Neha Patil (Editor)

XM Satellite Radio

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Satellite radio

13 January 2011

Hugh Panero, Gary Parsons



Parent organization
XM Satellite Radio httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenaabXM

Former type
Division of Sirius XM Radio


Washington, D.C., United States

James E. Meyer (18 Dec 2012–)

XM Radio Inc, Effanel Music Inc

07 siriusxm satellite radio finding and skipping channels

XM Satellite Radio (XM) was one of the three satellite radio (SDARS) and online radio services in the United States and Canada, operated by Sirius XM Holdings. It provided pay-for-service radio, analogous to cable television. Its service included 73 different music channels, 39 news, sports, talk and entertainment channels, 21 regional traffic and weather channels and 23 play-by-play sports channels. XM channels were identified by Arbitron with the label "XM" (e.g., "XM32" for "The Bridge").


The company had its origins in the 1988 formation of the American Mobile Satellite Corporation (AMSC), a consortium of several organizations originally dedicated to satellite broadcasting of telephone, fax, and data signals. In 1992, AMSC established a unit called the American Mobile Radio Corporation dedicated to developing a satellite-based digital radio service; this was spun off as XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc. in 1999. The satellite service was officially launched on September 25, 2001.

On July 29, 2008, XM and former competitor Sirius Satellite Radio formally completed their merger, following U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval, forming Sirius XM Radio, Inc. with XM Satellite Radio, Inc. as its subsidiary. On November 12, 2008, Sirius and XM began broadcasting with their new, combined channel lineups. On January 13, 2011, XM Satellite Radio, Inc. was dissolved as a separate entity and merged into Sirius XM Radio, Inc. Prior to its merger with Sirius, XM was the largest satellite radio company in the United States.


While the satellite receiver radio service was its primary product, XM operated several audio and data services, and advertising.

Satellite radio

XM's primary business was satellite radio entertainment. XM carried music, news (both simulcast and syndicated programming), sports, talk radio, comedy (both stand-up and radio shows), and even radio drama. In addition, XM used to broadcast local weather and traffic conditions in its larger markets. The channel lineup was available on-line.

To receive satellite radio programming, a customer was required to purchase a receiver. Prices ranged from less than $50 to over $200. With a service commitment, it was possible to get a simple receiver for free. Monthly packages started at US$6.99/month but after adding multiple sports channels (which was mandatory to have at that time) the monthly subscription changed to US$14.49/month (changed since 2011 from US$12.95/month) with add-on "family" radios at US$8.99/month. Best-of-Sirius was available on US accounts for an additional monthly fee. Lifetime packages were also available (USA only). Channel quality was in one of two flavors, stereo music channels at 39 kbit/s and mono talk channels at 16 kbit/s using proprietary compression. Many subscribers have complained about the low quality of satellite radio sound. But providers have stuck with the plan for more channels instead of better quality. HD terrestrial digital radio, a competitor has always used this difference as a selling point.

XM Radio Online

XM Radio Online (XMRO), XM's Internet radio product, offered many of XM's music stations and could be accessed from any Internet connected Windows or Macintosh computer, or via the iPhone/iPod Touch SIRIUS XM app. Prior to March 11, 2009, XMRO was included with XM Radio subscriptions, or was available separately for $7.99/month to Internet-only subscribers.

Weather and traffic

XM also provided data services such as weather information for pilots and weather spotters through its Sirius XM Weather & Emergency datacasting service. This up to the minute weather information could be displayed in the cockpit of an aircraft equipped with a satellite weather receiver. Unlike weather radar, which relies on the aircraft's own equipment, the satellite service could give a pilot information about weather anywhere in USA and Canada. The downside is that the various weather streams (radar, cloud coverage, lightning, forecast, TAF, FA, etc...) took around 15 minutes to complete the data download, meaning that the information can somewhat be out-of-date by the time it is shown. In-cockpit radar and lightning receivers returned truly realtime information, but they costed many thousands of dollars, and did not provide forecasts and complete weather reports. FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions ( TFRs) were also available and shown. Certain aircraft had the XM radio service into the aircraft's audio system, as well, which allowed passengers to listen to XM radio while flying.

