DRM trial in Jakarta using MW transmitters for large area coverage in Indonesia

DRM trial in Jakarta using MW transmitters for large area coverage in Indonesia

The DRM in the AM band trial that took place in Bogor and Jakarta in March last was most successful. It conclusively demonstrated the superiority of the digital radio standard and its transmission characteristics in the medium wave band. This is borne by the results of the exhaustive measurements that were taken en-route and also at the far end of the coverage zone of the transmitter.

There is no dispute that digital radio will provide many advantages in Indonesia (as in other countries covering large geographical areas). To summarise, on the basis of equal transmitter power, the digital coverage is much more extended than the analogue coverage. Alternatively, keeping the coverage same, the power requirement at the transmitter end are substantially lower delivering thus energy cost savings.

Digital radio (DRM) also provides at least two excellent quality stereo radio channels in the medium wave, using the current state of art xHE-AAC audio codec technologies. This means that, while there was only one analogue radio service possible in each media wave transmitter, with digital radio there are two independent radio services possible. In addition, each of these radio services is in high-quality stereo. In layman’s terms, the introduction of digital radio enhances the capacity of the medium wave radio channel fourfold; two- three broadcast channels and one data channel are thus available.

In respect to the audio quality received, it is consistently high and offers an enhanced quality of experience to the listener. Within the coverage area, if proper care is taken in planning, there should be no dropouts when you move from indoors to outdoors and also in the streets, or on the go in cars. All transmissions during the DRM trial were accompanied by a Journaline advanced text service specifically prepared for RRI. Delegates could experience various transmission modes including simulcast modes for AM/DRM joint transmissions during the transition phase.

The implementation of digital radio in the medium wave in Indonesia will offer several substantive advantages. One of these is that medium wave digital radio offers a huge spectrum resource which can be used to mitigate the shortage of frequency spectrum faced by the Indonesian FM broadcasters in Indonesia. This means that many digital radio services can be provided by radio broadcasters in the medium wave, some of these either replacing the crowded FM radio services (with lots of interference) or putting out new offerings.

Secondly, given the large area coverage of digital medium wave radio, it would be practicable and feasible to cover all the population centres, and even the less densely inhabited areas, by digital radio in a very cost-effective and sustainable manner. As against this, offering similar coverage with FM radio would mean a lot of resources in terms of equipment, towers and also much higher energy costs.

What is really needed now is the Indonesian digital radio! This is envisaged to be a ubiquitous digital radio which can receive DRM in the AM/FM bands and, if required, DAB+ radio formats. While the necessary chipsets are available now in the international markets, the best way forward would be to stimulate the manufacturing of these radio sets in Indonesia itself. In fact, several local manufacturers (including some international ones with local factories) have shown keen interest in this during the Indonesian event in March. In addition, there would be many opportunities of exporting these digital radio sets to countries like Thailand, India and other Asian countries.

Digital MW radio in Indonesia is bound to be a great success because of the huge potential audience. Once all the factors are in place, Indonesia can move forward in an assured manner.

Sharad Sadhu, Independent Media Consultant