DRM at Indian Broadcast Engineering Society Conference 2015

DRM at Indian Broadcast Engineering Society Conference 2015

The Broadcast Engineering Society (India) is the biggest Society of broadcast professionals in India. It was established in 1987 with the objective of disseminating radio & TV broadcasting knowledge among engineers and scientists in India and has over 2,000 individual members and 40 corporate members. Last year over 1,000 specialists took part in the BES conference, and this year over 4,000 people were expected. The DRM Consortium has been a partner of BES for several years now.

Yogendra Pal, Hon Chair of the DRM India Chapter answers questions

1.     How do you evaluate the DRM presence at this year’s conference and exhibition?

DRM  demonstrated its strategic importance in the BES EXPO 2015. In addition to a tutorial on Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF), out of eight sessions in the conference, practically two full sessions were devoted to DRM technology, features, transmitters, chips and receivers.

The new Indian Government is working on a development agenda with emphasis on Digital India, Make in India etc. The Prime Minister has been talking to everyone every month through the radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’ (Talk from the Heart). This has contributed to the revival of radio listening in general and All India Radio (AIR) in particular. Over half the population of the country  can only access radio on medium wave, which being mainly analogue suffers from poor audio quality. There is also a growing need for a professional traffic information system, as experienced in more advanced countries. India has faced a number of natural calamities in the recent past and at present there is no fool proof warning system in place. DRM can address both these requirements.

It is in this context that the presentations on the Revitalisation of Radio (by the DRM Consortium Chair), the DRM integration in transmitters and the DRM+ option for FM made by leading transmitter manufacturers, the presentations on chips, desk top and automobile DRM radio receivers, and the challenges and opportunities for DRM radio receiver manufacturers in India, were made by Indian and foreign specialists. They were well received and were followed by questions and debate. The topics were most appropriate as AIR has already invested over 2 billion Indian rupees in the digitisation of some of its medium wave and shortwave transmitters using DRM. The BES sessions enabled discussions on how to maximise the potential of the DRM transmitters through these features and benefits

2.         What did DRM bring new this year?

The first ever  made-in-India portable DRM receiver, and a multisystem digital car radio also featuring an Emergency Warning Functionality, were demonstrated for three days at the BES EXPO.  Manufacturers were very enthusiastic as they now see a very good opportunity not only to meet domestic demand but also to export DRM receivers, thus fulfilling the stated ambition of “Make in India” and “Made in India”.

During the BES we also found out that a number of leading car manufacturers are planning to announcer in-built DRM receivers in their new models. They need to understand the roll-out plan better, and are watching the activity of AIR in this respect.

3.         Is the roll-out of DRM transmitters continuing in India and what is the situation on the ground?

Until last year, two 1000 kW and six 20 kW MW (medium wave) and two SW (short wave) DRM transmitters had been installed by AIR.  Additionally 27 MW DRM transmitters of 100, 200 and 300 kW power have been procured. Three of these are now operational at Delhi, Pune and Panaji. Another seven are expected to be ready for operation by March 2015 and all those remaining by June 2015.  With the commissioning of all these transmitters, over 50% of the population of India is expected to have access to DRM signals.

 4.         There is a lot of emphasis currently on FM in India. Does this disadvantage digital radio, DRM?

We get very good quality on FM but the FM coverage of AIR is about 43% and that of private FM is about 20%, most of which overlaps with AIR’s coverage. With the planned FM expansion, coverage from private FM transmitters is likely to increase to 50%, so about 50% of the population will still depend on MW reception which has nearly 100% population coverage.

FM has become popular as the audio quality on MW was not very good. But, realistically, there is neither the spectrum nor money to provide 100% FM coverage to the whole Indian population.

Using DRM on MW we get not only as good a quality as on FM but also additional audio and value-added text services, traffic information systems and disaster warning features; and with considerable energy savings. Certainly, analogue FM is a very successful standard but in truth it has reached its spectrum, coverage and improvement limits. It is a 20th century technology, which in time has to be and will be replaced by the digital, compressed, enhanced features of digital radio. Using only 50% spectrum, digital in VHF band can offer multiple services, 5.1 surround sound quality and a number of value added services with power saving. So, in tune with the vision of the new Government, my opinion is that the time has come to plan digital broadcasting in the VHF (FM) band.

Yogendra Pal, Hon Chair, DRM India Chapter