Digital Radio and....Wi-Fi?

KCRW head Seymour on the building battle between the new HD Radio technology....and Wi-Fi.

Recently met with KCRW, the uber-techie NPR station in Santa Monica that dishes up podcasts and tons of options for online radio. That led to a conversation about HD Radio vs. Wi-Fi with Ruth Seymour, KCRW's station manager.

Seymour threw out a provocative idea about the transition to High defintion or HD Radio, which provides CD-quality like sound and more channels for niche programming. In a story on radio in March, we wrote that by the end of the decade at least 2,500 stations are expected to have HD and KCRW will be in that pack.

But Seymour says there will be will be a race between HD and Wi-Fi. The main problem with HD is that the radios are expensive, between $500 and $1,000 now, though the prices will go down.

So, she thinks that networked, broadly available Wi-Fi, whether offered by a city or town for free or a fee, will provide an alternative distribution channel for radio. "Wi-Fi will be an essential service that every town and city will have to see flourish if they want to attract business," says Seymour.

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