Communications regulator Icasa has taken the first step to possibly introducing digital radio broadcasting in South Africa. The authority has published a discussion document on digital sound broadcasting services to solicit feedback from the industry.
South Africa has run several trials involving both digital audio broadcasting (DAB+) and digital radio mondiale (DRM) technology, but no commercial services have been launched to date. DAB is effectively a digital alternative to the analogue FM band, while DRM is effectively an alternative to AM broadcasts. Both offer better quality and more services than they analogue counterparts.
Icasa said it intends conducting an inquiry into the prospects of implementing a digital sound broadcasting service in South Africa.
“Digital broadcasting service is an audio broadcasting technology aimed at providing superior quality sound broadcasting service using digital communication technology,” the regulator said in a statement.
Digital services differ from traditional analogue broadcasting services in that signals can be transmitted successfully at lower transmitter power, Icasa said.
“Digital radio is also easier to use and tune in to than analogue radio,” it said. “Data capabilities of digital radio can be used directly or modified for other related broadcasting activities such as Internet radio.”
Councillor Dimakatso Qocha said digital radio, if and when implemented, could help improve spectrum efficiency and management, and offer more choice for consumers.
Parties interested in commenting on the discussion document must make representations with 45 days.
The discussion document is available on Icasa’s website.
TechCentral held a round-table discussion with key figures in the radio industry in South Africa in 2017 where digital radio was discussed in detail. The panellists were Primedia Broadcasting CEO Omar Essack, Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (Sadiba) chairman Lynn Mansfield, South African DRM consortium member and adviser to Radio Pulpit Chris Joubert, and Dave Cherry, chairman of the Sadiba/National Association of Broadcasters Digital Working Group (focused on DAB+). You can listen to that podcast here. — (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP