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India – Consultation on Digital Radio Broadcasting

The Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) has floated a consultation paper on issues related to digital radio broadcasting in India.

Currently, terrestrial radio coverage in the country is available in Frequency Modulation (FM) mode and Amplitude Modulation (AM) mode (Short Wave and Medium Wave).TRAI has noted that while All India Radio (AIR) is active in implementation of digital radio in MW and SW bands, there appears to be no clarity in the current policy guidelines regarding “provisioning of digital radio service in FM band” for private broadcasters.

AIR has 420 stations (AM & 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 radio broadcasters operate 293 radio stations only in the FM frequency band (88-108 MHz).

According to the regulator, the consultation paper – which it has issued suo moto, aims to develop an ecosystem to encourage existing private FM broadcasters to evaluate digital radio broadcasting. FM primarily uses analogue transmission, which can provide only one channel per frequency, limiting services provided by existing FM channels to their listeners.

It also highlighted that with digital broadcasting, broadcasters will be able to air three-four programmes/channels on a single frequency compared to analogue mode which allows broadcast of only one programme per frequency.

Digital radio broadcasting has been around for some time now and countries across the world are moving towards it by drawing the roadmap for switchover to digitisation.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommendations have described four major standards for broadcast of digital radio which are DAB, ISDB-TSB, HD Radio and DRM.