Auto Tech: SiriusXM Satellite Radio automotive technology auto tech
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By Mike Schlee

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SiriusXM Satellite Radio

It feels like satellite radio has been in Canada forever now. Virtually every new vehicle sold here has a satellite radio option while some even come with satellite radio standard. Whether it be Sirius or XM, satellite radio offers drivers hundreds of radio channels that are accessible virtually anywhere in North America—great for long distance road trips.

For those unfamiliar with satellite radio, it is an audio service available either in your vehicle, on your mobile device, or online. The variety of programming and quality of sound differs from station to station, and even from song to song. Some songs sound like they are being streamed across the internet while others sound like an audio DVD being played in the vehicle’s built-in system. Aside from the various theme-based music channels, there are also news, talk, and sports channels.

Auto Tech: SiriusXM Satellite Radio automotive technology auto tech
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Satellite radio did not actually come to Canada until 2005 when both XM and Sirius began offering it to us Canucks. Those who regularly use this service, or keep pace with industry trends, will know that Sirius and XM merged in the USA in 2008 and brought their services together. In Canada however, things were different. Sirius Canada and XM Canada did not initially agree to the merger due to differing views as to who should get what percentage of the company. But, an agreement was reached and on April 12, 2011 SiriusXM Canada was officially formed.

Now, just over a year later, SiriusXM Canada is offering new Premier programming to its subscribers that allows listeners to receive the best of both services. For users of Sirius, the Premier programming will feature XM content including NHL and NBA games, Opie & Anthony, PGA Tour Radio, IndyCar Series, Oprah Radio, and more. XM subscribers can now receive Sirius content including two channels of Howard Stern, NFL games, every NASCAR race, Martha Stewart, Playboy Radio, and more.

Aside from these new packages, SiriusXM is also planning to incorporate some of the technology used in its Lynx system towards automobile applications. The portable Lynx system is about the size of a slim GPS unit and features six satellite receivers. One is for live broadcast while the other five are used to buffer your five favourite channels to load up content. They will store up to five hours of prerecorded material that never goes away until overwritten by new content. This means if you don’t use the Lynx for a week, when it is turned back on, the last five hours’ worth of content from the week prior will still be loaded onto the device’s memory ready to play. SiriusXM says the new chipset and technology from this unit will begin to arrive in cars later this year and programming to support it should arrive sometime after that.

Auto Tech: SiriusXM Satellite Radio automotive technology auto tech
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For those with a car featuring the current Sirius or XM technology, or with no satellite receiver at all, there is another option. The Lynx system can be used in your vehicle similarly to an aftermarket GPS unit. It can stream audio through Bluetooth if your vehicle is equipped for Bluetooth audio or it can also be plugged directly into the head unit via a headphone input jack. The advantage to Lynx unit is that once at home it can be brought inside and switch from satellite streaming to Wifi streaming using the same home network for SiriusXM as a home computer would.

I have been experimenting with the online version of Sirius XM thanks to the free trial they offer and notice sound quality seems much improved online. There are also better options as far as pause, rewind, and fast forward; rumour has it some of these features may find their way into automotive applications in the future.

I’ll admit I have become a bit of a satellite radio addict and am sad when I am in a vehicle without it. True, SiriusXM is currently having some financial troubles, but there is a plan in place to return the company to profitability. Let’s hope they succeed as I would hate to lose this service.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.