DRM feeds RNZ Pacific relays

(Source: Radio World via Mike Hansgen)

RANGITAIKI, New Zealand — Radio New Zealand Pacific, the official international arm of Radio New Zealand, is using Digital Radio Mondiale digital radio transmission/reception equipment to feed studio-quality audio to some of its 20 relay stations in the Pacific Ocean region. The others use satellite feeds or web downloads.

The locations being served by DRM include the Cook Islands, where RNZ Pacific’s programs are rebroadcast locally in analog mode by Aitutaki 88FM, the islands’ only broadcaster. RNZ Pacific also serves Tonga, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands using DRM; among others. Previously, RNZ Pacific had fed its relays using analog AM shortwave radio, with that transmission mode’s limited audio range and interference issues.

“When DRM became available to us in 2005, we saw it as a great opportunity to provide high quality audio to Pacific radio stations that relayed our news broadcasts from our AM transmitter,” said RNZ Pacific’s Technical Manager Adrian Sainsbury. “As a platform to deliver good quality audio to remote island FM stations, it has been a great success.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

As the article points out, RNZ has been using DRM as a feed for quite a few years. I think this is a brilliant use of the technology. Of course, those of us in the rest of the world can snag RNZ DRM broadcasts as well.

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20 thoughts on “DRM feeds RNZ Pacific relays

  1. Mangosman

    Nigel,
    I hope you have made a submission to https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/review-australian-broadcasting-services-asia-pacific which closes on Friday. I have seen some very heavy hitting submissions which should be published after the closing date.

    I hope that the Broadcast Australia, Radio Australia/ABC’s transmitter contractor installed Continental Electronics Model 418G-DRM transmitters Shepparton and Tennant Creek 17 years ago are still there. https://contelec.com/418g-drm100/ shows it is still a current model so it’s not old technology. These transmitters are the same power as the Radio New Zealand International transmitter.

    Reply
  2. Keith Perron

    RNZI is really the only broadcaster that is using DRM< in a way it was meant. It's perfect for relay purposes.

    As for listener receivers? it won't happen. It's time has passed.

    Reply
  3. RonF

    > “Australia should look at using DRM as well for RA plus getting the ABC to remote communities …”

    Too late; transmitters are gone & it’s now the official policy of the party currently in government to privatise the ABC (which includes RA).

    >”… and surely someone out there can make a cheap (under $50) DRM receiver”

    Nobody’s managed it in 15 years. In that time there’s been nearly 60 receivers announced, only about 15 made it to market, and not one of them under $200…

    Reply
    1. Nigel Holmes

      wrong #1 The transmitters & other plant are mothballed. I patted one just last week.

      wrong #2 No, it is not the policy of Liberal or Labor (the only parties in AUS that will ever form a Govt.) to privatise the ABC.

      Reply
      1. RonF

        #1: My apologies – I had previously been told (by someone in a certain ex-Govt-owned transmission provider in a poisition to know) that Shepparton was to be decommissioned & the transmitters removed after the NT sites, in preparation for an expected quick sale. It appears my information was wrong, or maybe outdated due to changed circumstances.

        #2: Then the Federal Council of the Liberal Party shouldn’t have tabled, ‘voted overwhelmingly in favour of’, passed, and adopted into their federal platform the motion for “full privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, except for services into regional areas” at their last meeting in June.

        (Yes, I am aware of the differences between the Liberal Party’s Federal Council, Federal Executive, and Parliamentary Wing. Regardless of what senior ministers have since said about what this current incaration of the Parliamentary Wing will do, it is now official Liberal Party policy to privatise the ABC.)

        Reply
  4. Jason

    Australia should look at using DRM as well for RA plus getting the ABC to remote communities, and surely someone out there can make a cheap (under $50) DRM receiver?

    However, on another note:
    If you click through to the radioworld article, check out the photo of the laptop at Aitutaki 88FM

    Crikey! Is that Windows 95?

    Reply
  5. Tom Servo

    I never understand the people who say “where are the radios” because anyone with an SDR has a DRM capable receiver already. All they need is a virtual audio cable and DREAM and Bob’s you’re uncle. That surely is a pretty substantial user base in the US and Europe at this point, right?

    It’s not like you need a thousand-dollar unit to do this, either. I’ve gotten several DRM decodes over the recent few years with an inexpensive SDRplay RSP-1 and a fairly old Windows computer.

    We are at a point now where “lack of physical radios” is becoming slightly less of an issue, in my opinion, as the hobby begins shifting towards affordable SDR solutions.

    That said, a sub-$300 quality shortwave portable with DRM capability would go a long way towards putting the tech in the everyday hobbyist’s hands.

