Mike Stevens | May 28, 2009

THE AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING industry, car manufacturers and communications technology companies haven’t made so much as a whisper about a subscription-based satellite radio service since a Darwin-based trial was discussed in 2005.

But things are moving in the US. With some 18.5 million listeners subscribed to US satellite radio network Sirius XM, communications giant AT&T is set to introduce a satellite TV service into cars all around the United States.

Called CruiseCast and offering 22 channels, the service is being trialled around the US before it becomes available for subscribers to tune in.

RaySat Broadcasting, a partner of AT&T in its satellite TV project, said: "AT&T CruiseCast is the first service that uses video-buffering technology to minimize loss of programming when a vehicle loses line of sight with the satellite while driving alongside a tall building or under a tunnel."

Sirius XM offers a similar service, but without the same innovative video-buffering technology utilised by AT&T and RaySat, viewing is interrupted by any structure that can interrupt the satellite signal’s line-of-sight passage, such as an overpass or tall building.

cruisecast_02

Hopeful Aussies, for now, best not hold their breaths for the launch of satellite TV – or radio, for that matter (a service that has existed in the US for some five years now).

The cost to launch such a service - which would include satellite channels, repeaters, national marketing campaigns - would likely dwarf any potential profit.

Sirius XM may have 18.5 million subscribers, but that’s not a huge number when you consider the US population of around 300 million. With Australia’s much smaller population (just 20 million), the business case for satellite radio down under would be a tough one to make.

Still, if you can handle the advertising and the smaller number of stations broadcasting, digital radio is on its way to Australia, and aside from the receiver, it won’t cost you a cent.

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