The Democratization of “Radio Broadcasting”

17 Oct 2008

A couple of days ago, while eating at Zaxby’s with my roommates (a favorite dining location), conversation touched briefly the topic of “pirate radio.” The last time I discussed such things was in a series of conversations with Chappie last summer. We contrived a concept for a distributed radio transmission network using small, distributable, network connected transmitters which would be installed in several locations around an area and then controlled via the Internet. Transmission could be achieved via simultaneous activation of all transmitters for greatest power, or randomly switched between stations for stealth. Various other combinations of transmitter activation could attain directional fields or other interesting effects. Contrived mostly devised as an exercise to entertain our engineering minds (and the rebel within), we never proceeded beyond the concept stage.

However, during yesterday’s conversation, I came to a realization: we are nearing or at the point where the FM transmission step can be eliminated. Because of the growing presence of mobile Internet connected multimedia hardware (such as the iPhone), the hassles of classic radio transmission can be bypassed, opening up the potential for everyone to ‘broadcast’ their own audio content to an audience that no longer needs to be tethered to a computer. Currently, services such as or Pandora provide native applications to stream audio directly to the iPhone (even over the Edge network, though it requires more buffering). While I haven’t done much research, I believe there are also native iPhone apps that allow you to stream music from, which brings live broadcasting to a wide number of users for a price substantially lower than what one would pay to set up a traditional broadcast station. However, for those who have more time to configure their service, there are ways to stream live music using QuickTime. Apparently the Tuner application in the app store will provide connectivity to a generic shoutcast stream (but it isn’t free for the end user).

Just another way that our connected world is providing new opportunities for more and more people. Oh, and of helpful note- the iPhone cannot make or recieve calls while using edge data, so I would only do this on wifi or the 3g network (which does support simultaneous data and voice).