    Last but not least, RNZI isn’t the only one using DRM these days. RRI still uses it for eastern and western Europe broadcasts, many of which can be decoded easily along the eastern US seaboard when conditions are good. RFI and the BBC still seem to be using them from Europe-only broadcasts. Kuwait is doing an English broadcast in DRM that has occasionally hit the US and regular reaches Europe. There might even be someone I’m forgetting.

    Even religious broadcaster WINB has been testing on two frequencies with DRM lately.

    I do wish that a few would actually aim DRM broadcasts directly at the US, though. When the HFCC had a DRM demo beamed from Santa Maria di Galleria to the conference that was held in Miami, I had a killer signal here in Alabama, and put the demo loop up on YouTube because it was my first DRM decode.

    Reply
    1. Laurence N.

      The reason that I’m making such a large point of it is for two categories:
      1. The people who use shortwave for information’s sake. I don’t really care about the hobbyist community. The hobbyist community can use whatever they like, be that SDRs, radios that cost $800 US, antennas that require a large yard for placement… this isn’t available to the people who really rely on shortwave. Neither RNZI nor any other DRM broadcaster are broadcasting in that way for the benefit of hobbyists. In fact, nobody is broadcasting for the benefit of hobbyists except people for which broadcasting on shortwave is their hobby (certain American broadcasters spring to mind).
      A sub-$300 portable radio is not going to help the people who could get measurable benefit from DRM receivers. Having a set that is affordable to them, of course a bit more expensive but not ridiculously so, would be very much so. Such a set would have its compromises for the price, of course, maybe having worse speaker quality, less selectivity, or poor performance on analog, but people who had trouble receiving analog shortwave on their similarly cheap sets would be able to get better quality reception, giving them a significant boost in the information they can receive. Nothing approaching that exists.
      2. Hobbyists that don’t want to be ridiculous. While I said I don’t care about hobbyists, which is generally true, it isn’t that convenient for a hobbyist who hasn’t got a large pile of equipment to receive DRM, either. You can become a shortwave hobbyist with a $25-$40 radio. It will have many problems, and you’ll probably need to replace it at some point, but you can receive with it in some conditions. For analog shortwave, a hobbyist can upgrade and get a $100-$150 radio, which will work well for many things. Many popular sets described here are at that pricepoint. They work alone, can receive most things, and are sensitive enough to allow some interference so the user doesn’t have to be in the middle of nowhere for reception to work. It is not possible to get something to decode DRM at that price. The SDRs that are capable of doing so are at least that price if not significantly more (until anyone decodes DRM on an RTLSDR, I’ll not change my mind), but you need serious antennas, which are either experiments in DIY engineering skills or the quickest way to get someone to ditch the hobby, because most antennas are large, complex, and seemingly made of platinum given the price.
      If you wanted to interest someone in shortwave, you could give them a radio and say “Just extend the antenna, type in 6000 on this keypad, and you will hear radio from Cuba”. For DRM, it’d be more like “Buy this USB thing for $199 US. Trust me, you’ll want it. Then download this software and install it, but make sure your computer is inside because the RFI could mess something up. Then take about thirty meters of plain wire and shape it into a loop that is correct for the frequency you’ll be receiving. Add a tuning capacitor in line with the input wire, follow this twenty-step guide for the assembly of the antenna power system, for which you’ll need a soldering iron and about ten pieces of electronics you can buy at your local component manufacturer, connect a quiet power source, link it through the wall so your computer stays inside. Then click these six buttons, enter your frequency, and you’ll hear radio from New Zealand. Or maybe you won’t because something’s wrong.”
      I’d really like DRM to succeed, as it would put an end to the rather irritating event where you have tuned into something you’re interested in and static rises to blot out the part you wanted to hear. However, until a cheap set exists, the people who need DRM won’t get it. Until a conveniently cheap set for American and European markets exists, I won’t use it. If I am going to sit in front of a computer, I might as well stream it. The quality will be fine and I have to fight with less. The major reason not to do this that I’ve seen is the discussions of the “spynet”, which really doesn’t interest me. I’m not in a repressive country (if I were I’m sure they would be jamming the DRM signal anyway), and if I want to prevent some undefined watcher of my traffic from knowing what I’m doing, I have the expertise to do so. True, there are a few downsides with streaming audio. I’d love it if I could just receive the waves and it starts working. However, DRM is failing to make that option available for me or anyone.

      Reply
      1. RonF

        I’d disagree a little with some of your “hobbyist” category 2, at least on a couple of points:
        – A hobbyist with even a cheapish analogue radio with accessible IF can receive & decode DRM. All it takes is a cheap/simple IF downconverter + computer running DReaM. Done it myself using various radios – an old Panasonic portable, a Tecsun PL-660, and a couple of Yaesu comms receivers.
        – Plenty of examples of hobbyists decoding DRM with a RTLSDR dongle (& computer/tablet running DReaM), either using direct sampling to get HF coverage or an HF->VHF upconverter. Again, I’ve done it myself using a RPi, dongle, & simple upconverter.

