Digital broadcast launched, ever so long ago, TV and radio. So what’s the big story here? It’s that the last piece of the digital jigsaw is finally in place: a system called Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), designed to deliver FM-radio-like quality using the medium-wave and short-wave bands.

The real power of 5G

We’re familiar with AM on medium wave and accustomed to the horrible buzz, splat, fade away and back again. But it does have a great advantage in that it will reach for hundreds of miles from a single transmitter. That’s a lot further than FM or DAB, which both need transmitters every 30 or 40 miles. No fewer than 443 DAB transmitter sites are needed to cover the UK alone!

So take a modern digital scheme, apply some clever (and low cost) modern computing power, and you can get good sound for hundreds – even thousands – of miles. You get to choose radio stations by name instead of kilohertz, and you can even receive text and pictures. Emergency warning and information features are also built into DRM.

Great technology. But will it fly? Is it available for everyone?

India, through its national broadcaster All India Radio, has invested in and rolled out a national DRM service, live today. Just 31 transmitter sites cover that large country and billion population using medium wave. Over 3 million cars in India have DRM radios in them now. Other countries like Malaysia, South Africa, Brazil and others are following India’s lead.

But something’s missing. The radios that can receive DRM are still pretty expensive, especially for those markets that would benefit most. So vast swathes of the world remain unconnected to the services that DRM can provide. Where’s the cheap portable that you can pick up from a supermarket to listen to the news or sport?

Cambridge Consultants has worked with CML Microcircuits Ltd to create a DRM module available for less than ten dollars in volume, which can run for over 30 hours from a pair of AA batteries – or indeed from solar or wind-up. It addresses that vital need for information by the 38 per cent of our global population that doesn’t have internet or TV.

This module is entering production so that high volumes will be available mid-2023. It will be available for radio manufacturers to incorporate into their own products, and from the main-line distributors by anyone. We’re doing our bit to make affordable radios for every corner of the globe!

Tim Whittaker
Senior Consultant - Professional audio and video

Tim works with our clients to develop products based on wireless connectivity, artificial intelligence and digital service innovation – delivering leading-edge performance often at industry-best prices, based on innovative use of low-cost technologies. He has a background in broadcast and live sound, as well as several decades managing and delivering best-in-class technology.

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