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A Listener Wants to Know: Do Radio Stations Still Use Antennas?

Louie in Kirby, Pennsylvania listens on 107.9 WCED asked us about radio broadcasts

Cell Phone Tower

Louie asked: “Do radio stations today use an antenna or do they bounce off the satellite?”


Louie, unless you’re talking about satellite radio, stations still use antennas.

FM and AM still broadcast as they always have, big antennas on the same frequencies as always.

Satellite systems have some major drawbacks. The obvious one is that placing a constellation of satellites 20,000 miles over the earth is not cheap, and not very useful for local broadcasts where building a metal tower would do. That cheaper and simpler metal tower is also not defeated by a parking garage, or a tall building, or an overpass, it doesn’t require clear line of sight, and in the case of FM it can provide better quality audio.

Satellite systems have some major drawbacks.

Satellite radio does provide an awfully large footprint for the station, so if they objective was to broadcast nationwide, it’d make more sense to look into that. Even then a single station probably wouldn’t be able to handle the cost, let alone if it was a “free” station like all radio stations are, satellite radio charges a monthly fee.

You can have a satellite receiver in your car or at home, but anything that you receive on the FM or AM bands is terrestrial and it still comes from an antenna, the same goes for HD Radio. Basically, if it does not say Satellite Radio specifically, it’s being beamed to you by a local antenna, if you want to confirm that, park your car under a thick roof or an overpass and you’ll see that signal keeps going, it wouldn’t do that if it was beaming down from a satellite.

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Written by Dave Graveline

Dave Graveline is the founder, Host & Executive Producer of "Into Tomorrow" in addition to being President of the Advanced Media Network".

Dave is also a trusted and familiar voice on many national commercials & narrations in addition to being an authority in consumer tech since 1994. He is also a former Police Officer and an FBI Certified Instructor.

Dave thrives on audience participation!

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