TRAI paves the way for digital broadcasting in India
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has submitted its recommendations on digital broadcasting in India, paving the way for FM radio companies to enter the new market.
India has 322 FM radio stations operational in 86 cities by 34 private FM broadcasters as of the end of September 2017.
With the public broadcaster AIR and private FM radio, 210 community radio stations (CRS) are present in India.
TRAI said there is a need to facilitate digital radio broadcasting in India to effectively utilize the spectrum in the VHF-II band for radio broadcasting, to provide diverse content and other value-added services to listeners in the radio.
The government is expected to notify the digital broadcasting policy framework in India with a clear roadmap for the deployment of digital broadcasting services.
The WPC wing of DoT is expected to make changes to NFAP-2011 to allow radio broadcasting, including digital radio broadcasting in the MW, SW and VHF-II frequency bands, which are already identified and used for radio broadcasting in India.
The private sector should be allowed to provide digital broadcasting services in the existing 88-108 MHz frequency band used for FM broadcasting.
The frequency and geographic coverage planning for digital broadcasting for the 600 KHz vacant spectrum between two FM frequencies allocated in the VHF-II band is expected to be completed by BECIL, AIR and WPC together within three months for the category A + (4 metropolitan cities), and category A cities (8 cities) in the first phase.
The frequency and geographic coverage planning for digital broadcasting services in the VHF-II band for the rest of the country is expected to be completed by BECIL, AIR and WPC together in a second phase.
Frequency and geographic coverage planning for digital broadcasting services using the VHF-III spectrum band (174-230 MHz) should also be done by BECIL, AIR and WPC together in the third phase, once this spectrum is released. .
WPC must notify the channel plan for each type of digital broadcasting technology. The 200 KHz bandwidth spectrum between two FM frequencies allocated in the VHF-II band is expected to be auctioned to provide 42 digital broadcasting services in category A + (4 metropolitan cities) and category A cities (8 cities) immediately after the notification of the policy for digital radio broadcast and notification of the channel plan by WPC.
The auction should be carried out in phases – starting with cities in categories âA +â and âAâ, then moving to cities in other categories.
After the auction of the spectrum for digital broadcasting, an offer should be made to the existing FM broadcasters to obtain their existing frequency bandwidth of + 100 KHz, which has already been auctioned to them in the phase III of FM radio. , liberalized and provide broadcasting services in simulcast mode with analogue FM radio services.
For the liberalization of the existing spectrum, already allocated to FM broadcasters in phase III of FM radio, they will have to pay an amount equal to the difference between the price determined at auction of the equivalent spectrum for digital broadcasting in a city and the amount paid for FM radio frequency allocation.
In the event that the market determined price of 200 KHz for digital broadcasting is less than or equal to the price paid by FM broadcasters, FM broadcasters will not be required to pay an additional amount and will be allowed to provide services as well. digital broadcasting. for the remaining authorization period.
Broadcasters should be allowed to use any available digital technology recognized by ITU in the allocated / liberalized spectrum to provide digital broadcasting services subject to adaptation. No digital switchover date for broadcasting services should be declared at this stage.
Existing analogue FM radio channels should be allowed to remain operational for the remainder of their Phase III licenses. The continued operation of existing analogue FM radio channels that do not migrate to digital broadcasting should be reviewed after the expiration of their existing Phase III licenses.
The auction of the remaining Phase III channels is expected to be done by decoupling them from the technology. Broadcasters should be allowed to use any technology (analogue or digital or both) for radio broadcasting on their allocated frequency by auction in the future.
In the event that broadcasters opt for digital technology, they should be allowed to broadcast more than one channel subject to technical feasibility on a single allocated frequency. For the first three years following the declaration of the digital broadcasting policy, the government should grant tax incentives in the form of lower tax rates to manufacturers of digital radio receivers.
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