM Satellite radio has Rock and Roll. No this is not describing the genre of music they provide it is the name of their two satellites that are rotating in a geostationary orbit above North America. Sirius Satellite radio differs in that they have chosen to use three satellites, and no fun names, that orbit in an inclined elliptical pattern. Both are smart enough to look to the future and have extra satellites that could be used for back up if the need called for it.

Both Sirius and XM have begun to partner with stereo and car manufacturers so that their product will reach more people. So if you are thinking of purchasing a new car and are interested in receiving satellite radio look into which satellite company you prefer and see if your car maker offers their radio as an option. If they do not than you can buy the satellite radio of your choice and install it in the car after you have purchased it.

In 2008 Sirius Satellite Radio's bought out rival XM Satellite Radio and merged to form Sirius XM. While they are now a merged company you cannot yet get all the channels with a subscription to just XM or Sirius. Instead each has their own separate packages with their own separate channels just as before but with a few changes. Separate packages from XM and Sirius cost $12.95 a month, but each now has an option available to its subscribers for $16.99 a month that allows XM and Sirius subscribers to continue receiving their current offerings, but also access select programming from the other satellite provider.

So for $16.99 per month with Sirius you can get every Sirius channel plus "The Best of XM" including Oprah & Friends®, MLB Home Plate, NBA and NHL games, the 24/7 NHL Home Ice® channel, The PGA TOUR Network, Opie & Anthony, XM Public Radio® and more.

With XM for $16.99 per month you can get over 180 channels including every XM channel, PLUS Best of SIRIUS, including NFL play-by-play, two full-time Howard Stern channels, NASCAR races and shows, as well as Martha Stewart Living Radio.

For $12.95 with Sirius you can get over 130 channels, including 100% commercial-free music, plus all of SIRIUS' sports, news, talk and entertainment. And with XM for $12.95 you can get XM everything which includes 170 channels. This has commercial-free music channels to MLB and NHL play-by-play. College sports from the ACC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC. Tune in to world-class news from FOX News, CNN, CNBC, and more.

Customers will also have the option of "mostly music" and a package of news, sports, and talk programs for $9.99 per month. With Sirius their mostly music has 65 music channels plus a few select talk channels as well. With XM they give you over 60 channels of XM's commercial-free music - from rock to pop, classical to country and beyond.

With News, Sports and talk XM offers over 55 channels give you just the facts for a new low price. Tune in to a selection of XM's great news, talk, and sports channels. Sirius offers 50 SIRIUS channels in which you can get the biggest names in news, talk and entertainment, plus all sports channels, live games and races.

Family friendly packages from only XM or Sirius would run $11.95 a month while family friendly packages with stations from both providers would be $14.99 a month.

Those who opt for station-by-station (a la carte) choice can select either 50 channels for $6.99 a month or 100 channels for $14.99 with either satellite radio provider. The 50-channel option only allows users to select stations from either Sirius or XM but not both at this time.

When the FCC approved the merger of XM and Sirius they required that within four months the companies had to set aside about 4 percent of their capacity for educational material, and an additional 4 percent for channels that have not traditionally been represented. The intention is to enhance diversity according to the FCC.

So even though Sirius and XM merged they still have different offering packages to if you are going to one or the other for a specific talk radio host, DJ or sports program make sure you do your research before choosing your subscription and package with one or the other or you might be disappointed to go with one carrier to find out the other had some of the programming you were looking for. If it falls into their "Best of" category you may still get the channels if you paid for the top tier $16.99 package but if not you may end up without some channels you want if you do not research each carrier and package before subscribing.

Those are the basics on how satellite radio started and the current providers and packages. If you are interested in satellite radio do some research before making your purchase and starting your subscription. You do not want to end up with a provider that does not broadcast the specific shows you are interested in.

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