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Owdjim
04-04-2006, 11:14
Hi All

The following was posted to the MWOZ mailing list by David Onley - from ACMA website.

Cheers, Chris

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ACMA issues revamped digital radio trials policy

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released updated policy guidelines for digital radio trials using the broadcasting services bands.

‘The guidelines take account of the government’s digital radio policy framework, broaden the scope of the guidelines to include the MF-AM band and set out a broader range of factors ACMA will take into account in considering whether to approve trials,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.

Mr Chapman made the announcement in his speech to the Australian Broadcasting Summit in Sydney today.

In a related decision, Mr Chapman announced that ACMA has decided to make spectrum available in the MF AM band on 1386 kHz in the Wollongong region for a digital radio trial. TJH Systems, a broadcasting engineering consultancy firm, will operate a trial of digital radio technology using Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) for a period of six months from 1 April 2006.

‘ACMA’s decision follows consideration of all requests to use the 1386 kHz frequency. There is interest in its use for community radio and open narrowcasting radio broadcasting, and competing applications to trial digital radio technology,’ said Mr Chapman.

Trialling digital radio technologies is an important informer of the introduction of digital radio in Australia, providing the government and ACMA with more information about the utility of spectrum and the performance of digital radio systems than the mere modelling of services will allow.

ACMA has decided not to re-open the Sydney licence area plan to further consider the use of 1386 kHz at this point in time. Instead, ACMA has exercised its power to make spectrum available on a short term basis for another use while leaving the frequency in the licence area plan for potential use as an analog community radio service.

ACMA’s policy on digital radio trials can be found on the website

Mr Chapman’s speech is also available on the ACMA website.

Media contact Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.

Backgrounder

There is competing demand for the use of MF AM 1386 kHz from those wanting to use the frequency to trial digital radio services and those wanting to use the frequency for community radio or open narrowcasting radio services.

The frequency is currently shown in the Sydney licence area plan as available for a community radio broadcasting service. However, following a selection process the ABA decided, in 2003, not to allocate the licence. Concerns about the Homebush site prevented the ABA from making the frequency available for other broadcasting purposes at that time. Ongoing discussions have been taking place with NSW State planning bodies since that time.

There has been considerable interest expressed to ACMA and the office of the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts by parties seeking to obtain an analog community radio service. There is also interest in ACMA re-planning and auctioning the channel as an open narrowcasting channel.

In November 2005, ACMA adopted the general policy of considering further analog use of MF spectrum on a case by case basis, having regard to the utility of that spectrum for use by DRM digital radio services. This is in order to preserve options while the DRM standard matures and consumer receivers become available. DRM is better suited than most other digital radio technologies at covering the wide regional areas due to its ability to use the MF Band.

The MF AM frequency 1386 kHz appears to have utility for use as a DRM digital radio service.

In July 2005 an application was received from TJH Systems for use of MF 1386 kHz for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and the US In Band On Channel (IBOC) systems for technical trial purposes. In December 2005, WorldAudio Limited, a MF Narrowband Area Station operator, applied to trial MF 1386 kHz for DRM in Sydney.

In October 2005, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts announced the policy framework for the introduction of digital radio which included the Government’s view that technical trials of digital radio technologies including DRM need to be undertaken to determine which technologies or combination of technologies will best serve people living in regional and remote Australia. DRM is better suited than most other digital radio technologies at covering wide areas due to its ability to use the MF Band.

In assessing competing applications for digital radio trials, ACMA takes the following into consideration:

* the purpose of the trial;
* the date and order in which the applicant expressed interest in conducting a trial;
* the preparedness, and supporting evidence, of the applicant to commence a service on the nominated date;
* the nominated date and duration of the trial;
* whether the trial could practicably proceed using a different location or channel;
* the willingness of the applicant to sign an undertaking in relation to the short term nature of trials;
* in light of Government policy for the introduction of digital radio, the utility of the trial proposal;
* willingness to work with ACMA where information gathered from the trial could be of interest to ACMA or the Government as well as the triallist;
* such other matters as ACMA considers relevant including information that will enable ACMA to have regard to the objects of the legislation and the regulatory policy.

Digital radio trial reports

ACMA has already been provided with some very useful information and data as a result of some current digital radio trials in both Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney, Commercial Radio Australia has conducted an investigation into the comparative signal strength inside and outside different types of buildings. Two key findings are that brick and wood dwellings have the lowest signal losses while shopping centres have the highest. Also, apparently, there is little difference between L band and VHF band III penetration for steel and concrete structures. This kind of empirical data is invaluable if ACMA is to add value to long running discussions about the respective merits and use of L band and VHF band III for Eureka coverage.

In Melbourne, Broadcast Australia is currently trialling the Eureka 147 system and wants to trial a system incorporating AAC+ coding and its variants. The use of AAC+ coding is of particular relevance to Australia, given that the government has indicated it will give radio broadcasters 128 kilobits per second for Eureka 147. Currently with 128 kbps, Eureka 147 can deliver FM-like quality. If the AAC or its variant the AAC+ codec is used for Eureka 147, the implication is that near-CD quality could be achieved with around 64 kbps. This means broadcasters would obtain at least equivalent benefit from 128 kbps as they current obtain from over 200 kbps.

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