FMeXtra, now marketed as VuCast and oriented at the broadcast data market like MSN Direct, is an in-band on-channel digital radio broadcasting technology created by Digital Radio Express, now VuCast Media. Unlike iBiquity's HD Radio system, it uses any FM radio station's existing equipment and transmitter plant to transmit digital audio data on subcarriers instead of sidebands. It also requires no royalties for its use, which can run thousands of dollars per year for HD Radio because of the 3% of revenue on HD-2, HD-3 channels.
The system is run from a single rack unit box called the X1 Encoder, which is actually based upon a personal computer server and digital audio hardware from Lynx Studio Technologies (LST). Control is entirely via software, via gigabit Ethernet, USB, serial port, and SVGA video monitor. All processing is handled internally by a Pentium 4 running Windows XP.
FMeXtra is fully compatible with HD Radio, which uses additional radio spectrum beyond the ±100 kHz signal. It is not compatible with all existing subcarriers. Thus, a radio station might have to remove its radio reading service for the blind, and replace it (and its dependent listeners' receivers) with a digital one. This would take up much less bandwidth, particularly since voice can be highly compressed. The signal is partitioned so that RBDS, stereo, or other existing subcarriers can be protected, at the expense of bandwidth. If used only for monophonic transmissions, no RDS protection exists for stations in Europe.
The codecs used are AAC and aacPlus v1 and v2 and sample rates of 8 kHz (telephone quality) to 96 kHz (surround sound quality). The other codecs used are AMR-WB+ that can create more multiple audio programs as well as limited multimedia can also be broadcast, as with HD Radio and DAB. The available broadcasting bandwidth for digital audio varies from 40 kbit/s while sharing the space with existing analog signals, or 156 kbit/s if all analog signals (except the base monophonic signal) are dropped. (For comparison, iBiquity's Hybrid Digital/analog system offers 100-150 kbit/s in shared mode, and 300 kbit/s in pure digital mode.)
The coverage is similar to FM Stereo, and therefore high ERP is required in larger urban areas, as with normal FM transmissions.
Stations broadcasting in FMeXtra
- KBAY/94.5: San Jose, California
- KRPR/89.9: Rochester, Minnesota
- KNXR/97.5: Rochester, Minnesota
- WBUZ/102.9: La Vergne, Tennessee
- WHBQ-FM/107.5: Germantown, Tennessee
- WJJM-FM/94.3: Lewisburg, Tennessee
- KBNL/89.9: Laredo, Texas
- WLYF/101.5: Miami, Florida
Minnesota Reading Services for the Blind has 25 FMeXtra encoders and 7,500 special FMeXtra receivers without a visual display.
- 93.9 Megastad, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, carrying Megastad Classics
- 96.5 Imagine FM, Brussels, Belgium, simulcast
- 98.4 Radio 538, Goes, The Netherlands, carrying Radio 10 Gold & JuizeFM
- 100.4 Q-music, Rotterdam & Oude Polder, The Netherlands, carrying Radio Bem Bem
- 100.7 Q-music, Lopik, The Netherlands, carrying Radio Bem Bem
- 101.2 Sky Radio, Hilversum, The Netherlands, carrying TMF Radio & Kink FM
- 101.9 Radio 538, Alphen, The Netherlands, carrying Radio 10 Gold & JuizeFM
- 102.1 Radio 538, Hilversum, The Netherlands, carrying Radio 10 Gold & JuizeFM
- 102.4 Radio 538, Terneuzen, The Netherlands, carrying Radio 10 Gold & JuizeFM
- 102.7 Radio 538, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, carrying Radio 10 Gold & JuizeFM
- 105.3 Delta Radio, Twente, The Netherlands, carrying Delta Piraat
- 106.1 Gold FM, Brussels, Belgium, simulcast + carrying Jet FM
Rest of Europe
- 89.1/Antenna 1: Heilbronn, Germany (soon on air)
- 103.4/Otto FM: Varese, Italy, carrying Chic FM
- 100.5/BBC WS: Riga, Latvia, Carrying Radio NORD and TOPradio