Television

AIR conducts trial runs for digital short wave

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NEW DELHI: The first digital transmitter for All India Radio (AIR) on the short wave is already going through a successful trial run, officials say, adding that the pilot run for the medium wave digital radio too, will commence from May or June this year.

The transmitter (250 kw) - which started operating from Republic Day this year is on the short wave band and broadcasting for Delhi, with the 'skip distance' reduced to "near zero", officials have revealed to indiantelevision.com, and data transmission is also on.

This means that if you have the required receiver, you could here and now access digital radio, and while listening to radio news or music, you could read on your set the news flashes and even see where the bulls or bears are in the stock market, said officials, requesting not to be named.

The system is operating on DRM technology, which AIR experts feel is the best choice, as it covers all existing bands, medium, short and long waves.

The handsets are being taken to various locations in Delhi now, and being tested with the required equipment, and it has been found that the skip distance, or the distance between where the transmitter is and the first point from where the waves are actually accessible, has been reduced from almost zero in some places, to one or two kilometres in others. The usual skip distance would be around 70 km.

But as a senior official explained, skip distance is not a major issue. "We could reduce the skip distance for analogue too, depending on the content and the target audience."

What he meant was that if the programme is being broadcast from Delhi but for Jharkhand, the skip distance could be extended to 1,000 km, and for, say, England, it could made available from about 3,000 km from where the transmission is taking place.

These adjustments can be made in repositioning the antenna, they explained.

"The point is that we have been successful in handling this technology and the transmitter is functioning perfectly. The only problem is that receivers are not available in the country," the official held.

According to him, the receivers, for which costs have been calculated, at the moment come for euro 200. But as officials in charge of the AIR digitalisation programme have been saying, the cost will come down with increase in demand.

The big calculation is that once India and China go for DRM technology, that would mean something close to half the world's population, and most market players would look at the sheer volume and cut the prices.

"There are various standards in digital radio transmission, officials explained, which include Eureka 147 DAB, IBOC (HD Radio) and DRM. But the latter allows transmission on all the bands we presently have and also the FM band.

The advantage of DRM technology is that no additional band allocation is required and no additional spectrum is needed.

What the trial transmission is now giving is FM quality sound on medium and short waves and CD quality sound on FM, officials said.

"Objective measurements are going on for sound quality and we shall check all the myriad factors before we go for expansion," the officials asserted.

There is dialogue within the DRM Consortium, the officials said, and efforts are being made to rope in member countries, with an eye to cutting down the cost of receivers.

But when would private players come in and add to the market factor that would reduce price for tabletop digital radio sets?

The officials said that FM had been set up 20 years before the market started seeing the money in it. But with the FM experiment successful, market players may not take that long with digital radio. "This could happen in three or four years.

"Our point is to create the infrastructure and that has been successfully done in the initial phase of experimentation," the officials said.

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