Commercial Radio wants a nationwide roll out of DAB+ for emergencies | radioinfo

Commercial Radio wants a nationwide roll out of DAB+ for emergencies

Friday 14 February, 2020

Commercial radio stations are calling on the Federal Government to spend $80 million in an accelerated roll-out of DAB+ technology.

According to the SMH, SCA’s Grant Blackley wants the Morrison government to spend the money over a four-year period to ensure regional Australians have access to digital radio technology, saying, "It would provide us an opportunity, in times of crisis, to put up a dedicated 24-hour station to make sure people get minute-by-minute updates over a secure line.”
"We're calling on the government to roll-out the infrastructure. We will bear all the operating costs. This is not uncommon with what TV operators negotiated not too many years ago. The government provided $2 billion [to fix black spots]."
CRA’s CEO, Joan Warner, told the SMH, "Having government support to help roll-out digital radio to regional Australia will improve our ability to meet the increasing challenges of emergency broadcasting. It's an efficient platform that allows broadcasters to provide more stations, including pop-up stations for specific needs, as well as text information on screen such as news and phone numbers.
"Beyond the emergency broadcasts, we want to close the digital divide. Regional listeners should be able to enjoy the same benefits of digital sound and more music choice as listeners in metropolitan areas."


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14 February 2020 - 4:02pm
IF we had a low band digital solution such as HD radio in the US I'd be all for it, but we don't. DAB+ still operates at 201-206MHz which means coverage is going to be even more limited than the current low power FM transmitters that exist in towns in WA, NT, SA, and parts of rural NSW and QLD.

Commercial radio has been keen for some time to move AM transmitters over to FM to reduce coverage footprint to just their license area, to prevent listeners having a choice from other nearby towns and paradoxically, this call to DAB+ to give listeners more choice actually gives listeners more channels controlled by the same few big commercial players.

Small and local community operators are squeezed out of the process, as are new commercial entrants. SEN in South Australia has multiple AM transmitters (Adelaide, Port Augusta, Mount Gambier, etc) but has no presence on DAB+ and a number of community stations in Adelaide aren't on DAB+ either - just a few very large ones and most of those aren't entitled to have extra digital channels.

No wonder people are going across to the internet and IMO this money should instead be spent further improving mobile coverage along national highways so that listeners can stream non stop on a drive from say Adelaide to Perth or Adelaide to Darwin.
14 February 2020 - 4:42pm
the future is 5G/6G with streaming media services, and emergency broadcast information on your mobile device/ app.
The Fed govt needs to start the process to close down the AM/FM/DAB bands.

14 February 2020 - 7:39pm
DAB+ Emergency Warnings were tested in Darwin for the ACMA by Grant Broadcasters. They had the emergency services creating the data for insertion. The ACMA has removed the report from their website.

Emergency Warning system can not only wake radios and listeners in the middle of the night, as well as selecting the broadcast automatically, it can also transmit maps, Journaline indexed text messages for detailed instructions along with TPEG data of blocked roads which will get the GPSs in vehicles to recalculate the route around the emergencies. In addition these messages can be geo-located so only receivers within the disaster area will be activated. The accuracy can be as tight as 7 km x 7 km.
Unfortunately, virtually no DAB receivers outside of cars have a display which can display more than a single line of scrolling text. We need radios capable of responding to the above standards including a phone sized colour screen to be really useful.

The other issue is signal reliability. In capital cities the coverage area maps do not show black spots like which is based on antennas being 10 m above the ground. DAB+ is between the VHF TV channels so the signals behave in the same way.

DAB+ is the wrong technology for regional areas. It operates at twice the frequency of FM which reduces the coverage area diameter but also there are black spots caused by the terrain.

DRM is much better because it can operate in the old TV channels 0 - 2 which requires 1/12 of the radiated power than for DAB+ to cover the same coverage area. It is also less affected by the terrain. submission 4
Now one transmitter can carry 18 programs like DAB+. DRM also has an identical Emergency Warning System and as a driver moves from a DAB+ area to DRM the receiver will automatically switch to continue the warnings.

Anthony The Koala
16 February 2020 - 3:58pm
Has there been any thought to using the L-band for either DAB+ or DRM transmissions? L-band operates in the frequency range 1.452–1.492 GHz and is transmitted from a geostationary satellite. Other services, for example services such as the GPS operate on this frequency band.

I am not an RF/antenna engineer, but the L-band's footprint can be designed to cover the whole country. In addition, the radiated power from an antenna on a satellite is significantly lower than those of terrestrial transmitters.

While many readers believe that DAB+ only covers the VHF band, there are receivers on the marketplace which are capable of receiving L-band such as the Pure Siesta clock radio and the DAB+/AM/FM radio installed in today's Camry to name a few.

Having surveyed both DAB+ and DRM receivers, most have a single line scrolling text display, though both systems allow for larger graphic displays. From the survey, larger displays on DAB+ and DRM receivers are rare. That may well change if there if there is demand for DAB+ and DRM receivers with larger displays. Manufacturers and retails have their part to play in meeting that demand.

Mr StJohn mentioned that DRM handles a text/html type protocol and there is a wakeup facility on the DRM receiver if an emergency arises. I would presume that the DRM receiver would have a standby battery if the region declared by the authorities to be an emergency area has no power. Otherwise an emergency signalling system on DRM would be useless if the power is cut in the emergency region.

In the end, would the ACMA consider using the L-Band satellite transmission to cover the whole country instead of relying on terrestrial transmitters?

