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13 December, 2006 - 14:52 By Staff Reporter

Internet radio power play launched

Cambridge Consultants is preparing to blow wide open the rapidly emerging global internet radio market with a new platform technology designed to massively undercut its competitors.The Cambridge Science Park-based firm believes the low-power internet radio’s sub-$15 (£7.60) electronic bill of materials (eBOM) will rewrite the economics of the sector and create a global market opportunity.

Recent research from radio audience tracker, Bridge Ratings, shows that one in five people in the US – almost 60 million residents – are listening to internet radio at least once a week, a figure that increased 40 per cent in the last year alone.

Head of consumer products at Cambridge Consultants, Duncan Smith, said: “Combined with the existing infrastructure of Wi-Fi and broadband, we believe that the internet radio market is poised to explode as soon as the right product price/performance point is achieved. The Iona platform more than meets that target.”

The Iona Wi-Fi portable radio is based on just two silicon chips and will be launched at CES 2007 in the US at the beginning of January.

Cambridge Consultants believes it could lead to consumer products retailing for around £25 to £30 – under half of most of today’s internet-ready ‘kitchen radio’ type products.

The radio technology is designed to operate without a PC and to be as accessible and easy to use as current portable FM radios.

“Our design ethos has focused on stripping the BOM to the absolute minimum, and optimising power consumption,” said Smith.

“As a result, we believe this platform could stimulate a new category of consumer electronics product, or act as a cost-effective add-on for established product lines such as DAB and satellite radios or MP3 players, or even a product associated with a brand such as a broadband service provider.”

Bridge Ratings also predicts US internet radio growth from 70 to over 180 million listeners during the 2006 to 2010 period, a figure driven by the massive penetration of broadband internet connections in developed countries.

Point Topic estimates that almost a quarter of a billion connections are already installed worldwide, a base which is growing at around 36 per cent annually.

The design requires just two major ICs: an 802.11 b/g device targeted at the portable embedded systems market, and a multimedia applications chip combining DSP with a 16-bit RISC processor core from Cambridge Consultants’ own XAP family.

In addition to minimising the eBOM, Cambridge Consultants’ design focuses on reducing power consumption, allowing personal radio products to operate for up to 30 hours from two standard AA cells if the access point supports power saving mode, or in excess of 15 hours otherwise.

“Traditional radios offer listeners the choice of relatively few stations that have to appeal to a very broad audience.

“Internet radio gives listeners access to many thousands, catering for very specific tastes from the mainstream to the exotic. Internet radio also allows you to tune in to your home town station wherever you happen to be in the world,” added Smith.

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