March 2018


Digital Radio Broadcasting has existed since quiet sometime, worldwide. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has recommended 4 major standards, viz:

 DAB,


 HD Radio and



Unknown to most, AIR has already started Digital Radio Broadcasts (DRB) in the MW (Medium Wave) & SW (Short Wave) radio-frequency bands.

37 digital AIR transmitters using the DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) standard are now operational. This completes Phase-1.

Phase-II will enhance the features of these transmitters.


So far there has been no progress in providing Digital Radio in Band-II (88 MHz to 108 MHz) used for FM radio.

Hence, TRAI has proactively issued its recommendations for offering Digital radio in the FM (88 MHz to 108 MHz) frequency band.


While analog FM radio provides only 1 channel per frequency, Digital Radio can carry multiple radio channels per frequency.

Further, Digital Radio Broadcasting (DRB) can be carried simultaneously, in the same frequency band as FM Radio, without interference.

The digital radio signals can be carried in the 200 KHz space kept between 2 analog FM Stations.

Digital Radio Can be Carried Simultaneously With Analog FM Without Interference.


In its recommendations "Issues related to Digital Radio Broadcasting in India", the TRAI's key recommendations include: 1. The Private sector be permitted to provide Digital Radio Broadcasting 9DRB) services within the existing FM frequency band ( i.e Band II) of 88 MHz to 108 MHz.

2. The 200 KHz bandwidth spectrum between 2 allocated FM frequencies, should be auctioned for providing DRB services in category A+ (4 Metro cities) & subsequently in category A cities (8 cities).

Broadcasters Can Choose Any ITU Standard

3. All Phase 3 FM Radio license holders be offered to also start Digital Radio Broadcasting. They will be required to pay the difference of the auctioned price of DRB spectrum and what they have already paid for their FM license. If the DRB auction price is less than the FM price, no extra amount is payable.

4. DRB broadcasters can use any of the 4 technologies recognised by the ITU. Why this move to be technology agnostic, seems laudable, in fact could prove detrimental. The biggest impediment to roll out of DRB in India is the lack of receivers. It may have been better if the recommendations stipulated DRM (Digital radio Mondiale) already deployed by AIR, so that there is an adequate demand for a specific type of DRB receiver, encouraging mass local production and lowering their price to consumers.

5. No date for digital switchover of radio broadcasting services should be declared at this stage. Existing analog FM Radio channels should be allowed to remain operational for atleast the remaining period of the Phase-III permissions.

No Compulsory Switch Over To Digital Radio Has Been Recommended


Many industry pundits feel its already too late for any new radio technology, to become popular with consumers.

The internet has emerged as a popular alternate medium for video and audio transmissions & there are several thousand Radio stations available free on the internet. Their use is gaining momentum, as bandwidth prices plummet.

There may be few takers for the proposed DRB radio licenses, from both, broadcasters and consumers. n