The Communications Authority (CA) has developed a framework for Digital Sound Broadcasting (DSB) in Kenya. This paves the way for Kenyans to start listening to digital radio stations.
Digital radio has transformed the way listeners consume audio content, providing improved sound quality, enhanced features, and expanded listening options.
Digital Sound Broadcasting (DSB) stands out as a versatile and efficient method for transmitting radio signals among the various digital radio technologies.
Digital Sound Broadcasting services operate in HF band (below 30MHz) and VHF bands (VHF band III 174-230 MHz).
DSB Framework Timely
The CA’s survey of 2022 shows 98% of Kenyan homes have radio access. Thus, radio broadcasting is a critical source of information in Kenya with over 200 licensed broadcasters.
Sound broadcasting in Kenya has predominantly been provided through FM radio platforms. Hence, the saturation of the FM frequency allocations makes digital framework development timely.
The DSB framework was developed in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communication and the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) with support from the United Kingdom’s Digital Access Programme.
Additionally, the authority invovled other stakeholders through public consultations.
This is what Kenyans should know aboout DSB.
Licensing of multiplex operators is separate from that of content services. The CA will have licenses categorized into two. The first license will be for DSB signal distributors.
The second license will be the digital broadcasters. Digital broadcasters are the creators of the digital content.
The Communications Authority notes that they picked Key lessons from the migration to Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT). The process witnessed resistance in Kenya. Consequently, the public was subjected in some instances to misinformation.
The authority has taken the lessons and will be keen to use them as they introduce digital radio to Kenyans.
No Switch Off Date
Unlike the shift from analog Tv to digital tv , the authority will not impose a switch-off date. Kenyans will continue to enjoy analog radio broadcasts via their usual radio receivers. Also, in this instance, there is no global switch off date.
The CA plans to run and license digital radio service providers parallel with analog broadcasters.
Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) is to be viewed as an add-on technology to FM radio, not a replacement.
Digital Radio Receivers
This is a technology change. Hence, Kenyan consumers will have to purchase digital radio receiver sets. Traditional radio receivers cannot receive digital broadcasts.
Hybrid radio receivers may provide a medium to a long-term solution to enable the efficiencies of DSB broadcast delivery to co-exist with other services.
The lack of a switch-off date will enable the market to adjust smoothly and avail more digital radio receivers in local markets. Additionally, the authority will develop minimum specifications for DSB receivers.
National Digital Sound Broadcasting Committee
This will be established and the main objective will be regular meetings to review trials, technical plans, business models, promotion of DSB roll-out, and market development.
The committee will have all key industry stakeholders and will play a critical role in DSB’s introduction.
Nairobi to Pilot Roll Out
First, the CA will implement a DSB trial network in Nairobi and its environs. The objective of the trial rollout is to demonstrate the benefits of DSB to Kenyans.
The pilot will also allow the CA to build local capacity and minimize implementation risks before confirming investor commitments to the first phase actual roll-out.
The pilot phase is between March 2023 to December 2024.
Advantages of DSB Radio
Enhanced Sound Quality: DSB radio offers superior audio quality compared to traditional analog radio. DSB radio eliminates background noise, interference, and signal degradation by converting the audio signal into digital data, resulting in crystal-clear sound reproduction.
Increased Signal Coverage: DSB allows for better coverage and reception compared to analog systems. DSB radio signals can be transmitted over long distances without significant degradation, ensuring a wider reach for broadcasters and improved reception for listeners in remote areas.
Efficient Spectrum Utilization: DSB radio optimizes the use of radio frequency spectrum by enabling more channels within the same frequency band. This increased spectral efficiency allows broadcasters to provide a greater variety of programming options, leading to a more diverse radio landscape.
Data Services and Interactive Features: DSB radio enables the transmission of supplementary data along with audio signals. This feature allows broadcasters to provide additional information such as artist names, song titles, news updates, and programming schedules.
Additionally, Kenyans can receive emergency and traffic alerts directly to the receiver’s display. Furthermore, there is a chance for interactive services like song purchases, voting, and audience feedback.
Low Cost of Entry:
For broadcasters, digital radio offers them the advantage of quick and affordable entry into the market. This has the potential to increase service coverage and accommodate new content service providers.
This means a radio station based in Wajir can reach more Kenyans. On the other hand, Kenyans will benefit from more content and diversity of choice.
Statistics and Impact of DSB Radio:
According to the World DAB report, by the end of 2021, over 100 million receivers capable of receiving DAB and DAB+ signals were sold worldwide.
In Tunisia, the DAB+ trial began in 2008. In 2010 adjunction of two other transmitters was installed leading to a DAB+ population coverage of 25%. As of 2020, about 71% of the Tunisian population has access to Digital radio service providers.
Europe is one of the Markets where the adoption of digital radio has been massive. The UK has been a frontrunner in the adoption of DSB radio. As of Q4 2021, 72.4% of new cars in the UK were sold with DAB as standard, marking a significant increase from 6.8% in 2010.
Germany has witnessed remarkable growth in DAB radio sales. In Q4 2021, 2.68 million DAB+ radios were sold, representing a 15% increase compared to the previous year. In Australia, the cumulative number of DAB+ radios sold surpassed 11 million by the end of 2021, highlighting the country’s strong adoption of digital radio.
DSB radio has revolutionized the world of digital broadcasting by offering enhanced sound quality, extended coverage, efficient spectrum utilization, and interactive features.
As the statistics demonstrate, the adoption of DSB radio continues to grow worldwide and Kenya can’t afford to be left behind. Surely, this will contribute to a richer and more engaging radio listening experience for audiences.
With its numerous advantages, DSB radio is poised to shape the future of broadcasting and redefine the way we enjoy audio content in Kenya.