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How Satellite Radio Works


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As early as 1992, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) worked with companies that wanted permission to broadcast satellite-based Digital Audio Radio Service across the nation. By 1997, the FCC granted permission, and licenses, to Sirius Satellite Radio, which was CD Radio at the time, and XM Satellite Radio, which was known as American Mobile Radio.

Typically, each satellite radio works through a subscription package. As the subscriber, you pick the type of package that you want and pay a monthly fee for the use of the satellite radio. The satellite radio system, or receiver, is purchased separately.

Most satellite radio plans are based on your use, like for a business, marine use, navigational systems, and more. For just a satellite radio, plans are available on a one year or two year basis. Generally, discounts are available for those who pay annually, as opposed to those who pay on a month to month basis.

Additionally, you can add multiple radios to your plan at a reduced rate, which means your satellite radio works for your car, home, and kids all under the same bill, and at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase each one individually. In terms of car manufacturers, some cars are being equipped with a specific brand of satellite radio.

However, with the latest merger between XM and Sirius satellite radio in the works, only time will tell how the sale of individual services and systems will work as the two companies join. As of now, it seems that the two companies will operate separately, but offer options to customers who would like to access the best of both networks.

Furthermore, the way that satellite radio works is that it offers you commercial free radio or limited commercials. Depending on the network you choose, you have news, sports, comedy, talk, and music channels from which you can choose.

With each package, satellite radio works through three parts: satellites, ground repeaters, and radio receivers. Much like a satellite television service, satellite radio works over the S-band to provide approximately 100 channels to subscribers, depending on the type of service that you have purchased.

While XM radio has two satellites, “Rock" and “Roll", Sirius radio has three satellites that allow one satellite to be positioned over the United States at all times. These satellites send the signal to the ground repeaters or to the antennas directly.

An antenna module from each satellite radio works to pick up the signal from the ground repeaters and then transmit the signal to the receiver. In addition to picking up the signal and passing it along, the antenna is also used to amplify the signal and filter out any interference so that listeners get the clearest reception possible.

Although the technology continues to advance for satellite radio, the way that satellite radio works will continue to be fairly basic. The only part of the process that changes is the ability to get more channels and the dynamic between the satellites and the antennas and receivers.

For more information on satellite radio and for the best deals on Sirius radio hardware visit


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