AT&T wireless subscribers will soon be able to listen to live FM radio broadcasts through their Android-powered smart phones as a result of the carrier’s agreement on Tuesday to activate FM chips in Android handsets that work with the NextRadio app. A subsidiary of Emmis Communications, NextRadio works with its affiliate, TagStation, to promote wireless device apps and related station support infrastructure that aim to transform smart phones into FM radio receivers. Applauded by NextRadio as a “big milestone for the radio industry,” Tuesday’s pact follows on a similar deal between NextRadio and Sprint, which, in the words of Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan, helped “prove the concept” with more than 2.5 million mobile downloads of the NextRadio app.
The deal, which comes at no cost to AT&T or its customers, commits AT&T to work with its contracted device manufacturers to activate FM receiver chips in Android smart phones. NextRadio noted that activation is anticipated for all AT&T Android smart phones released in 2016 “with a chance of some phones being ready by year-end.” Smulyan also confirmed that Emmis is reaching out to FM radio broadcasters to “run the radio spots [to] promote the NextRadio app and have people . . . ask their manufacturers for the FM chip to be turned on.”
Praising the agreement as “a new beginning in mobile technology,” National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith affirmed that “America’s broadcasters salute AT&T’s decision to serve its customers through collaboration with America’s local radio stations.” House Communications & Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) also welcomed the news as he voiced hope that “other carriers will follow suit.”