By Vasant Venkatramani
High-level radio executives from across the Middle East and North Africa attended the Week of Technology event last week in Tunis, jointly coordinated by the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), to learn how new advancements can help the region embrace digital radio.
Topics included the progress of digital radio via both the DAB+ and DRM standards, and the critical role for DAB+ in the context of developing 5G technology – however, it was the subject of the newly-published ETSI specifications, including significant development on non-Latin script, that delegates found most interesting.
WorldDAB Technical Committee chairman Lindsay Cornell detailed the work the committee had done to “ensure better implementation of non-Latin scripts in text labels”, including embedding right-to-left scripts such as Arabic in DAB receivers.
“What we [the WorldDAB Technical Committee] found was that while at a basic level, all it may involve is to reverse from left-to-right to right-to-left,” Mr Cornell said during his presentation. “Yet we also had to think about how to deal with text that contained mixed direction scripts, such as several Latin words within a sentence of Arabic.”
Interest was high on the progress of digital radio development – a survey conducted at the end of the day concluded that more than 60% of delegates expected digital radio to be in place by 2023 across the region. Vasant Venkatramani of WorldDAB listed the current DAB+ trials in the region, as well as the development of full services around the world. Delegates also expressed several queries around the market availability of receivers which included Arabic text and the price points of digital radio receivers, and emphasised these were issues critical to the development of digital radio in the region.
Another highlight was the discussion around 5G, especially in context to the simultaneous digitisation of radio. Javier Sanchez of Spanish broadcaster RTVE explained that 5G alone could not completely replace the requirements of a terrestrial radio service, and that 5G would be interoperable with DAB+ in a way that it could not with FM.