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Satellite radio services

If you like listening to radio programming, satellite radio has some goodies to offer. Great variety of channels, most of them commercial-free, high quality sound when it is needed, possibility to listen to your favored programming wherever you are. Newly developed technology - portable tuners and receivers of satellite radio signals - make it possible to enjoy satellite radio programming not only in your car, but also in your home, on your personal computer, home stereo or portable boombox.

At present, the two main US satellite radio service providers are XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. The former uses two geostationary satellites, and the latter three geosynchronous satellites. They cover the entire continental US, including Alaska, but not Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

XM Radio claims nearly 8 million subscribers, and Sirius radio puts its figure at 6 million. Both providers offer well over 100 channels, most of them broadcasting music - pop, rock, country, Hip Hop, R&B, urban, dance, jazz, classical - but also dozens of sports, international, news, talk shows and entertainment channels.

Costs are similar with either provider. It starts with a small one-time activation fee ($5 Sirius and $9.99 XM, somewhat more over the phone), with both providers testing free activation. Typical car installation requires receiver, satellite radio and antenna, runs in $400-$600 range, including labor. At present, most major automakers offer satellite radio as original new car equipment.

Home satellite radio installation, with dedicated stereo receiver, typically costs between $200 and $350. Another option is satellite receiver and "home kit", which plugs into your existing home stereo, personal computer, or boombox, for about $250.

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