Serious Sirius reception problems
As I was driving today, unable to hear parts of songs or worse, large portions of stand-up comedy from John Mulaney as I tooled around town listening to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, I figured I better do a followup to the reception-problem column I wrote a few months ago.
Here’s what has transpired since that previous column: absolutely nothing. Unfortunately I put the issue on the back burner for a few reasons … primarily that reception in my area seemed to improve for a time … but now it seems it is as bad as ever. Perhaps worse. Time to follow up.
Here are the zones in which I personally experience consistent reception troubles with both the original XM satellites and repeaters, as well as the newer SiriusXM system:
• The 29000 block of South Western Avenue in San Pedro/RPV
• Westmont Drive in San Pedro
• The 405 Freeway South of the 605
• The 405 near LAX
Readers of this column have offered other areas of problem as well:
• Artesia Blvd and Aviation, Redondo Beach
• Artesia and Inglewood, Redondo Beach
• 110 Harbor Freeway near the LA Convention Center
• Gaffey Street between the 110 offramp and 1st Street, San Pedro
• The 405 between Manhattan Beach and Wilshire Blvd.
• Santa Monica Blvd. West of the 405 traveling to and from Beverly Hills
• The 55 Freeway between Dyer and Edinger
• The Ventura freeway between Reseda and Balboa Blvd
• Harbor Blvd. in Fullerton
• The 91 Freeway in Fullerton
• Magnolia and Garfield in Huntington Beach
• The 210 Freeway near Azusa Avenue
• The open plains of both Texas and Oklahoma
There are more, but you get the idea. One reader wrote that there are too many to list and that the problem makes the service unusable.
Interestingly, I never had the reception problems I have now when I was using a radio that picked up the old, original Sirius system. That may be a clue. Astute readers also noticed that in areas of bad reception, they notice cell towers. Certified Communications Engineer Bob Burchett of Enterprise Electronics brought up the cell-tower connection as well, pointing out that this has actually been an issue for a number of years.
“I recall the fight Sirius and XM had with the FCC over use of frequencies in the service for terrestrial coverage to augment the satellite service,” Burchett explained. “They wanted more; the FCC wanted them to use less of it and reduce power. That was some years ago.”
So while I will be forwarding this column to Sirius/XM engineers for comment, I believe the issue is this:
The original XM and newer SiriusXM systems use satellites, of course, but rely (more than perhaps they should) on terrestrial repeaters to help provide consistent reception both in cars and indoors. The problem is that some cell towers operate on the same frequency, and a phenomenon called “intermodulation” creates a third signal out of the two already there that wreaks havoc on the radio service.
My hunch: The original Sirius system relied more on direct satellite reception, and was less prone to interference of this type.
Basically, the signal is there … the radios just cant see it. SiriusXM, AT&T and T-Mobile are all supposedly working to fix the issue. But as cell towers proliferate, satellite radio reception deteriorates. And all of the companies want the others to pay for the fix.
As I said, I am contacting SiriusXM engineers for their take on the issue; if/when I hear something I will let you know.