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    View: HD Radio broadcasting is primed to lead India’s digital radio journey

    View: HD Radio broadcasting is primed to lead India’s digital radio journey

    View: HD Radio broadcasting is primed to lead India’s digital radio journey
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    By CNBCTV18.com Contributor  IST (Published)

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    The HD Radio system is the most commercially successful digital FM system in the world, operating across North America and other countries since 2002. Over 2,700 radio stations provide 4,700 digital audio programmes to active listeners, writes Ashruf El-Dinary, SVP, Xperi Digital Platforms and HD Radio

    Digital radio broadcast is an exciting new service for AM and FM radio stations. When digital broadcasting technologies were introduced almost 20 years ago, an era of almost limitless new programme opportunities for both broadcasters and their listeners was ushered in. With proper implementation and support, digital broadcasting enables radio stations to reach deeper into local markets with compelling new content, expanded audio and data services, and 21st-century multimedia formats.
    Several people confuse digital radio broadcasting with radio streaming services, but it is very different as it allows for much more efficient use of the broadcast spectrum and empowers radio operators to transmit more robust content and new services to local listeners. This is especially important because local community broadcasting offers reliable essential services for information and entertainment to all listeners with no cost or data fees.
    So, unlike streaming, the digital radio broadcast is not only enhanced broadcasting but provides equitable access to information for all. Plus, it enables increased programme content and multimedia services with better quality than analogue radio.
    With increasing worldwide adoption, multiple digital radio broadcasting standards have been defined, with some already operational in countries across North America, Europe, and Asia.
    In most markets where digital services have been introduced, digital radio has generated new business opportunities for radio station owners allowing the radio to more effectively compete with other communication technologies.
    It also has given rise to services that simultaneously benefit both broadcasters and listeners including new audio channels, real-time emergency alert notifications, text and visual information related to the current programme, and additional data services providing enhanced traffic notifications, weather reports, and other local content.
    With these additional digital channels now available to consumers, radio stations can more narrowly target audience segments, while continuing to serve their core audience.
    Digital Radio is coming to India
    Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) allowed new FM auctions to support digital radio services in 2018. According to this consultation report, radio stations are allowed to use their spectrum allocation for analogue and digital services.
    In early August 2022, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) released a report from Ernst & Young discussing the future of digital radio broadcasting in India.
    Many themes addressed in this report are parallel to other digital radio markets around the world including the need for graceful transition to digital operations, the importance of accessible consumer receivers, allowing emergency notifications through digital radio broadcasts, and the need to limit additional license fees to broadcasters.
    The HD Radio™ broadcasting technology aligns with the key outcomes and recommendations outlined in the report.
    The HD Radio system is the most commercially successful digital FM system in the world, operating across North America and other countries since 2002. Over 2,700 radio stations provide 4,700 digital audio programmes to active listeners.
    Collectively, these radio groups provide over 41 million hours of digital radio programming to over 400 million people. With nearly 100 million radio receivers sold, millions of consumers have great experiences with the digital services as highlighted in 2021 IPSOS survey of consumer satisfaction with HD Radio products.
    Over 96 percent of respondents were satisfied with HD Radio products and services with clear support (92 percent) for clear reception and better sound quality than analogue radio. These great experiences translate into 94 percent of HD Radio listeners recommending the products to family and friends.
    As digital radio grows in India, radio stations will be able to expand services and enable new technologies, delivering content to more of the population.
    Through HD Radio broadcasting, radio listeners across North America have access to up to 4 digital audio programmes on the same radio station transmission, supporting multiple language programming and building stronger communities. Each of these audio services supports synchronized metadata for the programme through text and image transmission protocols.
    Emergency Alert notifications provide real-time notification of life saving warnings. And data service protocols highlight the ability for broadcasters to support communication to connected cars and IoT platforms. Advertisers also benefit from HD Radio services through high-value visual ads on the radio screen. Overall, HD Radio services offer benefits for radio broadcasting and new, exciting services for consumers.
    One of the key takeaways from the Ernst & Young report concerns the regulatory policy needed to support a graceful transition to full digital broadcasting. What would this require? that analogue transmissions and digital transmissions operate simultaneously on the same frequency assignment without disruption or interference to either service.
    This simulcast requirement would ensure that listeners continue to receive current analogue programming on existing radio receivers, while new digital receivers can access both the analogue programme and the new digital services. This approach, recommended by E&Y, allows for a graceful transition to digital radio, something that HD Radio services have successfully implemented in North America.
    Another key finding of the report highlights the need for low-cost radio products, especially for the integration of digital radio services into mobile handsets. Mobile phone integration is critical to the success of any new digital technology, after all, radio listening on mobile phones accounts for approximately 75 percent of radio listening in India.
    Integration will ensure that all people have access to services and information and this is also something that HD Radio has achieved: it has successfully integrated digital radio services into mobile handsets, a great example of this is its integration into the BeatBoy phone model which sells in the Philippines for approximately 1600 rupees (USD $20).
    Another goal for digital radio success, specifically in India, is supporting “Make in India” initiatives. National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019) has prioritised the electronics hardware manufacturing sector as one of the important pillars of both “Make in India” and “Digital India” programmes of the Government of India. The total electronics manufacturing investment for 2025-2026 is US $300 billion and mobile handset manufacturing in itself has been given a target of US $180 billion, out of which US $55 billion is for exports and US $125 billion for domestic market consumption.
    The HD Radio team is experienced in creating manufacturing eco-systems and is actively contributing to this objective by working with its hardware development, software development, and testing partners in India.
    We built strong relationships with our partners in India to integrate our digital radio technology into cars and mobile phones which will enable access to the increasing number of export markets for brands and manufacturers. We also see a strong opportunity with MEITY’s Centre of Excellence initiatives to create designs of Consumer Electronics for domestic markets as well export to the world.
    These are just a few of the ways that HD Radio technology is not only putting best practices for implementing Digital Radio in place but also offering a global paradigm for how digital radio can connect broadcasters and listeners and make digital radio accessible and equitable for every community.
    The author Ashruf El-Dinary is SVP, Xperi Digital Platforms and HD Radio. Views expressed are personal.
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