Why did the North Korean regime turn on a new shortwave transmitter with the digital DRM standard (Digital Radio Mondiale)? And, above all, who listens to the transmissions, given that the receivers cost at least a hundred dollars, an enormity for a population starved by the supreme leader. RedTech, a French technology magazine, examines various hypotheses and concludes that there is nothing strategic about it. It will probably distribute the signal of KBCS (Korean Central Broadcasting Station) to repeaters (a system already used in the past in analogue) without setting up an expensive network of terrestrial transfer links. The transmitter operates on 6140kHz with an estimated power of 50 to 100 kW and is in addition to the one on 3205 kHz that has been on air for more than a year. It uses AAC+ compression because the engineers used software that does not support the latest standards. More details in the RedTech article.
As of September 2022, New Zealand’s public broadcaster (RNZ) has increased its shortwave broadcasting hours aimed at the Pacific region. The four morning hours, suspended in 2016, restarted thanks to new government funding, on three frequencies: at 5 a.m. local time on 7425 kHz, 6 a.m. on 9700 kHz, and 8 a.m. on 11725 kHz. The most listened news program is also repeated by the BBC Pacific Service. Shortwave broadcasting, largely abandoned since the 1990s at the end of the Cold War, still remains the most effective means of covering very large areas. As in the Pacific Ocean archipelagos, where many communities still use the old analogue radios with the SW (Short Waves) band to inform themselves.
It also broadcasts digitally
In the middle hours of the day, however, the station broadcasts with the DRM standard: a digital transmission system that eliminates all the typical hissing due to atmospheric and electromagnetic interference. The audio is stereo, but it is out of reach of the old analogue radios. In order to receive the DRM you have to buy a receiver that is set up to decode the digital signal, which costs between 50 and 100 euros. Alternatively, the signal is broadcast bysatellite from Intelsat 19 on C-band: coverage extends from Singapore eastward to the Cook Islands, including Fiji, Tonga, Niue and Samoa. (Written byFabrizio Carnevalini)
After the great enthusiasm for digital broadcasting in the DRM standard, the Indian government is rethinking the technology to be chosen for the future. Digitization began in 2010, and since then three shortwave and 35 mediumwave systems have been activated; the latter can serve an area of 300-350 km each and two or three are sufficient to cover one of the 29 federal states. However, there are few listeners because the receivers cost too much for the purchasing power of the average Indian: the price is at least 3000 rupees (equal to 42 US$), a huge amount considering that in the country one person out of four lives on 12 US$ per month (below the poverty line). India has been penalized by the fact that it was among the first countries to choose DRM because the industry, concentrating on DAB+ (a technology not considered usable in the country, given the vastness of the areas to be covered) has not realized economies of scale and the price of receivers has remained high. Yet the DRM technology could also be used for the FM band.
Further details in the interesting article by Sreejiraj Eluvangal appeared on ultra news, which reports the statements of Ruxandra Obreja, president of the DRM Consortium and Prakash Javadekar, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The PBC (Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation) has asked the government to make it compulsory for cars to be equipped with digital receivers in the next five-year plan for the automobile industry. For some time now, public radio and television have been broadcasting using the DRM digital standard in the AM and FM bands. DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), unlike DAB (which uses VHF channels in band III), is a digital broadcasting system applicable to all frequencies, from the HF bands (LW, MW, SW) to VHF (bands I, II, the FM band, and band III). And it foresees investments to complete the digital migration in the next five to seven years, to improve audio quality (claimed to be equal to that of a CD) and energy efficiency.
The annual report on the information industry in Russia covers many aspects of the media. Among these, we have focussed our attention on the move to digital TV, FM band migration and the increase in numbers of transmitters, and digital radio coming to a stop.
Analogue TV is dead! (but still operating alongside digital)
The switchover to digital was completed in 2019. It was proudly announced that the transition took ten years, which was faster than the United States (11 years), Australia (12) and Great Britain (14). In addition, with 98.4% of the population being able to tune in, Russia beats France (97.3%), Austria (96.0%), Switzerland (*) (95.0%) and Portugal (92.7%). However analogue TV is not totally dead. The national channels have been switched off, but the regional channels are still operating. And there are quite a few of them. Our FMLIST correspondent in the Republic of Karelia (east of Finland) confirmed that there are a good five of them in the city where he lives.
(*) Switzerland has switched off terrestrial TV via DVB-T in summer 2019
Radio stations move to FM
The state radio network will be moving from broadcasting on the OIRT band (between 65.8 and 74 MHz) to the European FM band (87.5-108 MHz), where the commercial radio stations are already present. New licences will be granted to Radio Mayak and Vesti FM in order to allow them to broadcast in all cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. In order to manage the increase in number of channels, they are studying isofrequency networks used abroad in countries like Moldavia, where the radio station Inter-FM can be received with traffic information along the motorway. A solution based on a lot of low power transmitters would also not infringe health regulations that limit the use of high power transmitters.
‘The market is not ready’ for DAB
The development of digital radio in Europe is analysed in the report. But this ‘revolution’ will not be happening in Russia. Even though frequencies for DAB+ transmissions have been allocated, this does not mean that they will be activated. The Ministry of Communications believes that the advertising market is not mature enough yet to justify the increase in the numbers of radio stations that can use updated technology.
St. Petersburg is experimenting with DRM+
Therefore the aim is to develop broadcasting systems such as DRM+ that allow a radio station to also transmit digital channels on the same FM frequency, leaving listeners free to equip themselves to receive transmissions in high quality sound, but not being obliged to replace their radio with a new one (estimated cost of about $10 US). In July 2019 Comedy Radio carried out tests in St. Petersburgby digitally broadcasting three channels on 95.7 MHz FM. The first one was a repeat of their analogue channel with a bitrate of 33 kbps, the other two were Avtoradio (43 kbps) and Evropa Plus (20 kbps).