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TRAI Encourages Digital Radio Broadcasting

After cable TV digitization, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is looking at developing an ecosystem to encourage digital radio broadcasting in India. The Authority has recently floated a consultation paper, Issues related to Digital Radio Broadcasting in India, seeking comments from the industry on various aspects of digital radio broadcast, including whether there is a need for a roadmap for migration to digital radio broadcast for private FM radio operators. It has also sought comments on whether a date for digital switchover for radio broadcasting needs to be declared, just as it was set in the case of cable digitization.

Currently, radio signals are largely transmitted in analog mode in the country. So far, only All India Radio has started digitization of its medium-wave and short-wave radio networks. The Authority pointed out that the analog terrestrial radio broadcasting, when compared with digital mode, is inefficient and suffers from operational restrictions. Apart from audio quality, digital broadcasting provides a number of advantages over analog broadcasting through utilization of advanced technologies. The biggest advantage is that in digital radio it is possible to broadcast three to four programs on a single frequency and ensure excellent quality of all the channels.

Pointing out that there is no digitization initiatives from public or private FM radio broadcasters, TRAI acknowledged that the current policy guidelines for Phase-III regime lack clarity regarding provisioning of digital radio service in FM band. With the aim to create an ecosystem that encourages existing private FM broadcasters to move toward digital radio broadcasting, the Authority said it is suo motu initiating a consultation process to seek stakeholders’ comments.

Globally, radio broadcasters adopt different digital standards. The media and telecom regulator has, therefore, also sought comments on whether the choice of technology should be left with the players or should a single digital radio technology be adopted. TRAI has called for suggestions on the modification that should be done in the current FM radio policy to use allocated FM radio channels in a technology-neutral manner for radio broadcasting.

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