Site Owner & Radio Enthusiast
According to Inside Radio, AM and FM radio still has the lion’s share of listenership, followed by streaming audio, owned music, and SiriusXM (satellite radio).
Should satellite be its own category, or does it meet AM or FM specifications?
Satellite radio is not AM or FM radio. Instead, it’s a nationwide digital radio signal. It’s also the same as DAB, which is terrestrial radio. Differences in cost, broadcasting distance, and audio quality separate satellite from these other forms of radio.
This guide will explain why satellite isn’t AM or FM radio. We’ll also explore its benefits and disadvantages over terrestrial radio, so don’t miss it!
Is Satellite Radio AM or FM? What About DAB?
Satellite radio defies the traditional characterizations of radio.
It isn’t AM radio, which uses amplitude modulation to transmit radio signals.
AM stations are terrestrial, the polar opposite of satellite radio.
Terrestrial radio relies on a nearby land station to broadcast radio signals.
Satellite radio also isn’t FM, a mode of radio broadcasting that uses frequency modulation.
FM is the predominant means of listening to the radio, as the stat from the intro proves. However, it’s still terrestrial radio at the end of the day.
Although you’re getting hotter, satellite radio isn’t DAB either.
DAB is short for digital audio broadcasting, a radio standard used by more than 50 countries.
So why isn’t satellite radio DAB? Good question! DAB is also terrestrial radio.
The radio signals are broadcast from a multiplex (usually several) to transmit audio to a region or area. You can’t access the same DAB stations in one place as another.
Okay, so what is satellite radio, then?
It’s non-terrestrial digital radio. The radio waves are broadcast via a communication satellite.
The Benefits of Satellite Radio Over AM and FM
Most car and portable radios offer AM and FM stations as default radio listening options, but that could someday change.
After all, satellite radio is an advantageous listening option in many ways, so let’s take a look.
Further Broadcasting Radius
Since it’s not terrestrial radio like DAB, AM, and FM, the propensity for a satellite radio signal to travel further is unmitigated.
Even AM radio waves, which can venture hundreds of miles at night, cannot match satellite radio’s traveling capacity.
You can access it nationwide. As we discussed in a recent post, you can tune into satellite radio in Oregon, drive clear across the country to Massachusetts, and listen to the same satellite radio station the entire time.
You never have to worry about regional stations fading in and out like you would when listening to terrestrial radio.
Some listeners hate it when cuss words get censored out of songs or talk radio broadcasts. It takes away from the listening experience, in their opinion.
If you share the same mindset, satellite radio is preferable because it doesn’t censor audio.
Whether you want to hear the naughty words in a song or listen to a talk radio host’s unfiltered opinion, you can if it’s satellite radio.
Plenty of Stations to Select From
With over 150 SiriusXM stations broadcasting full-time, there’s something for every taste.
Some stations showcase the best of TikTok or Pandora, and others focus on specific artists.
For example, you can listen to Elvis Radio or Pearl Jam Radio, which plays these artists 24/7.
All the standard genres you’re used to finding on terrestrial radio are also available on satellite.
Have you ever been in the car wrestling with a radio station that keeps coming in and out due to heavy static? It’s frustrating and detracts from the listening experience.
Eventually, you give up on the station altogether because you can’t hear anything but static.
If you’re on a long road trip, you can ping-pong between a dozen stations as they come in and go out as you drive further to your destination.
Satellite radio reduces static. You’ll hear clear audio from the beginning leg of your journey until the end, so you don’t have to worry about your road trip playlist.
The Downsides of Satellite Radio Over AM and FM
Satellite radio might sound like the clear choice over terrestrial options like DAB, AM, and FM, but is it?
Before you decide, let’s review some qualities that might have you second-guessing satellite radio.
Reduced Audio Quality
We wrote a recent post about the audio quality of satellite radio, and it’s surprisingly poorer than you would think it would be.
That’s due to reduced bandwidth and bitrate. The bandwidth of satellite radio doesn’t stack up to FM.
You can listen to satellite radio at a further broadcasting distance.
Still, it won’t be crystal clear audio unless you invest in an amp or subwoofer.
Not Free to Listen To
Terrestrial radio is free to enjoy. You can tune into your favorite station on your phone, radio, or car and listen for hours without paying a cent. However, satellite radio isn’t free.
You must subscribe to a satellite service, which will cost about $15 a month as long as you continue to use the service.
Must Have the Right Equipment
You also can’t use just any equipment to access satellite radio. You must have a specialty receiver and radio designed for satellite.
This is an additional cost besides the recurring fees you’ll pay for a subscription.
Can’t Stream for Free
The other issue with satellite radio is the absence of free streaming. You can stream to your heart’s content at $21.99 a month. Other lower-cost plans offer streaming but on a limited basis.
Satellite radio isn’t AM or FM, nor is it DAB. Those are all terrestrial radio, which satellite is not.
It transmits digital radio signals across a satellite, providing expansive music and talk entertainment nationwide.
Besides, satellite radio is uncensored and has excellent listening options. However, the lower-quality audio (even if it is static-free) and the cost of subscribing and paying for the equipment can prevent some people from listening to satellite.