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Digital radio deployments have been greenlit in Europe

GENEVA — In Kiev, on June 15, DAB+ broadcasting started, according to mediasat.info . At present, seven radio stations are available for reception: Promin, Kultura, Old Fashioned Radio, Meidan, Radio Mariya, Kraina FM and Hype Radio.

In Belgium, regulations that will allow the development of a new frequency plan for analog radio stations, while opening the way for the deployment of digital radio (DAB+) in French-speaking Belgium, were approved in the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, reports rtbf.be . This news did elaborate on the specifics of how they will affect digital broadcasting there in the near future.

The French are fans of radio, with about 850 stations available nationwide. It remains the preferred medium for information in the morning, with 43 million daily listeners, according to lesechos.fr . More recently, a revealed that for 94% of French people, access to radio was a universal right; but at the same time, about 75% of the population knows nothing about digital radio , at least according to France’s CSA.

The CSA has announced a new strategy to “relaunch” the deployment of DAB+ in France. Development will be more tactical with tenders issued nationwide for more profitable areas (major cities and major highways and motorways), according to the same article. The long-term objective is to cover 30 regions and to go from 20–70% coverage of the country by 2020.

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Inntot Technologies, GeekSynergy, Gospell Digital Technology and Communications Systems are all working on products



Avion DRM receiver

NEW DELHI — You will recall that All India Radio, the public service broadcaster in India, adopted the Digital Radio Mondiale standard for the digital terrestrial radio transmissions in the MW and SW bands. 35 MW transmitters of AIR, ranging in power from 20 kW to 1000 kW, continue to operate in using DRM in various fashions. Two more transmitters, 100 kW each, are under trial in Delhi and these are expected to be operational in a couple of months, according to DRM news .

DRM news has compiled a list of manufacturers of stand-alone DRM receivers from various manufacturers, that is of interest.


DRM in the dashboard

Inntot Technologies, a start-up enterprise in India, has developed a software-based DRM receiver, which is based on a generic processor, and meets all the specifications for the Minimum Receiver Requirements, supporting all DRM core functionality such as Journaline advanced text and Emergency Warning Functionality. The design has been field tested in number of cities in India. It is expected to be very cost effective.

GeekSynergy, another start-up, is working on the development of a “highly affordable yet full-featured” DRM receiver, which is likely to be showcased by summer 2018. The company is also working on incorporating DRM into smartphones using one of the most well-known chips installed in all the branded mobile phones.


Gospell receiver and dongle

The Chinese company Gospell Digital Technology has presented a very well-reviewed DRM Receiver, the GR 216, which is already in production. These units can receive DRM signals in the AM as well as the VHF bands for large-area and local services, respectively. Core DRM features such as Journaline advanced text and EWF — with automatic device-wake-up from deep-standby are supported. Gospell is developing a DRM receiver dongle, GR-227, which can be plugged in the existing audio systems in the automobiles on USB ports or Aux input to receive DRM signals. The receiver model will allow legacy cars already on the road and with analog AM and FM reception to be upgraded to DRM digital reception through this simple add-on device. The unit is likely to go into production shortly.

Communications Systems is the first radio manufacturer in India to domestically develop and produce a DRM receiver (AV-1401), an “ambitious full-featured” digital radio. It supports all the DRM-specific features including Journaline advanced text and Emergency Warning Functionality. As part of the company’s continued commitment to DRM in India, the model was recently updated and easily meets DRM’s minimum receiver requirements as recommended by the DRM Consortium. 

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The Creta is the seventh Hyundai model to be equipped with digital radio


NEW DELHI — DRM news is reporting that Hyundai has added another digital radio to its line of cars. The Hyundai Creta, “one of the most popular and best-selling SUVs in India” now comes with a DRM receiver as standard equipment. The Creta represents the seventh Hyundai model with DRM receivers available.

“More than 100,000 cars are on the road in India today and are equipped with DRM receivers (Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki, Mahinda) — Hyundai for instance has six models with DRM receivers on the Indian roads with new models to come, according to trai.in.gov . The first after-market car radio and add-on dongle with DRM support was publicly presented at IBC 2017 in Amsterdam both for the AM bands and ready for the FM/VHF bands. 

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All Swiss tunnels will include DAB+; Italy’s RAI increases digital program offerings

BERN, Switzerland —Switzerland’s Federal Roads Office has announced that that radio systems in the motorway tunnels for the DAB+ digital radio reception will be expanded throughout Switzerland. In the area of ​​northeastern Switzerland, work has been completed in all 27 tunnels.

Eventually all the tunnels of Swiss national roads will be upgraded to receive the new DAB+ digital radio standard, for safety and comfort reasons, so that they will duplicate analog FM radio reception, matching expectations of drivers there.

DAB + reception on the highways in the cantons of Zurich, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, St. Gallen and Glarus as well as in the canton of Schwyz along Lake Zurich, is now possible without gaps, according to lokalinfo.ch .

