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A BMW X5 with ESA's prototype satellite radio
Pause and rewind live radio

The luxuries of owning a PVR for watching TV shows may soon show up in automobiles. The European Space Agency, or ESA. is working on a new satellite radio system that requires little changes to automobiles but will allow listeners to perform the same PVR functions, but to their favorite radio stations. Pausing, rewinding and time shifting will all become usable features for in-car radio.

The ESA's system employs what it calls "cache" memory for radio -- essentially either a hard drive storage medium or some form of solid state memory such as flash memory. When released, the ESA's system will more than likely employ solid state flash memory for storing audio data, which will better withstand bumps and jolts while driving around.

While satellite radio already exists from Sirius and XM, ESA's system's claim to fame is its cost which, according to the ESA, will be a lot cheaper to implement. Because the new system does not require the use of local transmission towers for assistance -- like Sirius and XM -- there are costs associated with setting up a local ground infrastructure. The ESA's system will also use existing communications satellites that are already in place. This will require flat satellite dishes to be installed on automobiles, but the ESA claims that the system is small enough to be integrated well. According to the ESA:
The car radio of the future works in a similar manner to a satellite receiver for television channels. However, the car has no large dish antenna on the roof, but a specially designed mobile antenna, flattened so that it can be built almost invisibly into the bodywork. The antenna receives signals in the Ku frequency band used by communications satellites.
The ESA's new prototype system is being well received from several prominent automobile manufacturers. BMW is the first to build a prototype car using the ESA's new satellite radio system and the ESA indicated that more are coming.

The ESA's entrance into the satellite market comes just days after the FCC indicated it would probably stop any move that would result in a merger between XM and Sirius.  Both companies have spent billions getting infrastructure in place to compete with terrestrial radio, though both have also faced major criticisms for cost and content. The ESA is contending that its system will be saving consumers money, because there are no infrastructure costs to pass over to consumers. The ESA did not give details on when it expects its new system to start rolling out, or if it will be entering the North American market, currently dominated by Sirius and XM.




"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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