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TRAI seeks suggestions on switchover to digital radio signals

The stakeholders have been asked to submit their comments by September 4 and their counter-comments by September 18

In a consultation paper released on ‘Issues related to Digital Radio Broadcasting in India’, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked suggestions from the stakeholders about various aspects of conversion of analog radio signals to digital signals.

In its consultation paper, TRAI has put out few straight questions.

  • Is there a need to encourage or facilitate introduction of digital radio transmission at present? If so, what measures do you suggest and in which market?
  • Is there a need to frame a roadmap for migration to digital radio broadcasting for private FM broadcasters? Which method should be adopted?
  • Should the date for digital switch over for radio broadcasting in India need to be declared? If yes, please suggest the date with suitable justification. If no, please give reason to support your view.

The stakeholders have been asked to submit their comments by September 4 and their counter-comments by September 18.

Currently, AIR has 420 radio stations (AM and FM) that cover almost 92 per cent of the country by area and more than 99.20 per cent of the country’s population. Private sector radio broadcasters are licensed to transmit programmes in FM frequency band (88-108 MHz) only and presently operate through 293 radio stations, by 32 broadcasters.

The paper outlines that ‘analog terrestrial radio broadcasting when compared with digital mode is inefficient and suffers with operational restrictions. Digital radio technologies can overcome problems faced in analog transmission with exciting new capabilities and promises fast growth. Apart from audio quality, digital radio broadcasting provides a number of advantages over analog radio broadcasting through utilisation of advanced technologies. The biggest advantage is that in the digital radio, it is possible to broadcast three to four programmes (channels) on a single frequency and ensure excellent quality of all the channels while analog mode broadcasts only one programme at one frequency.’

By digitising about 42 of its transmitters, AIR has already initiated digitisation of its MW and SW radio network which will work in three phases. However, there appears to be no initiative in FM radio space to digitise either by public or private FM radio broadcasters. In a competitive environment digital radio broadcasting can provide exciting new opportunities to existing private FM radio broadcasters as well as a host of other value-added-services to the listeners. However, present policy guidelines for phase III regime lacks clarity regarding provisioning of digital radio service in FM band.

An ecosystem, which can encourage existing private FM broadcasters to move towards digital radio broadcasting, is also not available. Accordingly, TRAI has, suo-moto, initiated this consultation process in order to seek stakeholders’ comments on various issues relating to development of an eco-system for deployment of FM radio broadcasting by private FM radio broadcasters.

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