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UK ‘bans’ iPod radio add-on

Treads on broadcasters' toes

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Griffin Technologies' iTrip iPod add-on is illegal in the UK, British distributor A M Micro has said.

The iTrip connects to an iPod and transmits songs by FM radio to any radio receiver in the vicinity. While its operation in the US is permitted by the Federal Communications Commission, over here the device contravenes the UK Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949.

Unlike the 2.4GHz band in which 802.11b Wi-Fi operates, or 802.11a's 5HGz band, for example, the 87.7-107.9MHz band used by the iTrip is not licence-exempt spectrum, according to the WTA. As such broadcasters hoping to use that part of the spectrum need the permission of the UK's Radio Agency.

The rules state that UK broadcasters have unique access to the frequencies they have licensed, and that, say the RA, means the iTrip can't transmit on frequencies already taken in the FM band. A M Micro can't license a section of the band and dedicate it to iTrip users because all the available FM frequencies have already been licensed.

Cost isn't an issue - it's only £339 ($548) a year for VHF stations with under 100,000 listeners. That said, anyone using the iTrip would also need to cough up £500 ($808) a year to the Performing Rights Society to cover royalty payments to artists whose music is broadcast.

Of course, the iTrip broadcasts at very low power - the device itself draws all the power it needs from the iPod itself - but it's still enough to intrude on a broadcaster's licensed frequency, potentially interfering with listeners who have tuned into a specific station.

The bottom line, says A M Micro, is that using iTrip is an offence akin to operating a pirate radio station. If caught, the user faces prosecution, as does the dealer for selling him or her their iTrip. Not surprisingly, A M Micro wants to avoid that. ®

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