Tuesday 14 January 2020

India and Pakistan Are Leading Their Way to Terrestrial Digital Radio

We might now discern the end of DAB outside Europe
Broadcasters are trying to establish a digital terrestrial radio platform as a future alternative to radio via Internet. Main contenders are the HD Radio, DAB and DRM systems.  While DAB is leading in Europe and HD Radio in North America the DRM system is clearly the choice for large area countries in Asia (including Russia), Africa and South America. India and Pakistan are all set for DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) with heavy investments. India is now also manufacturing stand-alone and car receivers for DRM.

The public broadcaster PBC in Pakistan has recently unveiled its digital migration policy which was due to be approved by the Prime Minister shortly. The policy has three phases which are all costed and which foresee digitisation of both FM (in about 15 locations) and AM (in about half a dozen locations) within three years.  Totally there will be DRM+ (FM) transmitters in 14 cities and DRM30 (medium wave) transmitters in 8 cities.  Two medium wave stations will have an output power of 1000 kW.

The draft policy stresses the benefits of supplying more channels on the same current analogue frequencies with significant energy savings and crystal clear audio quality. As analogue receivers become scarce this move is considered beneficial as digital receivers will become available on the market while cars and eventually mobiles will also be able to bring the benefits of DRM digital radio to Pakistani listeners. 

In India 2017 the public broadcaster All India Radio successfully completed phase-I of the national DRM digital radio roll-out – the installation of 37 DRM-ready high power medium wave transmitters, now operational, throughout the country. 

The Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar sees the government bringing digital radio in five years. There will be more clarity, will be heard for longer range and there will be four times more stations, is what the Minister said on a recent AIR/Akashvani prize-giving occasion in New Delhi.  Meanwhile AIR is to get a new look while maintaining its key role for the culture and identity of India.

The DAB system is often rejected in developing countries because of its high costs and itslimited transmitter reach compared with broadcasting on the AM/FM bands. 

A digital transition with DRM or HD Radio on the AM/FM bands might survive a global competition with digital radio on the Internet because the systems are integrated into already established well-known analogue systems as FM, shortwave and medium wave.  While, the DAB system is on its own desolate race on a television band (VHF III).

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