The HD Radio system is the world’s highest performing digital FM system, operating in North America and other countries since 2002. More than 2,700 radio stations deliver 4,700 digital audio programs to active listeners, writes Ashruf El- Dinary, SVP, Xperi Digital Platforms and HD Radio
Digital radio broadcasting is an exciting new service for AM and FM radio stations. When digital broadcasting technologies were introduced nearly 20 years ago, an era of nearly limitless new programming opportunities for broadcasters and their listeners was ushered in. With proper implementation and support, digital broadcasting enables radio stations to penetrate deeper into local markets with compelling new content. , extended audio and data services and 21st century multimedia formats.
So, unlike streaming, digital radio broadcasting is not just enhanced broadcasting, but provides equitable access to information for all. In addition, it allows to increase the content of the programs and the multimedia services with a better quality than the analogical radio.
With growing worldwide adoption, several digital radio broadcasting standards have been defined, some of which are already operational in countries in North America, Europe and Asia.
In most markets where digital services have been introduced, digital radio has generated new business opportunities for radio station owners, allowing radio to compete more effectively with other communication technologies.
It has also spawned services that simultaneously benefit broadcasters and listeners, including new audio channels, real-time emergency alert notifications, text and visual information related to the current program, and data services. additional providing enhanced traffic notifications, weather reports and other local content.
With these additional digital channels now available to consumers, radio stations can target audience segments more closely, while still serving their core audience.
Digital radio comes to India
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has authorized new FM auctions to support digital radio services in 2018. According to this consultation report, radio stations are allowed to use their spectrum allocation for both analogue and digital services.
In early August 2022, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) released a report by Ernst & Young on the future of digital broadcasting in India.
Many of the topics discussed in this report parallel other digital radio markets around the world, including the need for a smooth transition to digital operations, the importance of accessible consumer receivers, enabling notifications emergency through digital radio broadcasts and the need to limit additional license fees to broadcasters.
The HD Radio™ broadcast technology aligns with the key findings and recommendations set out in the report.
The HD Radio system is the world’s highest performing digital FM system, operating in North America and other countries since 2002. More than 2,700 radio stations deliver 4,700 digital audio programs to active listeners.
Collectively, these radio groups provide over 41 million hours of digital radio programming to over 400 million people. With nearly 100 million radio receivers sold, millions of consumers have excellent experiences with digital services, as highlighted by the IPSOS 2021 survey on consumer satisfaction with HD Radio products.
Over 96% of respondents were satisfied with HD Radio products and services with clear support (92%) for clear reception and better sound quality than analog radio. These excellent experiences translate to 94% of HD Radio listeners recommending the products to family and friends.
As digital radio expands in India, radio stations will be able to expand their services and enable new technologies, delivering content to a larger portion of the population.
With HD Radio broadcasting, radio listeners across North America have access to up to 4 digital audio programs on the same radio station transmission, supporting programming in multiple languages and building communities. Each of these audio services supports synchronized metadata for the program via text and image transmission protocols.
Emergency Alert Notifications provide real-time notification of rescue warnings. And data service protocols highlight broadcasters’ ability to support communication with connected cars and IoT platforms. Advertisers also benefit from HD Radio services through high-value visual advertisements on the radio screen. Overall, HD Radio services offer benefits for broadcasting and exciting new services for consumers.
A key takeaway from Ernst & Young’s report concerns the regulatory policy needed to support a smooth transition to all-digital broadcasting. What would that require? that analog transmissions and digital transmissions operate simultaneously on the same frequency assignment without interruption or interference to either service.
This simulcast requirement would ensure that listeners will continue to receive current analog programming on existing radio receivers, while new digital receivers will be able to access both analog programming and new digital services. This approach, recommended by E&Y, enables a smooth transition to digital radio, which HD Radio services have successfully implemented in North America.
Another key finding of the report highlights the need for low cost radio products, particularly for the integration of digital radio services into mobile handsets. The integration of mobile phones is essential to the success of any new digital technology. After all, radio listening on mobile phones accounts for about 75% of radio listening in India.
The integration will ensure everyone has access to services and information, and this is also something that HD Radio has achieved: they have successfully integrated digital radio services into mobile handsets, a good example of this is their integration in the BeatBoy phone model which sells in the Philippines for around 1600 rupees (20 USD).
Another focus of the success of digital radio, especially in India, is to support “Make in India” initiatives. The National Electronics Policy 2019 (NPE 2019) has prioritized the electronics manufacturing sector as one of the important pillars of the Government of India’s “Make in India” and “Digital India” programs. Total investment in electronics manufacturing for 2025-2026 is US$300 billion and mobile handset manufacturing itself has been assigned a target of US$180 billion, of which US$55 billion US dollars for exports and US$125 billion for domestic consumption.
The HD Radio team is experienced in building manufacturing ecosystems and actively contributes to this goal by working with its hardware development, software development and testing partners in India.
We have established strong relationships with our partners in India to integrate our digital radio technology into cars and mobile phones, which will provide access to the growing number of export markets for brands and manufacturers. We also see a strong opportunity with MEITY’s Center of Excellence initiatives to create consumer electronics designs for domestic markets as well as for export to the world.
These are just a few of the ways HD Radio technology not only sets best practices for digital radio implementation, but also offers a global paradigm for how digital radio can connect broadcasters. and listeners and make digital radio accessible and equitable for every community.
Author Ashruf El-Dinary is SVP, Xperi Digital Platforms and HD Radio. The opinions expressed are personal.