AT&T is on par to become the next major wireless provider to support FM radio. Starting next year, all Android smartphones the carrier sells will arrive with their internal FM radio listed as a device specification.

It's worth pointing out that it’s the handset makers – not wireless carriers – that are required to flip the unused FM radio chips on. Getting AT&T on board will increase the probability of OEMs doing so.

The move (if successful) will allow smartphone users to tune into local radio stations just as they would in their vehicle or at home, giving them access to local news, entertainment and weather updates.

FM radio can also serve as a lifeline in case of emergencies. This is especially important for those living in regions prone to hurricanes, tornadoes or other oft-occurring natural disasters that have the potential to render cell towers useless.

There are other reasons to use FM radio over streaming apps as well. Jeff Smulyan, Emmis Communications CEO, points out that traditional streaming apps can drain your smartphone’s battery three to five times faster versus listening to FM radio. What’s more, FM is absolutely free whereas most streaming music services command a monthly fee and may eat into your monthly data allotment.

National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith said the move marks a new beginning in mobile technology with the agreement by a global brand, AT&T, to light up the FM receiver chips in all of its future Android smartphones. Smith added that through the use of apps like NextRadio, listeners will also enjoy song tagging and interactivity features that have become increasing popular with younger listeners.