For major international broadcasters, like the BBC and Deutsche Welle, it is the obvious replacement for traditional Short Wave transmissions. DRM allows direct access to millions of listeners in excellent sound quality, without the hindrance of having to negotiate a way past the gatekeepers and at an excellent cost/reach ratio.
For specialised international broadcasters – for example, religious broadcasters – DRM is, so to speak, an answer to a prayer. It allows them to reach the parts other systems cannot reach, for a fraction of the cost.
DRM on Medium Wave is perfect for broadcasters aiming for a national audience, especially in countries covering a sizeable geographical area. In France, where the regulatory authorities have already approved DRM as the digital successor to Medium Wave, two transmitters will cover the entire country. In large countries, like Russia or India, DRM may be the only means to achieve seamless national coverage in the digital era – and it will certainly be the most cost efficient.
DRM is also the ideal solution for regional Medium Wave coverage, on its own or as a complementary system to DAB – it is with this latter option in mind that the BBC recently ran a successful DRM Medium Wave trial in South West England. And, of course, DRM is simply perfect for broadcasters planning to roll out new, additional digital services and generate new revenue streams without compromising their existing content offer.
But even for smaller broadcasters targeting well defined, urban niches, DRM has an answer. It is DRM+ and, subject to regulatory approvals, it will allow community radios or specialised commercial broadcasters to reach their intended audiences bypassing the congestion and high costs of the analogue FM band.
A cost efficient solution
DRM is a cost efficient solution all along the value chain.
Analogue Short and Medium Wave transmitters can be converted to DRM mode at low cost and the useful life of the equipment significantly prolonged, both from a technical and a financial point of view.
The scope of the capital investment required is also manageable because just a few transmitters can achieve excellent coverage over very extensive territories. Unlike other systems of digital audio broadcasting, DRM does not require a large network of transmitters or a complicated lattice of repeaters to do the job.
Transmission revenue costs are no higher to those of analogue Short and Medium Wave broadcasts and offer excellent value for money given the wide area coverage and the superior sound quality.
DRM has been developed to operate alongside other digital radio technologies and in the field of receivers the future surely lies not with radio sets that are compatible just with one technical standard but with integrated hybrid tests that work in the analogue bands and can also decode DAB/DMB signals. The integration of DRM capability into these hybrid chipsets can be achieved at marginal cost, adding very little to the cost of the radio to the consumer.
Plug into the digital universe
While television is forging ahead with digital conversion and many countries have already set analogue switchover dates in the first half of the next decade, radio is entering the digital era at a much slower pace. At the same time, the triumph of the iPod and the expanding capacities of mobile phones, handhelds and laptops are leading people to question whether radio has a digital future at all.
Well, radio does have a digital future, because of its immediacy and its portability and DRM will be an integral part of that future. For radio to move into the digital world in step with other platforms, sound needs to be in a format that these other platforms can understand – and the DRM standard provides that. The day that your DRM radio will be talking to your mp3 player and your iPod is here.
DRM also provides enhanced digital features such as on-screen EPGs, data streams and pause live radio and rewind functionality and it greatly facilitates interactivity with the audience.