Commercial adoption and partnerships

In 2005, AirTran Airways began putting XM Satellite Radio on their aircraft, while in January 2006, JetBlue Airways added XM Radio to their aircraft. United Airlines started carrying prerecorded XM content in March 2006. Zipcar, an urban car-sharing service in the United States, initially installed XM receivers in all of their vehicles available for daily or hourly rental. However, citing uncertainty in the satellite radio market, Zipcar announced on May 1, 2007 that all XM radios would be removed from its fleet in the following months.

Customer Service

In contrast to its high-quality broadcasts, Sirius/XM's customer service has drawn fire from some state governments. In October 2010, Richard Cordray, Ohio's Attorney General, began investigating complaints regarding Sirius XM's policies on billing, customer solicitation as well as subscription renewals and cancellations. The company informed shareholders of the probe shortly thereafter. According to news reports, Arizona, Connecticut, Tennessee, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have expressed interest in participating in the inquiry.

According to Reuters, "The investigations come as Sirius XM, home to programs by Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey, has found its footing and distanced itself from years of huge losses and questions about its business model."

In a report obtained in March 2011, The Better Business Bureau reported receiving over 4500 complaints against Sirius XM in the preceding 36 months, around half of which regarded the company's billing and collection practices.

In Missouri, some people registered on the state's do-not-call list have complained about receiving repeated calls from Sirius XM workers or agents after cancelling their subscriptions. Some Florida customers have reported being billed for automatic renewals of accounts they had canceled. Further, Sirius XM was sued in federal court by a customer accusing it of deceptively raising prices.

The report also stated that "Sirius, in a statement, said it was cooperating with the investigations and that it believed its 'consumer-related practices comply with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.'"

Exclusive channels

  • Faction Talk (formally: The Opie Channel)
  • KISS 104.1
  • Mix
  • Nashville!
  • The Pink Channel
  • Rock@Random
  • Bollywood & Beyond
  • Fox Sports Radio
  • MLB Play-by-Play
  • Extreme Talk
  • America's Talk
  • Talk Radio
  • ATN-Asian Radio
  • ReachMD
  • XM Scoreboard
  • ESPN Xtra
  • Calendrier Sportif
  • XM Deportivo
  • Laugh Attack
  • Canada 360
  • Quoi de Neuf
  • Technology

    XM provided digital programming directly from two high-powered satellites in geostationary orbit above the equator: XM Rhythm at 85° west longitude and XM Blues at 115° west longitude in addition to a network of ground-based repeaters. The combination of two satellites and a ground-based repeater network was designed to provide gap-free coverage anywhere within the contiguous U.S., the southern tip of Alaska, and in the southern part of Canada. The signal could also be received in the Caribbean Islands and most of Mexico (reports have stated that areas north of Acapulco were able to receive a steady signal), however XM is not yet licensed for reception by paid subscribers living in these areas.

    The original satellites, XM-1 ("Rock") and XM-2 ("Roll") suffered from a generic design fault on the Boeing 702 series of satellites (fogging of the solar panels), which means that their lifetimes were shortened to approximately six years instead of the design goal of 15 years. To compensate for this flaw, XM-3 ("Rhythm") was launched ahead of its planned schedule on February 28, 2005 and moved into XM-1's previous location of 85° WL. XM-1 was then moved to be co-located with XM-2 at 115° WL, where each satellite operated only one transponder (thus broadcasting half the bandwidth each) to conserve energy and cut the power consumption in half while XM-4 ("Blues") was readied for launch. Subsequently, XM launched ground-spare XM-4 ("Blues") ahead of schedule on October 30, 2006 into the 115° WL location to complete the satellite replacement program. On December 15, 2006 XM-1 was then powered down and drifted back to its original location at 85° WL, where it will remain as a backup to XM-3. XM-2 as well was powered down and remains as a backup to XM-4. This makes the current active satellites as XM-3 "Rhythm" and XM-4 "Blues" with two in-orbit spares.

