DRM: a solution to the “medium-wave problem”–?

(Source: Radio World)

Is medium wave in decline? Some people think so.

In the 1950s radio was declared mortally wounded by TV. But then FM with its new music rescued it, becoming one of the most successful technologies and platforms ever. Radio survived and thrived but AM should have died at the hands of the nimbler, younger and more attractive FM.

Only it did not and the medium reinvented itself by using presenter-led programming, commercial music and sport. In the United States it took until the end of 1990s for the FM and AM audiences to be equal and to this day the big AM stations are going strong, bringing in the ad dollars.


Still, it’s undeniable that the whiff of decline has enveloped AM in the past two decades. The reasons are well-known: Analog medium wave doesn’t always deliver the best sound, it can suffer from interference, it can behave annoyingly different by day and night and even by season. Medium wave mainly appeals to a maturing population (a global phenomenon, considered shameful by some!) using aging receivers (this is bad!).



Recently cricket fans were able to enjoy an open-air demonstration of three different DRM programs on one frequency ahead of an important match in Bangalore. The fans also received data (stock exchange values) available on radio screens. This demonstrated that digital DRM is a game changer for medium wave.

In DRM the crackling audio disappears as sound is as good of that on FM. The electricity consumption and costs decrease, the spectrum is trebled and reception, even in cars (as available in over 1.5 million cars in India currently) is excellent, too.

If it is so good then why isn’t DRM medium wave conquering the world faster? Maybe it’s about confidence in a new platform. Broadcasters and governments need to market DRM digital radio once signals are on air in their countries.

As for receiver availability and their costs, let us remember how many receivers were on sale in the 1970s when FM was taking over the world. Nowadays, many listeners consume radio in their cars rather than sit in front of a retro looking wooden box. Digital receivers (DRM alone or DRM/DAB+) are a reality and a bigger push for digital would help with volumes sold thus bringing down the prices.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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8 thoughts on “DRM: a solution to the “medium-wave problem”–?

  1. Jason

    Some of us younger people /do/ want to get away from the hyper-individualized filter-bubble and just turn on a general content source that is curated by somebody else. This is especially true when we are busy devoting cognitive resources to other things and don’t want to flip through a podcast list or pick a music stream. CBC Radio 1 is doing quite well, for example, in this area (FM, but talk). It’s just that nearly all the content both AM and FM is pretty stale. There are a few audiences that are catered to and most are completely ignored. Sure, better audio quality and pictures/text might be nice, but people are going to want to see useful content. Medium wave has the opportunity to fully blanket a larger regional area in a way no other terrestrial band can, so the actual frequency band is not “obsolete” at all.

  2. RonF

    So, after recounting how it was near-mortally wounded decades ago and survived only by adapting its programming to suit a new audience, the solution is … ignore the fact that the programming is once again stale, the audience they targetted decades ago is now ageing and declining, and current audiences are no longer near-captive and years ago moved on to other options that suit them better, and bet the farm on the idea that forcing potential listeners into an expensive change of technology will save them?

    As Principal Skinner said: “If I were a truant boy out for a good time, I’d be right here: the Springfield Natural History Museum … Why, there are no children here at the 4H club, either! Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong!”…

  3. Mangosman

    All digital radio and digital TV systems including mobile phones contain delays. The reason is that the audio is stored in digital form and sent out in a pseudo random order. At the receiver the signal has to be stored so that it can be re-ordered back to the sequential order prior to decoding. In addition to this delay error correction data is added and is used to correct any errors once the signal is back in sequential order. This enables reliable reception in the presence of bursts of interference. Typical sources of burst interference is all forms or arcing including lightning but also on power lines, car ignition systems etc. A new source of interference is switchmode power supplies used all modern electronics including LED and many electrical appliances.
    Note delays in mobile phones and internet is caused by the fact that the sound data is sent in bursts which don’t necessarily travel the same routes. The phone has to store the bursts until it can output them in sequential order. When you are at a large sporting venue the cell tower at the ground becomes busy increasing the delay. If it becomes excessive the signal drops out.
    As for buying of DAB+ receivers, now over 60 % of new cars have DAB+ reception installed prior to delivery.
    I also suggest you read https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/the-future-delivery-of-radio-services-in-australia including all the submissions.

    1. RonF

      From one of the submissions: “ACMA to investigate in the Australian context the use of Near Vertical Incidence System which aims the signal at the ionosphere and have it shower around the transmitter site at 26 MHz”


  4. Jason

    I noticed the article at radioworld mentions Australia. The biggest problem with using DRM in our market is a lot of people in cities have bought DAB+ receivers, and DAB receivers are in newer vehicles. All of those millions of people will not be keen to buy new radios again.

    On top of that issue is the broadcasters, who have spent several years and many millions promoting DAB as the solution to any AM interference woes.

    Also, I’ve never used DRM, does it have the same delay that DAB does? If it does then it’s completely inappropriate for live sport. If you are just listening on the radio, that maybe fine, but many people listen to the radio at the game or while watching the TV coverage, and the delay would be just too great to be useful.

  5. Donald Glocka

    There are SO many inaccuracies in this article I don’t know where to start. FM radio did not “rescue” AM in the 50’s as FM did not become a noteworthy viable alernative until the late 60’s. AM did not truly reinvent itself with Sports programming as it had ALWAYS carried local professional sports programming. AM saved itself with talk radio not sports and that was in the 80’s not the 90’s. And drivers have ALWAYS listened to radios in their cars and they still do, millions of times a day. We have always started our days by starting the car, putting it in Drive and turning on the radio. My memories of that date back to the late 50’s. I could go on but whats the point?

    1. rtc

      It’s odd to see Radioworld championing DRM now…they were a major proponent
      of IBOC and digital only AM IBOC previously.
      Times must be changing (reality is setting in).

      1. Mangosman

        The publisher is now an English company!
        Also DRM is covering 600 million people in India which is nearly double than North America. Many of the AM HD radio transmitters have reverted to analog only due to interference particularly at night.
        In 18 months there are now 1.5 million Indian cars with DRM receivers which were installed on the production line.

        IBOC has two major problems particularly in the AM band in North America. In all but one transmitter it uses both adjacent channels which particularly in the medium frequency band causes lots of interference and it causes the digital signal to be very weak compared to the AM or FM channel it surrounds. In India the DRM digital signal fits into one adjacent channel if in simulcast mode. The Indians transmit pure DRM for an hour every day except Sunday from all 25 very high powered transmitters, one of which is over 1000 kW and an HF DRM transmitter whihc operates almost continuously dual language DRM to international audiences. The single medium frequency digital only transmitter in the USA transmitter is no where near that power. The maximum AM power allowed in the North America is 50 kW.


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