The author is SVP, Engineering — Digital Platforms at Xperi Corp.
Daily radio listening represents more than 60% of consumer media consumption worldwide — surpassing even television and content streaming in many markets.
The recent “Digital Radio Vision for India” workshop, held Feb. 12, offered an optimistic view of how India, through its “Digital India” initiative, can capitalize on the nation’s growing radio broadcasting industry.
Xperi was on hand to present its vision of how HD Radio, can support the radio industry’s transition from analog broadcasting to a significantly more robust and diverse digital broadcast platform.
Today some 2400 radio stations in several countries use HD Radio to reach more than 400 million people across North America and other countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
But, as the workshop outlined, while HD Radio is helping revolutionize and digitize radio services around the world, India is lagging far behind, with most of its radio stations transmitting solely in analog. The good news is that HD Radio offers All India Radio and private broadcasters an opportunity to accelerate and become world leaders in digital radio networking. It simply makes sense.
Clear Audio, Diverse Programming, Multimedia
HD Radio allows radio stations to transmit multiple programs and other information with quality audio and robust and diverse content. While the analog transmissions that currently dominate radio in India provide listeners with music, news, or talk shows on their radio receivers — each analog radio station broadcasts only one audio program per frequency.
HD Radio, on the other hand, enables radio stations to utilize advanced technology to send multiple audio programs digitally with higher sound quality, as well as to include associated and relevant digital content and images.
For example, a digital radio receiver or mobile phone can automatically tune to digital radio programming and enable users to select from multiple audio programs on the same frequency, all while still receiving older, analog-only broadcasts.
HD Radio Can Bring India Together
India has a diverse population, with over 23 different languages and a very mobile population. Radio listening happens on-the-go. HD Radio enables the simultaneous broadcast of programming in multiple languages and allows broadcasters to communicate national, regional, and local information on separate audio channels, as well as offering diverse programming in large urban markets like Delhi and Mumbai.
In addition, it’s possible for the government’s All India Radio broadcasts to transmit the Prime Minister’s monthly Mann Ki Baat message in multiple languages. To access this content, India requires digital radio solutions for mobile handsets, such as the BeatBoy HD101 cell phone sold in the Philippines.
Community-building, Government Communications and Emergency Alerts
As well as offering India’s listeners a multimedia experience, including program-related pictures synchronized with the audio, HD Radio enables listeners to stay in touch with their specific communities through localized entertainment, information, and talk radio shows. These incude emergency notifications and alerts to warn and inform local residents of events such as storms, fires or other threatening disasters in multiple languages.
The HD Radio system can integrate with India’s National Disaster Management Agency alerts infrastructure by importing CAP-formatted alerts into the digital broadcast chain. These digital emergency alerts can provide critical notifications and text alerts to HD Radio enabled devices, which will “wake up” on detecting an alert message.
Also, HD Radio can help the government notify the public of non-critical information, such as reports on health and environmental matters from various ministries. For example, All India Radio can partner with the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to provide hourly notifications on air quality index using text and graphic notification transmitted to HD Radio receivers.
Digital India Initiative
Because it is an effective way to reach the general public with audio communications, including sending information and data to millions of devices for infrastructure and IoT services, HD Radio system can help India’s radio industry and businesses. Through the Digital India Initiative, HD Radio can facilitate the development of new applications for local services to enhance control and management of infrastructure and the power grid, send traffic services to trucks and cars to improve navigation and reduce congestion, and access IoT devices with secure unidirectional smart-messaging and control.
The Time is Now — Digital Radio and All India Radio
With adults globally listening to an average of 90 minutes of radio a day, it is clear that radio is here to stay, but only so long as it adapts to the digital consumer. India has half a billion of those digital consumers and the opportunities for increasing the scope of radio communications, both locally and nationally — all while improving the radio experience — are significant, and potentially of major benefit to India’s population.