DRM Digital Radio widens audiences and enhances Radio experiences – A Report from RadioAsia 2022

DRM Digital Radio widens audiences and enhances Radio experiences – A Report from RadioAsia 2022

DRM Digital Radio widens audiences and enhances Radio experiences (cuts costs, provides additional revenue opportunities and interactivity with listeners), which are not available on analogue Radio – A Report from RadioAsia 2022

Speaking at RadioAsia 2022 (4-5 Sept) in Kuala Lumpur, the first face-to-face ABU radio conference in three years, Mr. Yogendra Pal, Hon Chairman of the India Chapter of the DRM Consortium, explained to the participants that DRM Digital Radio is much more than the existing analogue Radio. Here is a report on the main points of his argument:

In addition to up to three audio services on a single frequency DRM Digital Radio enables the broadcast of station Logos, Service Description, Text Messages, text based Journaline information service and Slide Show images etc. It also provides new business and revenue opportunities by addressing new markets. DRM offers an enhanced radio experience by providing immersive ads, sports and music. It enables interactivity for polls, phone participation, coupon codes, webpage links etc.

Mr. Yogendra Pal outlined the unique feature of Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF) of DRM. He also described its use for Distance Learning and for Digital Signage.

He mentioned that DRM, working in all radio frequency bands, is a global open digital radio standard endorsed by ITU.  It is non-proprietary, therefore with full and free access to specifications by all. He added that the DRM standard offers broadcaster independence allowing broadcasters the freedom to broadcast any content without any fee or licenses. There is also no revenue cut, as all technical details are openly standardized. And no technology license is needed to implement products and solutions of DRM, though like for any new technology there are some IP costs.  He mentioned that the DRM standard is promoted by the DRM Consortium, a not-for-profit organisation with global presence. It has over 100 international members with internal experts and technologists.

The Indian DRM representative added that India is the world’s largest digital radio deployment by All India Radio (AIR) with 39 transmitters (35 MW and 4 SW). AIR is also providing some exclusive radio broadcast content (24-hour News) and multi-lingual Journaline information and has also tested DRM for Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF) signals. He added that DRM digital signals in India today can reach over 900 million people, when all the installed transmitters work in full digital operation. Over 5.2 million new cars of various makes and models on the Indian roads have already DRM radio reception facility – at no extra cost to buyers.

Detailing the technical features and benefits of the DRM standard in the FM band, Mr. Pal mentioned that it is most flexible to adopt and is most efficient in terms of spectrum usage, as one DRM block requires about 100 kHz (half the bandwidth of analogue FM) for 4 services (up to 3 audio and 1 multimedia). Each block represents a single broadcaster who has full control of the spectrum and content.

He further mentioned that keeping in view the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the regulator for broadcasting, that Private Broadcasters should be allowed to go digital in the FM band.  Three different ways to introduce DRM digital FM band were successfully demonstrated in India last year – i) broadcast of up to 18 audio services in DRM digital from a single FM transmitter, ii) broadcast up to 12 audio services in DRM digital along with a service in analogue and iii) broadcast of up to 15 audio services in DRM digital in the white space between the two analogue FM transmitters.

He added that DRM standalone receivers as well as car radios already available on the Indian market for the reception in the DRM in the MW band, have been proven to be software-upgradable (without any hardware changes) to receive DRM in the FM band, too. Reception on DRM in FM band in any type of Android mobile phone, laptop and tablet was also demonstrated with an external dongle and installation of an already commercially available DRM Radio App.

He added that DRM’s efficient digital transmission results in huge savings in transmission power and thus distribution cost. In FM band one-tenth power of DRM transmitter is sufficient in digital to deliver the same coverage as existing analogue transmissions.

The participants from Malaysia, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Australia and Vietnam were highly interested and wanted to find out more about the DRM standard and how it creates new revenue opportunities, enables targeted broadcasting and cuts distribution costs.