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Digital HD Radio Can Change Game & Disrupt Radio Industry In India

The radio industry in India has long planned a transition to FM digital services to expand programming, better disseminate routine and vital public information, and improve communication reliability.

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In a joint workshop conducted on ‘Digital Radio Vision for India, by Xperi Corporation, India Cellular & Electronics Association, the parties presented their outlook for the transition of the Radio industry of India from an analogue to a digital medium. It brought together the relevant stakeholders from the broadcast industry, receiver, automotive and mobile handset eco-system such as Brand owners, and product suppliers, Component companies and various organs of the Government such as MIB, NITI Aayog, NDMA, etc.  The event is supported by ICEA, AROI, COMCON, RMS and NAUTEL.

The workshop was presided by the Chief Guest, R.S. Sharma, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with Shashi S. Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati as the Guest of Honour. 

While countries across the world have been transitioning their mass media from analogue to digital over the past 20 years, in India, Radio broadcasting has largely remained analogue. After the privatization of the Radio Industry in 2001 that led to the advent of FM, nothing much has changed in the Radio landscape.

Various stakeholders in the Radio ecosystem came together to explore the possible opportunities in the space as India has a burgeoning mobile and entertainment markets which can be a great growth booster for the Radio as a medium provided the right initiatives and steps are taken to embrace new technology and enrich the content offering by the broadcasters. 

HD Radio broadcasting has been successfully deployed across many countries including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Philippines, and Romania.  This technology has been operating commercially for over 18 years with more than 2400 radio stations currently on the air worldwide and over 66 million receiver products sold. The radio industry in India has long planned a transition to FM digital services to expand programming, better disseminate routine and vital public information, and improve communication reliability.

Addressing the august gathering, Mr Ashruf, VP, Xperi Corporation said “We are pleased to be participating in the digital radio field trials with All India Radio.  Our HD Radio technology enables innovative audio content and new data services across 2400 radio stations worldwide.  We support the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting's vision to transition radio stations to digital operations and we look forward to being a part of the digital radio vision for India.”

Emphasizing on the need of Digital Radio as a technology, Shashi S. Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati said “Digital radio is changing the landscape of radio broadcasting, and it will definitely alter the way audiences interact with their favourite radio stations. Digital radio is like the younger sibling to AM and FM — it will give audiences a bit of control, clear frequency and it will reach a wider audience than ever before. If this technology is adopted, on one frequency we will have four channels running, In India, there is a remarkable interest in second- and third-language programming, mainly due to a large number of languages spoken throughout the country.”  

The Digital Radio system supports multiple audio programs on a single transmission frequency.  This is more effective than the current analogue radio which provides only 1 audio programme per frequency.  These additional audio channels can be utilised for multi-language programming and content.  

The need of quickly adopting Digital Radio was also echoed by R.S. Sharma, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) At present as he said “we would like to inform you all that consultation is going on and we aim to make radio digital by 2024 all over India. I would like to state here that in 2020 the government is working to support the development of the radio sector and the long-term transition to a digital future for India radio.” 

Speaking on the occasion,  Ramashish Ray, Founder of Retail Management Services, a Mobile Ecosystem Enabler and the company responsible for evangelizing the digital radio concept in mobility to India said, “It's encouraging that the Indian Govt has outlined a clear vision for digital radio and it would be really exciting to be part of the first Digital Radio mobile phone story like the first FM phone was. This will be a key enabler to the ecosystem”. 

Pankaj Mahindroo, Chairman, ICEA which led this cross-industry symposium with Xperi said ” 2020 will be the year where we will see this technology changing the dynamics of radio. For advanced radio innovation to be fruitful we have to present this technology innovation first in the mobile division as it will be a broad communications utilization.” 

Worldwide, daily radio listening represents over 60% of consumer media consumption surpassing TV and content streaming in many markets.  In India, the increase in radio broadcasting has resulted in an increase in radio listening and is growing year-over-year.

HD Radio is well poised to disrupt the market in India. Timely adoption would be the key to boost the industry where innovation has been embraced often. 


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