    On June 7, 2005, Space Systems/Loral announced that it had been awarded a contract for XM-5. XM-5 will feature two large unfurlable antennas. Sirius' Radiosat 5, also to be built by Loral, will have a similar single large antenna.

    In American and Canadian metropolitan areas, XM and its Canadian licensee "Canadian Satellite Radio" (CSR) and operating as Sirius XM Canada, owned and operated a network of approximately 900 terrestrial repeater stations, meant to compensate for satellite signal blockage by buildings, tunnels, and bridges. In the United States XM owned and operated approximately 800 repeater sites covering 60 markets; in Canada CSR was installing approximately 80 to 100 repeaters that was planned to be owned and operated by CSR in the 16 largest Canadian cities. The actual number of repeater sites varies as the signal is regularly tested and monitored for optimal performance. The actual number of sites in the United States has dropped from the original 1,000 installed when the service first launched in 2001. The repeaters transmit in the same frequency band as the satellites. A typical city contains 20 or more terrestrial stations. Typically, the receiver owner is unaware when a terrestrial station is being used, unless he or she checks antenna information from the receiver being used. Due to a FCC filing in October 2006, the latest list of XM's US terrestrial repeater network was made available to the public.

    The XM signal used 12.5 MHz of the S band: 2332.5 to 2345.0 MHz. XM provided 128 kilobits per second of its bandwidth to OnStar Corporation for use with XM-enabled GM vehicles, regardless of whether their owners are XM subscribers. American Honda also retained the right to some of the company's bandwidth to transmit messages to Acura vehicles via a service known as AcuraLink.

    XM NavTraffic, an optional service, transmitted coded traffic information directly to vehicle navigation systems using TMC technology.

    Audio channels on XM were digitally compressed using the CT-aacPlus (HE-AAC) codec from Coding Technologies for most channels, and the AMBE codec from Digital Voice Systems for some voice channels, including all of the Traffic and Weather channels.

    The XM radio signal was broadcast on 6 separate radio carriers within the 12.5 MHz allocation. The entire content of the radio service, including both data and audio content, was represented by only two carriers. The other 4 carriers carried duplicates of the same content to achieve redundancy through signal diversity. The data on each carrier is encoded using time-delayed and error-correction schemes to enhance availability. Effectively the total radio spectrum used for content is a little over 4 MHz.

    Each two-carrier group broadcast 100 8-kilobit-per-second streams in approximately 4 MHz of radio spectrum. These streams were combined using a patented process to form a variable number of channels using a variety of bitrates. Bandwidth is separated into segments of 4-kilobit-per-second virtual "streams" which are combined to form audio and data "channels" of varying bitrates from 4 to 64 kilobits-per-second.

    XM preprocessed audio content using Neural Audio processors that are optimized for the aacPlus codec, including spectral band replication (SBR). Audio was stored digitally in Dalet audio library systems using an industry-standard MPEG-1 Layer II at 384 kbit/s, sometimes known as MUSICAM. The audio is further processed by the Neural Audio processors on the way to broadcast.

    In the past, the Sirius XM Pops channel, which aired classical music, was broadcast in 5.1 surround sound audio quality. The technology, titled XM HD Surround, is the result of a partnership between XM and Neural Audio Corporation which provides content with six discrete channels of digital audio. The former XM Live channel also broadcast in this format for certain concerts and studio performances. XM manufacturing partners such as Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc., and Yamaha introduced home audio systems capable of playing XM HD Surround. It is not known if the XM HD Surround technology is used on the service in 2015.

