Digital radio trials extended to test new technology

New policy to be developed

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMA) is extending the current Eureka 147 digital radio trials in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Melbourne trial, which is being conducted by Broadcast Australia, has been extended until June 2008 while the Sydney trial which is being conducted by Commercial Radio Australia will continue through to December 2008.

According to Giles Tanner, general manager of ACMA's Inputs to Industry Division, information gathered in relation to the digital radio trials has been important in the development of the Australian Government's digital radio policy.

'The extension of the trials will enable the testing of recent technological advancements which, if successful, will allow for significantly improved spectrum efficiency and quality of sound.

"These trials will provide further valuable information for both government and industry," an ACMA spokesperson said.

The trials, which are using VHF Band III spectrum, have been conducted on an ongoing basis since November 2003 for Melbourne while the Sydney trial began in November 2004.

While ACMA's trial policy claims it can only facilitate trials of a short-term nature only, in this instance, ACMA believes they should continue.

This is because spectrum has been identified by the government for digital radio with permanent digital radio services expected to commence from January 1, 2009.

The ACMA is currently working on a new trials policy for broadcasting services bands and non-broadcasting services bands spectrum.

This new policy will ensure flexibility in situations such as this one where spectrum is already identified for long term use by the type of service proposed for trial.

The objectives of the trial were to:

Field-test the proposed new DAB audio encoding system LFA960;

Establish relative dropout rates as function of signal strength;

Test CRC predictions of threshold-of-audibility and point-of-failure;

Subjectively assess relative performance of current and proposed new encoding systems.

Trial reports are available on ACMA's Web site.

There remains capacity for other Eureka 147 triallists in Melbourne and in other areas of Australia (MF and VHF bands).

Anyone who has an interest in trialling digital radio can apply to the National Licensing and Allocations Branch in Canberra.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2007 was passed in May 2007.