Kath Brown, Head of Strategic Development, Commercial Radio Australia
Interest in DAB+ in the region continues and planning activity is at an all time high.
Workshops have been held with public and private broadcasters around the region VoV (Vietnam), RTM (Malaysia), RRI and MCIT (Indonesia), NBTC and ITU (Thailand) & SABC and the commercial broadcasters in South Africa to demonstrate the potential of DAB+. The live trial broadcasts in each country have been useful to demonstrate the importance of field testing and detailed coverage planning.
The tech savvy Asia Pacific will demand feature rich receivers and the interactivity they have on other digital devices. In Australia broadcasters have supported text, news, album art, station imagery and other graphics on all digital stations including the 37 DAB+ only stations since launch.
Adoption of DAB+ by the populous countries in the Asia Pacific will help reduce the cost of receivers, and drive the take up in Smartphones. A growing middle class in the region will increase car ownership which will extend the place of listening to robust DAB+ digital radio; especially as streaming to mass audiences listening via mobile in the car is not technically or economically viable. Additionally, the scale of their roll out will help reduce the cost of transmission infrastructure. So it is important that the multiplex systems support the take up of hybrid/interactive radio.
Regular contact with broadcasters in the region has been achieved by WorldDMB being principle sponsor ABU Digital Broadcasting Summit March 2014 (and again in 2015). CRA & WorldDMB were again joint principle sponsors of Radio Asia in Sri Lanka in May 2014.
There has been regular engagement with ETRI in Korea over recent months and contact with the 4 main broadcasters, including SBS attending the GA in Rome. WorldDMB was represented at ABU General Assembly in Macau where senior management from RRI presented on Indonesia’s planning for DAB+. In 2009 spectrum was allocated for the DAB family of standards and a trial went on air in September 2013 in Jakarta with 5 FM simulcast, 3 new programs for DAB+ and one channel for commercials to access for free.
In October, RRI became a new member of WorldDMB, and in November RRI and the regulator MCIT held a private technical workshop to advance their planning for expansion of the Jakarta trial.
Thailand is actively working toward a DAB+ trial in 2015 to further evaluate the system and technology. The trial plan consists of 3 ensembles at main population cities throughout Thailand.The NBTC and ITU are currently undertaking design studies and intend to move forward with deployment in 2015. Digital radio study tours have been conducted to Australia, UK, Norway and a regulatory study tour will visit Australian regulators, Government and CRA in November to share information and guidance to help NBTC with DAB+ transition benchmarks. NBTC have engaged with local car makers.
In March 2014, the Malaysian national broadcaster RTM hosted a WorldDMB workshop and drive tests. The regulator is supportive and the local digital radio committee is preparing a report with recommendations. RTM in Malaysia continues to operate a DAB+ trial in the KL greater area with 1 main transmitter site and 5 repeaters
The new technical director of VoV also held a follow up digital radio workshop in Vietnam in October which was attended by several WorldDMB members.
In Australia,DAB+ in the five major cities and two trial cities provides 64% population coverage. Reception continues to improve with 11 repeaters licensed and built this year.
Australia has 23.3% household penetration and 300 plus different DAB+ receivers on sale from $29. Twenty major vehicle brands now offer DAB+and this continues to rise. The number of new cars sold with DAB+reached 125,000 in Q3 2014. CRA has developed an automotive best practice paper which it has shared with key stakeholders and manufacturers/OEMs prior to broader distribution.
The industry has suggested that the Federal Government establish a Digital Radio Industry Planning Committee to work on a timetable for phased rollout of regional services.
An Australian study into the ability of mobile networks to cope with radio audiences streaming has been developed and will be released before Christmas.
The European Broadcasting Union has ratified DAB+ as the standard of choice for Europe under the Recommendation 138. WorldDMB works closely with other broadcasting unions around the world.
DAB+ is the only standard with mass market receivers available for home and car. It has international support from mainstream public and private broadcasters in each city and is being seen as a replacement for FM in much of Europe where digital switch over dates are being set.
Further technical demonstrations and mentoring assistance is needed in the region as well as improved support from digital radio receiver manufacturers for additional features, interactivity and guidelines for use of DAB+ standard in Emergency Warning Systems.