Digital wave set to transform the way you listen to FM radio in India
While private FM stations are fast moving from analog to digital globally, the time is ripe for the public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati to now join the digital bandwagon
The way media is consumed has drastically changed in the last few years in India and radio is no different. According to leading digital radio technology providers, the time has come for the country to go beyond the old terrestrial broadcasting techniques and adopt the digital FM era across the spectrum.
In a mobile-first country with more than 500 million smartphone users, music and content streaming has exploded on hand-held devices in India and along with TV which has seen the phenomenal rise of OTT, FM radio 2.0 is the way forward to tap millennials and Gen Z listeners.
While private FM stations are fast moving from analog to digital globally, the time is now ripe for the public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati to now join the digital bandwagon.
To begin with, the All India Radio (AIR) has already submitted its report to Prasar Bharati about the digital radio technology trials conducted recently by two global radio technology providers -- DRM and HD Radio (Xperi Corporations).
DRM is the universal, openly standardised digital broadcasting system for all broadcasting frequencies.
Some 600 million people are covered at present by DRM digital signals due to AIR's transmissions using over 35 medium wave (MW) transmitters.
At present, some 3 million cars on the Indian roads have line-fit DRM receivers, and this number is increasing daily.
"AIR has already adopted the DRM Digital Radio standard in the medium wave (MW) and short-wave (SW) bands. Extending the DRM standard to FM bands in India will save receiver manufacturers costs, as there is no additional IP royalties and DRM is a single standard with shared features across all broadcast bands," said Yogendra Pal, Chairman of the DRM India Chapter.
"The Indian car industry has rolled out DRM-enabled radio sets in millions, and has proven during the trial that those receiver models will support DRM in the FM band, with its full feature set after a simple firmware upgrade," he told IANS.
The great flexibility of DRM supports all types of coverage needs -- from local, regional, nationwide to international. DRM digital radio can save broadcasters up to 80 per cent in energy and maintenance costs.
According to Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, old analog terrestrial broadcasting is diminishing globally.
"We are looking at new technologies for digital radio. For example, we have about 35 to 40 digital radio transmitters all over India, which are based on DRM technology. Using that, you can listen to more than one radio service and up to three radio services on one frequency," Vempati said during an interview with DD News last week.
Another technology, HD Radio by Xperi Corporations, is available with more than 40 manufacturers across 200 passenger vehicle models and is currently installed in over 75 million vehicles. The HD Radio broadcasting has been successfully deployed across many countries, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Philippines and Romania.
According to Ashruf El Dinary, SVP, Digital Platform, Xperi Corporations, HD Radio services will be key to establishing the much-needed, digital, world-class broadcast network to serve all the citizens of India.
"HD Radio broadcasting allows broadcasters to compete with the pure play digital platforms and meet consumer expectations for a media rich experience. The technology will allow expansion of media voices and content in a cost-effective broadcast," he told IANS.
The HD Radio system leverages "whitespace" between allotted transmission frequencies to transmit additional audio channels and programming on the same broadcast infrastructure and antenna system.
The result is a hybrid digital/analog signal within a broadcaster's existing FM band.
"Broadcasters can reach existing radio listeners while offering new content services and enhanced content data to newer digital radio products," informed El Dinary.