DRM goes local


The huge innovation that Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) brings to radio
broadcasting is that Short Wave (SW) and Medium Wave (MW) broadcasts can
now be heard in FM-like sound quality. And reception is excellent anywhere – in
cities, in blocks of flats, outdoors and even while driving your car.

It’s an old-fashioned radio broadcast which means that you don’t need an
internet connection to tune in, and because of this, it is truly portable and
mobile. You can take a DRM radio anywhere and listen to previously impossible
quality even in full stereo sound.

Quick to see the advantages of this venture and to become its first southern
African user is the Pulpit Media Group, who will transmit the Radio Pulpit
broadcasts for trial purposes. Radio Veritas and the soon to be established LM
Radio (they have a licence but are still building the infrastructure) are also
committed to sharing the trials and will broadcast on the second digital channel.

Radio Pulpit’s Doctor Roelf Petersen explains: “The Nigerians have built a station
in Abuja and the Nigerian National Radio is broadcasting very successfully
internationally on DRM shortwave. DRM is very receptive and includes SW, MW
and long wave, but yes, we have now established the first site in South Africa,
dedicated to performing trials and then later for broadcasting.

“Pulpit Media is the only South African broadcaster who owns two MW licenses
(Radio Pulpit Gauteng and Cape Pulpit Western Cape) and we are locked into
going the DRM route, if we want to be sharing in the “digital dividend’. The
advantages are high-level sound quality which is even better than FM and since
the footprint of MW broadcast is much larger we will be able to cover large rural
areas where FM cannot reach. Lastly DRM is green – it is highly cost effective
and uses only about 50% of the electricity compared to conventional MW.

“We have supplied a fully furnished test site with a 25 KW transmitter,
monopole antenna and content server for the trails, fully supported by SENTECH
and operated by Broadcom International (our technical partner.). The results will
be used to convince the Regulator to award DRM licenses to MW broadcasters.
Listeners will eventually have to procure a DRM digital receiver like in the case of
DAB + or Digital TV. There are also three further MW broadcasters, who have
indicated they want to come on board.

DRM is used widely in India and Radio Pulpit is watching closely to what is
happening there. “Air, the national radio station, is already migrating to DRM
(they have 465 million listeners on MW analogue,’ observes Petersen. “We have
commissioned and completed a comprehensive research study in which it was
confirmed that South Africa has all the capabilities to manufacture DRM receivers,
but I am not able to comment on the price of a receiver yet.’

The installation and commissioning has been completed and trials started on 1
July. The latest news is that the chipset will enable digital receivers to
accommodate AM, FM, DRM and DAB and offer more than stereo – actually full
surround sound.


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