What is Home Satellite Radio?

Katie Gatto

Home satellite radio is essentially a stationary version of the mobile satellite radios that can be found in many newer vehicles. Instead of relying on the standard FM and AM radio broadcasting signals, this radio’s music comes from a direct streaming transmission from a satellite orbiting in space.

A home satellite radio receives direct streaming transmissions from satellites in orbit.
A home satellite radio receives direct streaming transmissions from satellites in orbit.

A home satellite radio system requires a receiver that should be connected either to speakers placed throughout the rooms of the home, or a home stereo system. They take the waves sent from the satellite and translate them into an audio signal. The human ear then interprets the signal as either speech or music.

Home satellite radio differs from standard FM radio in two important ways. Before the decision to buy home satellite radio is made it is important to know both of these things. First, in order to have home satellite radio function properly one must both purchase a receiver and pay a monthly subscription fee. The second major difference is that are no commercial breaks on satellite radio.

Home satellite radio differs from streaming Internet radio because one does not need an open network connection in order to receive music. In addition, since there is a receiver box, there is no need to have to have a dedicated computer on in order to listen to music. Satellite radio will also not use hard drive space and broadband the way that streaming Internet radio can.

Monthly subscription fees for satellite radio will vary, based on the original sign up deal and the chosen provider. As a general rule, the subscription fee will not be more than $20 a month, and premium packages often cost more.

Another important factor when considering a subscription to home satellite radio, especially if there are young children at home, is that of the content on satellite radio is not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This means that, on at least some of the stations, there may be inappropriate content for children. If there are young children who should not be exposed to people like Howard Stern™, or Opie and Anthony™, be prepared to supervise them while they use the satellite radio. On the bright side, these stations are always clearly marked in the station guide. In addition, certain service providers will allow the user to block out stations that are inappropriate for children with a password.

Home satellite radio is navigated by a remote control similar to the ones for televisions. Users can scroll through the stations, or simply enter the number of the station that they want with the keypad. A complete list of stations should come with the users guide.

Stations are usually organized around a specific genre of music, or a more general aesthetic feeling. For example, stations may have names like “Coffee House," or “Thrash Metal.” Each station should come with a brief description in the guide.

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Discussion Comments


Satellite radio is a great thing, indeed. However, one of the primary advantages of it is negated when one opts for only a home system -- a person with a satellite radio in his or her car can enjoy favorite stations while traveling. That's right -- no more driving out of range or any of that as your stations travel with you, in a sense.

There have been some satellite radio receivers that do "double duty" as they can interface with both home and car stereos. Those are popular because satellite radio is subscription based and works on a device-by-device basis. You might have a subscription for your home, but you'd have to buy another if you wanted to listen to satellite radio on a device that's built into your car. A portable system takes care of that subscription fee -- you've only got one device to worry about, so you only have to pay one subscription.

One thing that's great about satellite radio is how varied the programming is. For example, if you like old time radio (Fibber McGee & Molly, The Jack Benny Show, etc.), you'll find that on satellite radio. You probably won't find it on a local station. Such niche programming is one of the best things about satellite radio.

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