ITALY

In Rome, RAI Radio has announced the startup of two new radio programs in June: Rai Radio1 Sport and Rai Radio2 Indie.

“With these two new channels our offer of radio increases and brings the total number to 12, which should reach 13 shortly with a new specialized spin-off channel of Radio 3. A rich offer, unthinkable only a few years ago, which positions RAI Radio among the main players in the production of audio content, whether for entertainment, information or culture. And that confirms the desire to turn the promises announced into reality, a demanding job that I’m proud of because it looks at the future of Radio RAI,” Roberto Sergio said in this article in primaonline.it .

“The entire production chain is now fully digitalized, from studies to royalties to transmission. In this sense, RAI Radio has recently given a strong impetus to the spread of the DAB+…” said Sergio. “RAI’s investments in DAB+ and digital have been anticipated for a value of around 5 million euros. Today, we can therefore already offer good coverage on the central North motorway axis. The commitment is however constant and will lead us to constantly increase the quality and penetration of the digital signal.”

The RAI Radio platform is available on all digital service types and includes RAI Radio1, RAI Radi2, RAI Radio 3, Isoradio, Gr Parlamento along with five specialized programs: RAI Radio Classica, RAI Radio Kids, RAI Radio Live, RAI Radio Techete’, RAI Radio Tutta Italiana and RAI Radio 3 by the end of 2018.

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The company just received clearance from India’s Department of Telecommunications to acquire almost 9,000 towers from Idea Cellular


AMSTERDAM — You probably think that American Tower is big here in the US, but do you know about the company’s presence in 16 other international markets?

American Tower just received clearance from India’s Department of Telecommunications to acquire almost 9,000 towers from Idea Cellular for a total of INR40 billion ($584 million) according to developingtelecoms.com . The closing of this deal will mean that the company has completed the second and final stage of its acquisition of 20,000 towers from Idea and Vodafone India. Just last month, the government approved American Tower buying around 11,000 towers from Vodafone for a sum of INR38.5 billion.

After this recent acquisition, ATC now operates some 68,000 towers across India, according to rcrwireless.com .

“Notably, there is a rising trend of telecom companies to shrug off the tower infrastructure to wireless infrastructure companies like American Tower, Crown Castle International Corp and SBA Communications Corp. This is because it helps telecom companies to avoid huge outlay of money in maintaining the expensive infrastructure and rather channelize resources on service delivery,” according to Nasdaq.com

American Tower is also set to acquire transmission towers from Telkom Kenya — as part of the company’s expansion plans — and the Kenya market will represent the company’s fifth in Africa and the 17th globally; the company also has a presence in The Netherlands, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru.

Up to 723 transmission towers will be purchased for an undisclosed amount, according to the same article. 

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Digital radio listening in the UK now stands at 50.9% up from 47.2% a year ago


LONDON — In the United Kingdom, the use of digital sources for radio has reached 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago, accounting for the majority of all listening for the first time, according to RAJAR Q1 2018 data.

“With the 50% digital listening threshold now met, it is anticipated that the UK government will undertake a review to assess digital radio progress and determine next steps in due course,” according to a Digital Radio UK press release.

Digital listening share is comprised of listening across all digital platforms: DAB in homes and in cars, apps and online (which includes the growing number of smart and voice-controlled speakers) and DTV — and this is the first time that listening to digital has been greater than analog platforms — FM and AM.

Other measurement data provided by RAJAR show the following:

  • Overall, in the UK digital listening hours grew by 7.8% compared to Q1 2017
  • The greatest amount of digital listening takes place on over-the-air DAB radio which now accounts for 36.8% of all listening and 72.2% of digital listening, with hourly growth of 8.9% year over year
  • Online and Apps now accounts for 9.3% of all listening and 18.3% of digital listening, with the greatest percentage hourly growth of 17%
  • Listening via digital TV meanwhile accounts 4.8% of all listening and 9.4% of digital listening
  • 63.7% of adults now have access to DAB digital radio at home, and more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers
  • Digital radio is in over 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33% of all cars in the UK, and 90% of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard equipment [Source: CAP/SMMT Q1 2018]

“Across the UK the success of digital radio has been driven by industry investment in DAB coverage; the availability of DAB in cars; the development of mobile and online apps along with the proliferation of smart and voice-controlled speakers with IP radio capability; combined with a huge expansion in the number of digital stations available,” according to DRUK. “This growth in availability has been matched by an expansion of national and local DAB coverage which is now available in over 90% of the UK due to the launch of an additional 435 digital transmitters, as part of a program of work supported by government and broadcasters.”

The UK’s three leading radio broadcasters — the BBC, Global and Bauer, which collectively account for over 90% of UK radio listening — are “fully committed to delivering a digital future for radio and look forward to working with government and the supply chain to continue the transition to digital radio.”