    Clear Channel programming agreement

    As part of terrestrial radio giant Clear Channel Communications' early investment into XM in 1998, the companies entered into agreements which provided for certain programming and director designation arrangements as long as Clear Channel retained the full amount of its original investment in XM. One positive consequence of this was that XM had (and still has) exclusive programming rights to all Clear Channel content, including popular national shows like Coast to Coast AM, but the shows could only be broadcast inside the bandwidth controlled by Clear Channel. In June 2003, Clear Channel entered into a forward sales agreement relating to its ownership of XM. During the third quarter of 2005, Clear Channel and XM arbitrated the impact of this agreement on the Operational Assistance Agreement and the Director Designation Agreement. The Arbitration Panel decided that the Operational Assistance Agreement would remain in effect, including Clear Channel's right to receive a revenue share of commercial advertising on programming it provides to XM, but declined to enforce the Director Designation Agreement, which forced the Mays family members off the board of directors. Per the original agreement, Clear Channel had the right to program 409.6 kbit/s (or 10%) of XM bandwidth, requiring XM to include commercial advertising on the existing Nashville!, KISS, Mix, and Sunny (now The Music Summit). The amount of advertising on the music channels amounts up to 4 minutes per hour, similar to the amount of advertising XM included before going commercial free. Exceptions include syndicated music shows which carry network spots. Clear Channel advertising on XM is handled by its subsidiary, Premiere Radio Networks. Clear Channel also provided existing talk channel programming (Fox Sports Radio, Extreme XM, Talk Radio). Clear Channel also controlled America Right (formerly Buzz XM), but through a series of show swaps, most non-Clear Channel content was removed and programming control returned to XM Radio. Plans to introduce new regional based talk channels, which would have featured a regional 5 minute newscast for each area of the country, were canceled. Instead, Clear Channel chose to introduce other music and talk channels. Newer channels including ReachMD, America's Talk remain on the air. The Pink Channel, National Lampoon Comedy Radio, WSIX-FM, WLW, and Rock@Random were launched and later removed, and replaced by channels like Bollywood & Beyond, The Music Summit, and Sixx Sense, all of which are on the air today.

    Seen as a blow to XM's 100% commercial-free music channel status, XM Executive Vice President of Programming Eric Logan released a programming announcement to XM subscribers on the company's website that reiterated XM's commitment to commercial-free music while noting that XM still had the most commercial-free music and that more commercial-free music channels will be added in the near future to ensure that XM will still have more commercial-free music than competitor Sirius Satellite Radio. On April 17, 2006, XM launched US Country (XM17), Flight 26 (XM26), XM Hitlist (XM30) and Escape (XM78) to provide commercial free music in the formats of the Clear Channel programmed music channels which were going to begin airing commercials. In response, Sirius has advertised that they are the only satellite radio provider that has 100% commercial-free music channels. Both XM and Sirius air commercials on their news, talk, and sports channels.

    The Clear Channel forward sales agreement with Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc was terminated on August 2, 2006. The termination resulted in Clear Channel Investments, Inc. paying Bear Stearns a total of $83.1 million, which was the value of Clear Channel's stake in XM. The accreted value of the debt was $92.9 million, and the fair value of the collar was an asset of $6.0 million, which resulted in a net gain of $3.8 million for Clear Channel.

    XM vs RIAA

    In 2006, XM Satellite Radio was sued by the RIAA over XM's new portable devices the Inno and Helix. The RIAA claims these devices are equivalent to a downloading service, whereas XM contends the devices are protected under the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act. In July, XM requested that a federal judge dismiss the case. It should be noted that XM's subscribers can save only songs they hear on the radio and cannot request a specific song to be downloaded or program their radios to record specific artists. XM's portable devices allow the consumer to record a portion of their broadcast much like a VCR, DVR, or cassette player would allow. The content a subscriber records is available only while the subscriber still has an active account with XM Satellite Radio. Once the account is terminated, the recorded content will become inaccessible. Also, If a subscriber fails to listen to a total of 8 hours of programming a month, the recorded content will not be accessible. Recorded content can be accessed only on the portable device; it cannot be transferred to a home computer or separate digital music player.

    The idea is not new: TimeTrax Technologies Corporation, led by CEO Elliott Frutkin, developed an application to record songs to MP3 and tag them with the artist and title information directly from the XM network. In 2005, XM attempted to thwart this practice by discontinuing the required XM PCR radio. TimeTrax responded by quickly rolling out adaptive interfaces to allow almost any XM subscriber to use their tuner to build music libraries directly from XM broadcasts. There is speculation that these fumbles by XM and its attitude towards the Time Trax technology may have been the warning shot of major troubles between the RIAA and XM.

