After private FM radio, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has got active on the satellite radio front. Till date, there are no policies or guidelines for satellite radio players in India. The regulator has asked for industry inputs, by January 31, on issues relating to this service. The objective is to prepare a policy framework.
Among other issues, Trai would look at level-playing field between satellite radio service and private FM radio, regulation of broadcast content, licence fee and receiver inter-operability requirement.
At present, WorldSpace, with two beams — Africa and Asia — is the only satellite radio system operating in India. It offers around 40 channels to 50,000-odd people, according to a Trai recommendation. In the US, however, there are two satellite radio operators — XM Radio and Sirius Radio.
WorldSpace is operating in India for the past five years or so, after having obtained an FIPB approval for setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary. The subsidiary carryies out software programming activities, imports digital satellite receivers and accessories and also carries out revenue collection services on behalf of its parent/associate companies.
According to Trai, satellite radio is used for video and data broadcasting also. So, it can also be useful as a disaster warning system, especially for a vast country like India.
“India, with its large geographical size, is well placed to benefit from a satellite radio system unlike smaller countries. The large size of the country makes it very difficult to provide timely warning to people living in remote areas for dealing with natural disasters such as cyclones and floods,” it has said.
The entire country is still not covered fully by medium wave and frequency modulation broadcasts, even decades after broadcasting started here. The combined AM and FM broadcasts cover about 99.13% of the country’s population and about 91.37% of the geographical area. FM covers 30% of the population and 21% of the geographical area. In contrast, satellite radio has the potential to reach 100% of the Indian population (geographically), according to Trai.