What Is Satellite Radio?

Satellite versus FM Radio

Satellite Radio is a subscription radio service, with the signal beamed through 1 or more satellites. For a monthly fee, a person can purchase a satellite radio feed, similar to satellite tv. Satellite radio is known for its wider range of selections than local terrestrial radio, along with global reception.

How Satellite Radio Works

The use of satellite technology gives satellite radio broadcasts much greater range than your standard FM radio signals, which covered the most ground before the invention of satellite broadcasts.

FM radio or “frequency modulation” radio broadcasts over the radio spectrum, between 87.5 MHz and 108.0 MHz. These carrier waves break up after traveling a certain distance, which is why you’ll see radio stations in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Arizona, and Jacksonville that all broadcast at the 97.9 frequency.

What Is Satellite Radio? How Does Satellite Radio Work?

Satellite radio boasts strong signal relays, local facilities with extremely large storage space, and none of the obstacles that break up signals on the ground. Broadcasting from the top of the world down also allows more direct coverage to more locations, instead of a fixed location on the surface of Earth. Therefore, once the prohibitive cost of building the infrastructure for satellite broadcasting were overcome, satellite radio became a viable alternative to the traditional AM/FM radio formats–with many advantages.

When Did Satellite Radio Begin?

The two major satellite radio providers in the United States, Sirius Radio and XM Radio, began operations in the early 1990s. Sirius Radio began in 1990, while XM Radio started up in 1992. Starting in the early 21st century, when satellite radio hookups became more feasible, the competition between these two companies became fierce. The competition ended in 2007, when Sirius bought out XM Radio.

Sirius Satellite Radio

Over the years, Sirius Radio has been the boldest and most successful satellite radio provider in North America. Sirius gained national attention by signing Howard Stern to an immense contract.

In 2005, Howard Stern received 34.3 million shares of Sirius stock, worth an estimated $218 million, and was given a $100 million per year budget to produce three shows on satellite radio. This gave Howard Stern greater programming control, a huge windfall even for a longtime radio star, and the ability to broadcast uncensored. At the same time, Sirius Radio became a buzzword, because of the move of Howard Stern from the terrestrial radio to a new venue.

This was a huge gamble on the part of Sirius Radio, but one which has largely paid off. Within two years, Sirius was buying out its main competitor, XM Radio.

Stern’s show as only the most high profile listening option, though. Below is a list of some of the channel options that are featured or have been featured on Sirius Radio

  • Blue Collar Comedy Channel
  • Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer
  • Superfan Roundtable
  • CBC Radio One
  • CBC Radio 3
  • Radio Bam
  • NPR Talk
  • Radio Korea
  • The Beat
  • ESPN All Access Radio
  • Sporting New Radio
  • Hardcore Sports Radio (they cuss)
  • Sports Extra
  • Iceberg Radio
  • The Weather Network
  • DeVore and Diana (defunct)
  • 2G’s Show (Champions Soccer Radio Network or CSRN)
  • World Football Daily (formerly World Soccer Daily)
  • Dale Sommers, The Truckin’ Bozo
  • The Morning Drive (Ford Martin and NASCAR)
  • Tony Stewart Live (NASCAR show during NASCAR Award Week)
  • The Wrap-Up Show

This is just a small sampling of the programs included on Sirius Radio. It’s an understatement to say that your selections on satellite radio providers dwarf their terrestrial broadcast competitors. You’ll find hundreds of channel options that–by and large–come in with flawless accuracy. Also, if you have a channel you enjoy listening to, you won’t have to stop listening after a couple of hours, or try to find the same station on a different frequency in a different region. Just about anywhere in the continental U.S., you’ll be able to receive the same broadcast on the same channel.

Satellite radio is a must for people who travel via automobile a lot, especially if they travel to different regions overland. Truck drivers, car enthusiasts, and road trippers have to own satellite radio. If you’re not sure, check the satellite radio option the next time you rent a car for a day and see the difference. If that’s not an option, take my word for it.

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