    On January 19, 2007, a district judge ruled that the RIAA could proceed with the lawsuit, rejecting XM's defense that the conduct alleged in the complaint—if proved by the RIAA—would be immune under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1991.

    PCR and DirectPCR

    At the heart of the TimeTrax controversy was the XM PCR: a computer-controlled XM Receiver. Unlike the other receivers, which could be used in the car or home stereo, the XM PCR required a computer to run. A software application on the computer acted as the radio's controls and display, which led to a flurry of third party developers, who wanted to make a PCR replacement. Many of them received Cease and Desist letters from the XM company. Once the PCR was discontinued, for the reasons listed above, people found that the XM Direct, a receiver intended to be used in satellite-ready car stereos, can be connected to a computer with a very simple adapter cable. Some people have dubbed the entire kit, with receiver, cable, and software, the Direct PCR. While the original PCR software does not control the XM Direct receiver, several community developers have continued to develop PCR replacement software.

    Merger With Sirius Satellite Radio

    On February 19, 2007, XM announced a merger deal with Sirius Satellite Radio. The merger combined the two radio services and created a single Satellite Radio network in the United States and Canada.

    The United States Department of Justice announced on March 24, 2008 that it had closed its investigation of the merger because it "concluded that the evidence does not demonstrate that the proposed merger of XM and Sirius was likely to substantially lessen competition."

    On June 16, 2008, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told the Washington Post that he had decided to approve the XM-Sirius Merger after the companies agreed in the previous week to concessions intended to prevent the new company from raising prices or stifling competition. Martin issued an order to approve the merger, according to The Wall Street Journal – setting the stage for a final vote which could have occurred any time after his recommendation was circulated.

    The XM-Sirius Merger gained its final governmental approval from the Federal Communications Commission on July 25, 2008, with Martin and commissioners Robert M. McDowell and deciding vote Deborah Taylor Tate voting in the affirmative. As a term of the merger, the combined company will be fined almost $20 million for failing to create and market interchangeable radios capable of receiving signals from both companies prior to the merger.

    iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Android applications

    XM developed a software application for use on the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch devices that allowed XM subscribers to listen to its programming over the Apple devices. The Sirius XM iPhone App became available in the Apple iTunes Store on June 17, 2009.

    All SiriusXM Internet Radio subscribers are able to download the application from the Apple iTunes App-Store for free. Listening on an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch is included with some subscription packages, a separate fee is required with other packages.

    SiriusXM debuted a new web page [1] to market the application.

    On February 4, 2010, SiriusXM released an app for the Research In Motion BlackBerry line of smartphones, including the Storm (Series 9500), Bold (Series 9000 and 9700), Tour (Series 9600) and Curve (Series 8500 and 8900). Like the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch application, the BlackBerry app is free but requires a SiriusXM subscription.

    SiriusXM is also available for download on Android devices through Google Play.

    The applications carry most of the XM music, talk, sports and entertainment programming, as well as some exclusive Internet-only content. The mobile applications also carry a select number of channels from the "Best of SIRIUS/XM" packages, dependent on the subscriber's subscription level.


    In November 2004, Canadian Satellite Radio filed an application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to bring the XM service to Canada. Along with Sirius Canada and the consortium of CHUM Limited and Astral Media, CSR was one of three applications for national subscription radio services submitted to the CRTC.

    On June 16, 2005, the CRTC approved all three applications. The decisions were appealed to the Canadian federal cabinet by a number of broadcasting, labour, and arts and culture organizations, including the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, CHUM Limited, and the National Campus and Community Radio Association. The groups objected to the satellite radio applicants' approach to and reduced levels of Canadian content and French-language programming, along with the exclusion of Canadian non-commercial broadcasting. After a lengthy debate, Cabinet rejected the appeals on September 9, 2005.

    XM's Canadian channels appeared on US receivers on November 17, 2005. On November 29, 2005, XM Canada officially launched.


    XM Satellite Radio Wikipedia