As of mid-February 2021, a full-featured DRM digital radio transmission with 3 audio services and Journaline advanced text information is live on-air in Delhi in the FM band, alongside the existing analogue FM radio transmissions.
The transmission is part of an extensive trial and demonstration of DRM conducted by Prasar Bharati and its radio arm, All India Radio (AIR), with the help of the DRM Consortium and its local and international members. The test was officially launched on February 24th and 25th at the Headquarters of All India Radio in New Delhi.
The test was requested by the regulator TRAI and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting as part of their deliberations that will lead to the recommendation of the most suitable radio standard to digitise the FM band in India.
DRM for FM is part of the ITU recommended all band DRM standard and was introduced in 2011 after sophisticated and successful trials (like the one in Edinburgh, UK) all over the world.
DRM for FM is now part of official policies in Russia, Pakistan, and South Africa and is recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for its sixteen Southern African countries.
The current Indian trial is to be carried out in two locations. The first phase, in Delhi, will demonstrate and test the key features of DRM, its efficient coverage potential and flexible on-air signal configurations. The second phase will be taking place in Jaipur and is designed to prove the compatibility with the FM band channelization in India, where DRM fills the gaps between existing analogue FM services that are not otherwise usable, as well as the existing CTI (shared FM transmitter infrastructure).
A whole set of receiver brands have made their DRM receiver solutions available for this trial, ensuring full support for DRM in all broadcast bands - from the regular DRM services on-air all over India, in the former AM bands by All India Radio, to now including DRM services in the FM band. Receiver models to be showcased during the trial include desktop and portable radio sets, automotive line-fit head-units with software upgrades to extend DRM support to the FM band, automotive after-market models and upgrade kits to enable DRM reception on virtually any Android based mobile phone available to Indian consumers today.
All India Radio and Prasar Bharati specialists and other Indian industry experts will experience, examine, and record DRM coverage potential. The various DRM features which can be showcased and experienced include:
• High-quality stereo and 5.1 surround sound, with up to 3 audio services plus multimedia per DRM transmission
• Multi-lingual Journaline text services such as Mann Ki Baat (the regular Premier Modi broadcasts), travel information and news
• Journaline-based applications such as Distance-Learning/Radio Schooling and Public Signage
• EWF Emergency Warning Functionality with full CAP compliance
• Flexible multi-DRM transmission of up to 6 DRM signals - providing up to 24 DRM services (18 audio programmes plus 6 stand-alone Journaline services) from a single FM-band transmitter
• Simulcast of an analogue FM and a digital DRM signal side-by-side from a single transmitter.
• Interference-free insertion of digital DRM signals in the otherwise unavailable gaps between the existing analogue FM services, which remain undisturbed.
Yogendra Pal, Hon. Chairman of the DRM India Chapter, explains: "This demonstration of DRM services in the FM band will be a feast of "firsts" for digital radio services and features in India, including the multi-DRM transmissions on a single transmitter or the distance learning enabled by the non-proprietary, open-to-all DRM radio standard."
Alexander Zink, Vice-Chairman of the DRM Consortium, highlights the extraordinary collaboration in these exceptional times between international DRM Consortium members and those present in India such as All India Radio and Technomedia. "Technomedia, an Indian cornerstone of the radio industry, has been essential in providing the local logistics and carrying out sophisticated signal measurement campaigns. Gospell and StarWaves are providing consumer receiver solutions, while Fraunhofer IIS, Nautel, and RFmondial took care of the content, transmission side and professional monitoring receivers. NXP with industry partners Hyundai Mobis and Harman are supporting the DRM showcase with the latest FM-band upgrades to their existing automotive DRM receivers."
Ruxandra Obreja, DRM Chairman emphasizes the potential and impact of this trial for India's future digital radio environment: "We hope for good results at the end of this test where DRM has to be judged on its own merits and unmatched capabilities; we hope that the expected good results will convince the Indian authorities that DRM is the right standard to upgrade All India Radio's already established country-wide DRM services in the AM bands to the FM band. This will allow private broadcasters to finally benefit from the innovative services and revenue potential of DRM digital radio, while establishing a simple upgrade path for the automotive industry, with technology designed and made in India."
Notes: Press Release - DRM Consortium - 25 February 2021