Satellite radio uses different technology than terrestrial radio. Instead of relying on the analog signals transmitted through a ground based antenna, satellite radio uses a network of satellites to transmit data to your stereo. It has advantages, and can be a great solution for some drivers. Here's a quick look at the difference between satellite and terrestrial radio.
If you've ever been on a road trip that takes you several hundred miles from home, then you know how frustrating it can be to lose one station and try to pick up another. Some areas just do not have powerful enough antennas to transmit the nearby stations, leaving you with static ridden music, if you can hear the music at all. Terrestrial radio can only work when the signals are strong, so in more rural areas you may not be able to pick up many stations. Satellite radio does not have this issue. The signals are transmitted by a satellite and can span across thousands of miles. This means you can listen to the same station from the beginning of your travel all the way through to your destination. You may experience slight fading of the channels if you are in an area that has heavy tree cover, but as soon as you have a clear shot of the sky the station comes back in soon again.
Another benefit to satellite radio is the sheer number of stations available. With terrestrial radio you are usually limited to a competent of stations that you can pick up in your area. If you enjoy listening to more alternative music you may be stuck with having to listen to CD's or an mp3 player. This is not a bad thing, it just can get irritating listening to the same music over and over again. Satellite radio reaches millions of subscribers, and they can offer hundreds of stations. Some of the stations may require an upgraded subscription, but you will still have hundreds of stations available. This means you can listen to any type of music you can imagine, or talk radio programs that your local stations may not run.
Where terrestrial radio is free, satellite radio is not. You will need a receiver that is designed for this. Most newer cars will have stereos that are already equipped with the satellite feature. New car stereos that are purchased aftermarket are also equipped. If your stereo is not, you can purchase a standalone receiver. You will not need any special tools to install a standardone unit in your car. The standalone receivers start around $ 40 and go up from there. You also need to purchase a subscription for the service. The subscriptions are relatively cheap depending on the option you choose. In most cases you can get an extended plan for as low as $ 10 per month. If you want to pay monthly instead you may pay between $ 15- $ 20 per month. Many of the stations are funded through advertisers, but many are ad free thanks to the paid subscription.