        I do largely agree with your overall thrust, though…

        Reply
  6. DanH

    What DRM capable shortwave portables with external antenna provision are currently available? Would I need to invest in an SDR to do this? I receive RNZI very well in Northern California. I have heard what resembled brief digital test signals on these frequencies on rare occasions. The current RNZ Pacific DRM transmissions are scheduled from 16:51 to 20:50 UTC at frequencies below 10 MHz which is not exactly optimal for my propagation window.

    Reply
    1. DanH

      According to the article at Radio World (I Googled it) the RNZ Pacific receiving stations use a laptop computer with “DRM software radio” and loop antenna.

      Reply
    2. RonF

      Portables, & currently available? The only one is the Avion AV-DR-1401.

      I had the opportunity to play with one in India a couple of years ago and, some severe UI/operational issues aside, it’s a passable US$50 radio. Unfortunately, it costs closer to US$300…

      Apart from that you could wait and see if the Titus II ever leaves “real soon now” status. Then there’s the Gospell GR-216 (mains-powered, but possible to rig for battery use) and maybe the GR-227 (car radio adaptor) – but the latter seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.

      Reply
  7. Tom Reitzel

    Thomas,

    The link appears broken … I don’t have time at the moment to investigate.

    Yes, RNZI has been using DRM in this manner for years. RFI has been testing DRM similarly over the past years as well.

    I don’t really care. DRM and other digital radio technologies are now at the stage of FM decades ago so their future is bright on MW, HF, and VHF. DRM radios in India’s automobiles are becoming quite common. The main problem in DRM’s adoption HAS been the ancient, analog thinking of the current crop of broadcasters which is slowly yielding to the digital mindset of younger broadcasters. Listener preference is largely a matter of age and wisdom. The Spynet users of today will be the anonymous radio listeners of tomorrow. 😉

    Reply
    1. Laurence N.

      I disagree. Digital radio does seem to have a bright future in the realm of VHF, but not anything like DRM. We have DAB and HD as those possibilities. I’ve seen absolutely nothing about DRM on the MW spectrum, and the only real broadcaster using DRM for shortwave that I can think of is New Zealand. However, the major problem is what I mentioned earlier today–the DRM used by New Zealand is really just sending the signal to a set of complex decoders that rebroadcast the content. Who is there with a radio set that is actively decoding the signal itself? I’m not counting those people who are interested in the subject so are using an SDR to pick up what they could stream already. Where are the DRM radios you buy at the store and turn on? The ones that would be affordable to the standard resident of a first-world country whose hobby isn’t tuning into shortwave, let alone a resident of a lower-income country who actually needs to receive this? They don’t exist. Anyone who currently gets news by tuning a shortwave radio is going to keep using analog signals, because the technology they should need, the same technology the DRM advocates should have invented in 2002, is unavailable.

      Reply
      1. Tom Reitzel

        Wrongo on a massive scale … Although I can’t stand state broadcasters, AIR has certainly changed the radio landscape in India with their deployment of DRM. DRM receivers are being designed and sold in ever increasing numbers in both automobiles and for homes in India and elsewhere. Remember, India has 3x the population of the USA so the market is certainly there in India and slowly developing elsewhere via shortwave. New digital SW broadcasters will probably include WINB and WBCQ for example as well as AIR.

        The naysayers against DRM’s eventual success are clearly losing even with the withdrawal of many state SW broadcasters. I suggest these naysayers suppress their hatred of DRM long enough to look objectively at India despite AIR’s generally poor production. 😉

        Reply
  8. Julio Cesar Pereira

    There you are. I read here an account of NASA’s Space Weather Girl about the important use of Over the Horizon radio. Well, RNZI is confirming its importance by using DRM technology instead of satellite. Anotner score for Ham radio and SWLers!

    Reply
  9. Laurence N.

    That is a rather good use of the technology, but the fact that I have to say that shows that DRM is not working. A shortwave radio is not more expensive than an FM radio, so the only reason people can’t just tune into the broadcast directly is that there aren’t any convenient DRM radios available. The radios that people reading this blog buy, that cost hundreds of dollars and don’t really work, don’t a good technology make. Some of this could be explained by the fact that few broadcasters are using DRM, but there really aren’t that many people using shortwave that a standard non-hobbyist wants to tune in and yet companies continue to churn out inexpensive shortwave sets. I don’t know if anyone ever plans to fix this problem, but if the DRM people want to do something useful, perhaps they could design a basically functional set that can be made by some existing radio manufacturer (but not one that intends to sell it to the hobbyist market–how about one of the cheap Chinese companies) and make those plans available?

    Reply

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