Jhonny Maroun, Director Sales – Middle East and South Asia, GatesAir
Digital radio’s impact is only just beginning to take shape. In the Americas, HD Radio has been the preeminent choice, chiefly for its ability to deliver several distinct program channels on the same FM frequency.
However, HD Radio is generally focused for single-market delivery. Internationally, many nations – especially where governments serve as the chief broadcaster – require a larger networked platform for national distribution. This makes DAB an attractive choice, since it offers a highly efficient platform for distributing multiple digital programs over extensive transmitter networks. In Europe, DAB has been the dominant choice for this reason.
Unlike Europe and the United States, the Middle East and neighbouring South Asia are exploring all options for digital radio. Bangladesh recently committed to HD Radio, while Taiwan, for example, has a long history with DRM radio. However, DAB appears to have a very bright future for the Middle East for the same reason that Norway and other European countries have committed to the standard.
Beyond its efficient IP-based networking platform (ETI/EDI distribution), broadcasters in the Middle East are looking at DAB for strategic initiatives. The availability of analog frequencies are dwindling region-wide, and transitioning away from AM/FM and toward DAB will free up analogue services for public safety and other government services.
From a programming standpoint, audio quality is significantly improved along with programme options. As with HD Radio, the DAB standard enables broadcasters to broadcast more channels on the same frequency. This vastly improved bandwidth usage in the digital spectrum makes room for more services and programs, allowing government and private broadcasters to expand their news, information and entertainment portfolio. And since DAB transmits over the VHF band, broadcasters aren’t forced to share UHF spectrum with TV services.
GatesAir has been focused on DAB education throughout the region. Recently, GatesAir participated at the ASBU Radio and TV Festival in Tunis outlining the economic and quality advantages upon transitioning to DAB. This presentation, attended by broadcasters from many Arab countries, led to a GatesAir DAB trial in Abu Dhabi. Using our Maxiva VAX high-efficiency transmitters for DAB Radio on the VHF band, this trial represents the economic and quality advantages outlined in our presentation: four channels of DAB+ digital radio on a single frequency with national distribution – with the possibility to quadruple program channels to 16. The trial, just launched, will operate for 90 days, with results studied over the ensuing weeks.
GatesAir is partnering with headend companies like Digidia and working with receiver manufacturers to ensure a true headend service from studio to receiver. Along with our ability to provide all equipment (transmitters, antennas, auxiliary support), installation, commissioning, training and ongoing service for the RF plant, broadcasters across the Middle East have a viable option for turnkey DAB radio. We’re committed to working with the Arab Broadcast State Union and regional broadcasters to provide DAB seminars and trials region wide.