The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations on "Issues related to Low Power Small Range FM Radio Broadcasting".
Earlier, TRAI stated that low-power short-range FM Radio broadcasting is an effective method of sound broadcasting for services that are intended for limited locations and reception areas.
As per TRAI, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) vide its reference dated March 7, 2022, sought recommendations of the Authority, under section 1 1(1)(a)(i) of the TRAI Act, 1997 on the need and timing for introduction of new service providers for services such as drive-in theatres.
To transmit movie audio to the audience within a drive-in theatre setting, low power small range FM broadcasting is employed as one of the most efficient techniques. In addition to drive-in theatres, several other use cases of low power small range FM radio broadcasting which may cater to specific locations and reception areas can be identified. Examples include hospital radio services, amusement parks, business premises, closed communities such as residential complexes, small habitations, commentary for local events such as air shows and sports events.
In this regard, a consultation paper was issued on April 17, 2023 seeking stakeholders' comments on issues related to ‘Low Power Small Range FM Radio Broadcasting’. The last date for submission of comments was May 22, 2023, and for counter-comments was June 5, 2023.
TRAI received six comments and one counter-comment from stakeholders. Subsequently, an open house discussion was held through video conferencing mode on July 19, 2023.
TRAI said that after considering all comments/counter-comments received from stakeholders during the consultation process and further analysis of the issues, the Authority has finalised its recommendations. The salient features of the recommendations are given below:
A. Introduction of a new category of service provider called 'Low Power Small Range FM Radio Broadcasting' for provision of low power small range FM Radio.
B. Licence/registration/authorisation to be granted through a simple registration process via an online application portal.
C. Approval by Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) for transmitting equipment for low power small range FM broadcasting.
D. Eligible entities to hold a licence/registration/authorisation for 'Low Power Small Range FM Broadcasting':
a. Individuals who are citizens of India and above eighteen years of age. Following are not eligible to hold licence registration/authorisation for 'Low Power Small Range FM Broadcasting':
i. A person with an unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court.
ii. A person who is an undischarged insolvent
iii. A person convicted by a court of any offence, whether involving moral turpitude or otherwise.
b. A company registered under the Companies Act 2013 including LLP and partnership firms. Following are not eligible to hold licence/ registration/ authorization for 'Low Power Small Range FM Broadcasting':
i. Political Parties and their affiliate organisations (including students, women's, trade unions and such other wings affiliated to these parties).
ii. A company controlled by or associated with a political body.
iii. A company controlled by or associated with a religious body.
iv. A company that has been convicted by a court of any offence whether involving moral turpitude or otherwise.
E. Permission period for 'Low Power Small Range FM Radio Broadcasting' service should be:
i. Up to thirty days
ii. Up to five years.
F. No application/entry fee should be levied.
G. Licence/ permission/authorisation fee of Rs 1,000 for a permission of up to thirty days and Rs 10,000 per annum for a permission of five years.
H. WPC should conduct a thorough evaluation and reserve appropriate frequency spots for the specific needs of low-power, small-range FM broadcasting.
I. Frequency for low power small range FM broadcasting should be assigned administratively by WPC through an online portal within two days of submitting the application.
J. Licence/registration/authorisation holders for low power small range FM broadcasting should be allowed to deploy any type of transmission technologies (analogue/digital/any other).
K. The maximum permissible transmission range of 'Low Power Small Range Radio Broadcasting' should be 500 metres.
L. The licensed area of frequency assignment in case of low power small range FM be defined as location-specific based on the precise geographical coordinates such as longitude and latitude of the intended service location (be it a building, stadium, convention centre, expo area etc.).
M. Maximum permissible transmission power should be 1 watt for low power small range FM broadcasting.