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The total number of GatesAir transmitters deployed in that country stands at 1218

MASON, Ohio — GatesAir is getting ready to send its final shipments of transmitters to Norway, bringing the total of its transmitters deployed in that country to 1218 in support of Norway’s transition to DAB.

Norway’s national FM Radio signals vacated the airwaves in mid-December, concluding an 11-month sunset. Many local FM stations remain on the air.

GatesAir says it has been involved in Norway’s DAB digital radio activity since the nation’s first tests in 1994. Upon the Norwegian government’s 2011 approval to switch off FM radio, it says it helped the country to accelerate the site planning and systems design process, and worked closely with partners to set a site-by-site delivery schedule.

According to the company, a pair of redundant GatesAir Maxiva VAX air-cooled transmitters ranging from 50 W to 5 kW support over-the-air content delivery from most sites. The final transmitters being shipped include low-power models.

“Our work in Norway has spanned over two decades to ensure that the exacting specifications of the network and delivery timelines were met in accordance with the Norwegian government’s mandate,” said Darren Frearson, vice president of Sales, EMEA-APAC, GatesAir.

“GatesAir’s modular transmitters were easily configured and rapidly deployed across the network. The compact footprint and small weight contributed to the rapid deployment, which reached as many as 14 sites per week.” 

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Here are some updates from Switzerland, Ukraine and Germany

BERN, Switzerland — Swiss communications regulator Bakom recently said that in 2017 nearly 600,000 DAB+ radios were purchased nationwide. Bakom also reports that about 85% of all new vehicles sold are equipped with a DAB+ radio as standard equipment, and that a total of 3.5 million devices are in circulation in the country, according to telecompaper.com .

In Kiev, the remaining four slots of a new DAB multiplex have been offered once again by Ukraine’s National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting. Applications for participation in the competition for the remaining slots are being accepted from May 17 –June 15 at the address Prorizna, 2, Kiev, tel. 234-97-13. The results from the National Council will be announced by May 14, according to detector.media .

In Germany, the regional public broadcaster SWR (Südwestrundfunk ) has commissioned new DAB transmitters at Villingen Schwenningen using channel 8D. This will improve DAB coverage for the programs SWR1, SWR2, SWR3, SWR4, SWR Aktuell and DASDING in the Black Forest-Baar-Heuberg area and adjacent areas, reports infosat.de .

SWR is planning further expansion of the DAB + network this year in Bad Urach, Baiersbronn, Brandenkopf, Schramberg, Sigmaringen, Waldburg and Weingarten, and other transmitter locations are being planned. 

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A survey showed 70% of respondents are opposed to the sunsetting of “premature” VHF FM by 2021

COPENHAGEN — There’s more talk in the government of Denmark about the possible “sunsetting” of the VHF FM band in that country. 

[Read more about Denmark’s 2017 efforts in this area.]

Now, the Danish Ministry of Culture is trying to accelerate the pace of the transition. 

A strategy paper from the Ministry presented at the beginning of April outlines two scenarios: VHF FMs should be switched off two years after it has been determined that the 50% listening threshold has been exceeded (it is currently at 36%). And, even if the threshold is not reached by 2021, the country should off VHF and go to DAB + anyway.

The trouble is that there’s not enough political support for such a move, according to radiowoche.de . The ruling liberal-conservative three-party coalition does not have its own majority in parliament and needs cooperation from other parties; it have to put forward its proposed plans in the media sector up for discussion and then convince either the right-wing conservative People’s Party or the Social Democrats and get their votes. Representatives of the People’s Party have already announced their rejection of a premature VHF exit in the Danish media.

A survey conducted for the Danish news agency Ritzau revealed that 70% of respondents are opposed to the sunsetting of premature VHF FM by 2021. 

Also not very enthusiastic about the new government plans are a number of newspaper publishers operating various regional and local stations, according to the same article. 

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The country appears to be leaning away from DRM and toward DAB+

MOSCOW — What’s the status of digital radio in Russia? Back in 2011 we reported that Russia was leaning in the direction of DRM. Now, however, nag.ru is reporting that the country is looking to “expand broadcasting” thoughout the country using DAB+. 

The allocation of frequencies was done by the State Commission on Radio Frequencies following the meeting held on April 16.

The band planned for usage is 175.872 to 228.128 MHz and the possibility of using these frequencies was confirmed by the Research Institute of Radio, which conducted tests of compatibility of DAB + networks with networks already operating in Russia. 

“The use of digital format will not only increase the number of stations, but also significantly improve the quality of sound transmission in comparison with an analog signal,” according to the same article.

“…the obstacle for deploying digital radio is the need to replace receiving equipment. Over the past years, users have had a huge number of devices with the ability to receive FM radio stations. In order to receive the DAB+ signal they have to be replaced and this is extremely expensive.” 

The same article goes on to say that, while an FM radio can be had for 300-400 rubles, DAB+-capable radios cost four to five times more, and the number of models available is “extremely limited.” 

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