The BBC World Service (pr), has announced it will be among the first in the world to broadcast digitally over shortwave radio. They will use a standard called Digital Radio Mondiale (Wikipedia), which covers the international broadcasting bands below 30 MHz. DRM is a new digital radio standard, specifically designed for use the narrow and noisy short wave, medium wave and long wave radio bands.
The BBC is working with Norkring (press release) which is owned by European telephony giant, Telenor (press release). The DRM standard, which is now being implemented across the globe, was developed by a worldwide consortium, consisting of all the leading broadcasters from all five continents.
This new agreement with the BBC is said to be an important step in the digitalisation of short wave radio, which has the capacity to achieve global reach. The Beeb will use Norkring’s transmitting station at Kvitsoey, with signals broadcast to Central Europe. Norkring is Norway’s largest distributor of broadcast programs with 6,500 transmitters installed at 47 main stations and 2,700 smaller stations.
The agreement involves broadcast of the radio channel BBC World Service “English for Europe” for an initial period of 18 months. The BBC is also using UK-based transmitters owned and operated by VT Communications (above) to provide a multi-frequency network aimed at Benelux and neighbouring countries.
The DRM Consortium, founded in 1998, includes 93 members from 30 nations, including broadcasters, broadcasting associations, network operators, manufacturers, NGOs and others. With DRM, broadcasters can integrate data and text with audio, giving consumers new features such as up-to-the-minute news scrolls and traffic data. DRM broadcasts are now available in Europe, North America, and North Africa. Testing is underway in Latin America and Asia.
The first major test will be the launch of receivers for DRM at the world’s largest exhibition for consumer electronics, the IFA in Berlin, 2-7 September 2005. DRM receivers are expected to be available by the end of 2005. IFA will feature 1,189 exhibitors from more than 40 countries
At next week’s IFA show, Texas Instruments and RadioScape will unveil several manufacturers multi-standard consumer receivers with DRM and DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) based on TI s DRM350 multi-standard digital radio baseband.
In addition, Coding Technologies, AFG Engineering GmbH and Himalaya (Power) Electronics will present a DRM-capable radio based on Analog Devices Blackfin. RTL Group will discuss its DRM strategy and will broadcast live RTL programs in German, French and English. Deutsche Welle will reveal its upcoming DRM expansion, and will broadcast live from IFA along with RFI.
Successful DRM tests in Mexico and Brazil could lead to success with DRM in the United States. One possibility is using 26 MHz frequencies in the U.S. in DRM mode for local broadcasting (and maybe even sky wave broadcasting) with low power (10 watts to 1 kilowatt) to cover small areas such as universities and towns. Radio Canada International is the only station currently on the air to the Americas.
The FCC s recent rules changes now permit DRM modulation by shortwave stations in the United States that are transmitting abroad. The 26 MHz band, basically the 11-meter WARC allocations for international broadcasting, are not used by traditional HF broadcasters, and are being eyed for use by DRM.
Continental Electronics obtained FCC permission to operate a successful 26 MHz DRM transmission during a DRM meeting for one week last August. A similar test was run by RIZ Transmitters in Mexico City during the High Frequency Co-ordination Conference in February.
Digital Radio Mondiale is different from Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), commonly used in Europe, in that DRM is designed for narrower, noisier channels using Amplitude Modulation or Single Sideband.
Texas Instruments explains there are two main digital radio standards:
- Eureka-147 Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) offers listeners more stations with higher fidelity sound while transforming radio into an information delivery system with content on-demand for traffic, weather, sports and more. Eureka DAB broadcasts in several countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. It also is found in Asia in such places as Singapore and Taiwan.
- HD Radio technology is the FCC-selected standard for digital audio broadcasting in the United States. HD Radio, for example, is used by NPR’s Tomorrow Radio project to allow broadcasters to transmit a second station on their given frequency, doubling the bandwidth of the FM band. Other innovative features include “rewind radio” and surround-sound transmission. TI’s software radio approach allows manufacturers to add new features.
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), Europe’s digital radio service, uses two new radio bands, Band III (174-239 Mhz) and the L Band (1.452-1.490 Ghz). The lower frequency has better penetration and doesn’t need terrestrial repeaters. HD Radio in the United States, by contrast, requires no new frequencies, it rides piggyback on current AM and FM radio channels.
Another standard, Digital Video Broadcast – Handheld (DVB-H) took Europe’s Digital TV standard, Digital Video Broadcast (DVB), and modified it for mobile reception. It’s expected to be used by broadcasters worldwide for multi-media distribution and may compete with DAB (on broadcast frequencies). DVB uses COFDM instead of the multipath prone 8-VSB-based ATSC standard. DVB-H may also use the same frequencies used by DAB digital radios (1.7 GHz and 200 Mhz).
Nokia and Crown Castle are testing DVB-H in Pittsburgh. Crown owns a 5 Mhz swath across the United States at 1.7 GHz and expects to start portable television broadcasting next year. DVB-H also will function within the European UHF frequency range (470-890 MHz) and the L-Band spectrum likely to be allocated for European mobile TV broadcast (1,452-1,477 MHz).
The big three mobile television networks in the United States are shaping up to be Crown Castle’s nationwide DVB-H service, in the L band (1670 MHz to 1675 MHz), Qualcomm’s MediaFLO, with 6 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band (UHF TV channel 55), across the United States, and Aloha Partners, which may go head-to-head with Qualcomm on the 700 MHz band, and will do so with twice the spectrum.
In related news, MyBBCPlayer will let users download the Beeb’s TV and radio programming in “Podcast” form, according to C/Net. “Everything we know about the online world suggests that it’s the big brands–the eBays, the Amazons, the Microsofts–that punch through, and the BBC is one of the big brands,” said Mark Thompson, director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The DRM Software Radio Forums have news and rumors. Related DailyWireless stories include; Intel On DVB-H, Clear Channel Podcasting, U.S. Gets MobileTV via DVB-H, On The New Media, GoogleNet, Cuban: Broadcasting Not Dead, Open ITV, IP-TV Networking, Mobile TV Expands, NerdTV and Global Mobile Television.