Wait, wait. Is that a text message on my radio?

One of the most exciting things about HD Radio technology – besides the fact that it just sounds so darn good – is the fact that it makes it possible for stations to broadcast text messages.

HD technology’s text messages can be as simple as the name of a song and the artist or weather information.

HD Radio stations could also broadcast commercials or important news as text messages. Some may elect to provide traffic alerts. either as text messages or as digital information — free or for a monthly fee. Other stations may decide to stay with the name of the song playing and the artist. Still other stations may elect to give away the weather updates but with short text commercials – to offset the cost of the free texting. Ultimately, it will be up to each individual station to decide what they want to do with text messaging and digital services.

As one example of texting, Amy Gilroy recently reported in TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics) that by the end of the year, Clear Channel will be delivering Real-time traffic information over HD Radio. Moreover, HD technology will allow Clear Channel to deliver the data almost twenty time faster than the RDS network via which Clear Channel is now running a real-time traffic service.

According to Clear Channel, the new HD radio service will launch in 48 markets this year with about 100 stations broadcasting HD traffic information. The company will eventually roll out this service to all its HD stations. HD technology-based traffic modules will have a built-in HD Radio receiver.

The greater bandwidth in the HD signal is expected to enable enhanced services including weather forecast updates and point of interest (POI) updates. Clear Channel says a significant number of suppliers are already offering real time traffic information, including Audiovox,TomTom, Garmin and Cobra.

HD technology radios are now more expensive than conventional radios. One reasons for this is because they have to be designed to display the text messages and because some of the digital components are more expensive than the analog parts found in conventional radios.. However, as manufacturers such as Sony ramp up production, the cost of these radios is expected to become much more competitive — with prices of $100 or less.