AM, FM... XM claims to be the next step in the evolution of audio broadcast technology. XM, like their competitors, Sirius, hope to change the way consumers listen to the radio by broadcasting dozens of high-quality digital audio channels to consumers via satellite. Many of the channels are commerical-free, so XM charges its listeners a monthly fee for access. This fee is $9.99 USD per month as of April, 2002.

Xmradio.com lists the one hundred available channels, sorted into fifteen overarching categories:

While there's not quite something for everyone, XM does provide a wide enough spectrum of content to keep the majority of people happy. There are music channels covering everything from old-time country to "electronica", and even a channel that plays only unsigned artists, as well as one targeted at truckers. The service also provides news, weather, sports, and other non-musical offerings. Since the XM service is directed at the United States, most of their channels are in English. However, the "World" category includes programming in Hindi and Mandarin, while "Latin" is comprised primarily of Spanish-language broadcasts.

XM, properly known as XM Satellite Radio, Inc. is publicly traded as XMSR on NASDAQ. Some of their more interesting investors, according to their SEC 10-K filings, are DirecTV, General Motors, American Honda, and Clear Channel Communications (Yes, the guys who already own 10% of local radio stations in the US). GM currently offers an XM receiver as an option in some of their 2002 Cadillac line, and are planning to expand to a wider range of vehicles for the 2003 model year.

The XM network currently consists of two Boeing-made BSS HS-702 communications satellites that XM has nicknamed "Rock" and "Roll", plus one (unnamed) ground spare. The satellites are on geosynchronous orbit at 85W and 115W longitude in order to provide good coverage of the continental US. "Rock" and "Roll" transmit in a 12.5 MHz section of the microwave S-band allocated by the FCC for Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service. XM and competitor Sirius are the two exclusive licensees for S-DARS service in the US.

Although the XM service is still very new, it has shown initial promise. In the first 60 days after its national launch in November 2001, XM had signed up over 30,000 subscribers. Whether XM will overcome competition from Sirius, internet radio, MP3 players, and conventional AM/FM radio to be a commercial success is yet to be seen.

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