KBIA/91.3 FM will be the first station in mid-Missouri to use high-definition (HD) radio technology.
The station’s 20-year-old transmitter was replaced this week with approximately $255,000 worth of new equipment. The installation is part of an ongoing project that should hear high-definition radio broadcasts beginning in late March or April, said station manager Michael Dunn.
Although a radio with a digital receiver will be necessary to receive the high-definition transmissions, analog listeners can still pick up the broadcasts, though they won't notice any improvement. Those with high-definition receivers will notice an improvement in audio quality and eventually be able to take advantage of other features the technology offers, such as information displays and multiple broadcasts.
“It will allow us to provide a significantly improved audio product,” Dunn said.
High-definition radio technology has been available to the market since January, but Dunn said KBIA had been planning the change for two years. He estimated that 400 stations in the United States, mostly in large markets, offer high-definition radio. The closest station of this kind to Columbia is KFUO/850 AM in St. Louis.
In addition to improved audio, high-definition radio technology also allows new types of data to be transmitted. It can display information such as artists’ names or immediate traffic and weather information. It can also split signals, or allow a station to transmit multiple broadcasts picked up by a secondary audio channel button on the radio. Dunn said that allows for greater personalization of the radio.
Dunn said he doesn’t know for sure when those additional services might be offered on KBIA because the necessary changes will be made over time. He estimated that enhanced data services will be available by the end of next year and he expected that split signals will be available by the end of 2006.
Dunn said that the technology is constantly improving and that prices for high-definition radios are constantly falling. He added that KBIA will recommend models best suited for what the station offers.
“We don’t want people to go out and buy a radio until we tell them to,” he said.