UK to let iPods rock out wirelessly in vehicles

Certain FM transmitters to be used with portable media players to broadcast turns to a vehicle's stereo

The U.K. has decided to allow the use of low-power FM transmitters used to stream tunes from a portable music player to a car stereo.

The amendment being made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 will fix a quirky loophole that makes it legal for U.K. retailers to sell certain types of FM transmitter, such as the iTrip, but technically illegal for most people to use them.

The U.K. Office of Communications (Ofcom) said it was acting on consumer feedback. The change will take effect Dec. 8.

The approved devices must conform to a specification that sets a power limit for FM transmitters and requires devices to scan for a clear channel to avoid interference, an Ofcom spokesman said. Other European Union countries are in the process of adopting the specification. Germany, for example, has already adopted it.

Over the past few years, some U.K. residents have turned to the Internet to buy FM transmitters that are legal in other EU countries but prohibited in the U.K., the Ofcom spokesman said.

Ofcom has not taken action against individuals, although it did conduct enforcement actions against retailers selling certain types of FM transmitters that were prohibited for sale, the spokesman said.

The U.K. approval is for transmitters that have a CE sticker, indicating it conforms to EU broadcasting standards, and a "Declaration of Conformity" mark, another badge indicating E.U. approval.

FM transmitters that operate at higher power levels may interfere with FM broadcasts, since they can share the same FM channel, the spokesman said. The result could be someone in an adjacent vehicle hearing another person's iPod that was broadcasting on the same channel.

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