Thank you,
Anthony of Belfield

17 February 2020 - 7:12pm
HD radio digital signal is 1 % of the power of the AM broadcast and as a result has a small coverage area. You are right about DAB+ coverage area. A better option is to use DRM in the 47 - 68 MHz range to give 18 programs per transmitter mounted on the TV towers. DRM can also be used by the community broadcasters who missed out. There are only 8 DAB+ transmission channels where as for the above DRM there are 168 channels available. It is not economic to provide mobile coverage for every km of road in Australia and the area in between. High powered High Frequency DRM can do this from a single site in the centre of Australia.

5G in its high speed mode needs a repeater every 900 m, it won't go through walls, wet tree leaves etc.
The cheapest way to distribute program to large numbers of people is broadcast which is one way not 2 way for phones/internet. DAB+ is ideal for high population densities where we use it and DRM for any population density because it can cover much larger areas at lower cost and is suited to transmitting small numbers of programs where as DAB+ is designed for large numbers of programs.
Geo-stationary satellites are at 36,000 km above earth and the signal is weak when it is spread all over Australia.
There are no L band broadcasts anymore. The Canadians used it for DAB and it was a disaster. Poor coverage terrestrially. It was trialed in Australia, but the antenna must see the sky, Thus it won't work in side or through trees or in heavy rain. Satellite capacity is more expensive and you need a program for each of 5 time zones.
All DRM radios can show much more than a single line of scrolling text. Check out Journaline and slideshow.
High powered High Frequency DRM is a cost effective way of covering the whole country which can include the EWS. In addition the EWS signal can also be radiated by the ABC/SBS DAB+ transmitters, however nearly all non automotive receivers can only display one line of scrolling text. What we need is for only fully spec'ed DAB+/DRM receivers which can operate from 500 kHz to 230 MHz.
Anthony The Koala
18 February 2020 - 1:37am
Dear Mr StJohn,
Thank you for your very informative reply on the feasibility of the L-Band. It is very instructive that a paper produced by the ABC in 2010 at

While the signal may well be very weak from a satellite 36000km above the Earth's surface, one would think that the forward error correction utilized in satellite DVB would correct any errors due to propagation and any intermittent attenuation of the signal from the satellite transmitter(s).

Nevertheless the ABC report on page 8, 2nd paragraph, mentions the unsuccessful trials of DAB in the L-Band in Germany and Canada because of coverage reasons and lack of consumer demand ("acceptance"). The report did not elaborate on the problems of "coverage". Though you did mention that L-band reception must "...see the sky..." and its signal is attenuated by rain and cannot penetrate trees.

However the ABC report page 8, third paragraph did mention that L-Band transmissions may be used to fill in for black spots in the future.

You mentioned about the dynamic text "journaline" which is a hierarchical system of interactive textual information, like news, or graphics. The interactive aspect of the information does not mean a handshaking/protocol and user information is returned from the user's receiver to the radio station.

Journaline can be implemented in DRM and DAB transmissions and implementers of the technology must pay a licence fee to Fraunhofer,

Although section 6 of the Broadcast Services Act no.95 (Cth) as at 12 December 2019, section 6 definitions "digital program enhancement content", and "datacasting service" mentions the use of text or a combination of text and graphics.

There is no limitation to the definition of "text" in both "digital program enhancement content" and "datacasting service" though the latter transmission of text requires a separate transmitting licence and the user having "equipment appropriate to receive the datacast".

In either case of transmissoin of "text", there appears to be no limitation to the kind of text whether static or dynamic for a broadcast or datacast. If there is an issue, then the Minister can clarify this by issuing a legislative instrument pursuant to s6 "digital program enhancement content", subsection (c).

Emergency warning system.
The problem with transmitting emergency information under the DAB system is that "scrolling text" is not always activated in the DAB receiver. I've raised this issue elsewhere on this site that the user may want to have the time and date displayed and may not be viewing the scrolling text. There is no 'wake up' facility should the DAB scrolling text contain emergency information.

In spite of DAB's limitation not to wake up the radio, a person listening to a radio station could be informated by the presenter to switch the user's radio to scrolling text for emergency information.

A further issue with DAB's scrolling text, is that most DAB receivers are have a display of one to two lines and the scroll speed cannot be adjusted for fast or slow scrolling.

In the matter of DRM implementing the EWF ('Emergency Warning Functionality'), a policy/protocol must be established between the emergency authorities and the National and/or commercial broadcaster in co-ordinating to enable the dissemination of emergency information from the broadcaster's server, page 5.

A protocol is required to disseminate the emergency warning to the broadcaster whether through a DAB scrolling text or DRM's EWF.

During the conflagration of the East Coast of Australia, there was the issue of who should co-ordinate the emergency, whether by Federal Government's Military Forces (Army, Air Force and Navy) or by the various State's RFS ('Rural Fire Service') or SES ('State Emergency Service'). I mention the SES in case the disaster is a cyclone. Then when it comes to the Weather through the BOM ('Bureau of Meteorology') or a geological event through Geoscience Australia.

Whoever coordinates the emergency, a protocol must be established as to the delegation of the warning messages to the broadcaster.

In end, as Mr StJohn said, regardless of a DRM and/or DAB broadcast requires receivers to be , "...fully spec'ed DAB+/DRM receivers which can operate from 500 kHz to 230 MHz. I would also add that the receivers must have larger displays especially avoiding the slow scrolling time under a one or two line display.

Thank you,
Anthony of researching Belfield
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