Crossed signals as TRAI seeks to cut frequency spacing

In a bid to ensure better utilisation of radio frequency spectrum, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that the frequencies for FM radio channels within a licence service area should be released with a minimum spacing of 400 KHz from the current 800 KHz.

Several FM radio operators, however, believe this will impact the quality of signal reception.

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The minimum channel spacing is the frequency separation between the adjacent channels’ carrier frequencies and is an important parameter affecting the reception of individual channels on the listener’s FM radio receiver set

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting had asked TRAI to reconsider the minimum channel spacing in August 2011.

In its release, TRAI said: “With the improvement in the quality of radio receivers, penetration of digital devices such as mobile sets among masses and alternative designs of FM radio transmitter setups , it is now technically feasible to transmit more FM radio channels with reduced channel spacing in a given licence area.”

Mr Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD, Radio One, said: “A majority of people use low-end analogue receivers to listen to private FM radio stations. The reduction in frequency gap would worsen the quality of reception.”

He added that this would lead existing players to incur huge cost to effect this technological change and would adversely impact the market share of the existing radio players.

MIXED REACTIONS

In response to TRAI’s consultation paper, another FM radio operator, Radio City, has said that the reduction of the frequency gap to 400 KHz would “hamper the proper enjoyment of the content and programmes provided by the private FM Radio broadcaster to the general public.”

The company also said that additional frequencies would lead to the entry of multiple channels in cities where current players are struggling to break even.

But others differ. Ms Smita Jha, consulting head entertainment and media, PwC, said: “In principle, this decision recognises the fact that spectrum can be looked at to create more frequencies making the radio business more sustainable.

Though it might lead to a slight impact on quality of service, keeping in mind the larger view, the recommendation should be acceptable.”

The real reason could be the revenue impact. Many FM radio operators believe the revenue potential of individual cities is still not large enough to sustain more frequencies and will, in turn, impact revenues of the broadcasters.

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