Tuesday, February 20, 2007

XM and Sirius to merge?

XM and Sirius satellite radio have announced plans to merge, pending FCC approval. This merger is certain to have its pros and cons, and I have a lot of questions about what they plan to do. Right now, I feel that Sirius has much better programming than XM, but XM also has a few strong points. XM has a much better classic rock station, but Sirius has Howard, and its alternative station is much better. Will this create an unfair monopoly, allowing the combined company to jack up prices? Is it a monopoly, since they compete with terrestrial radio?
I am especially curious about what will happen from a technology standpoint. XM has a major advantage in the technology area. XM compresses the audio less than Sirius, resulting in better sound. It still sounds compressed, like a bad MP3, but not as bad as Sirius. If they merge, and you have Sirius already, can you upgrade your equipment? XM and Sirius use two different types of orbits for their satellite trajectories. XM uses a geo-synchronous orbit, which is great for setting up antennas in your house. The satellite stays in the same place in the sky, in relation to the rotation of the earth. If you are getting the signal now, you will get the signal 24/7. Sirius on the other hand has three satellites that orbit in a figure 8. This is fine in the car, but setting it up at home is a nightmare. You set up the antenna, get it working, and 20 minutes later, the satellite is elsewhere in the sky, and you have no signal. Will current Sirius subscribers be able to take advantage of XM's superior satellite orbits? What stations will get the ax? What DJ's will go? There are certainly some redundancy issues that will have to be resolved. Howard and O&A under the same roof? It is going to be very interesting to see how this all pans out.
To see an animated map of the satellite orbits, go here.

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