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FM Radio: Focus shifts to spectrum planning

04-September-2004
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FM Radio: Focus shifts to spectrum planning

Action in private FM radio has now shifted to spectrum planning. An expert team is at work to assess frequencies which can be repeated for the second phase of private FM radio. It is important to make this assessment because only four mhz of frequency is available for private radio players in the country, according to sources close to the development. On the whole, All India Radio and private FM players have a total of around 21 mhz of frequency (87 to 108 mhz).

Spectrum planning which focuses on frequency repetition is referred to as ‘Lattice Planning’, AIR chief engineer H O Srivastava said. The objective behind this kind of spectrum planning is to increase the number of transmitters on the same frequency without any interference, he said.

Interestingly, the focus now is also on city or district-centric planning, rather than ‘universal’ planning of the first phase, sources said. In effect, the height of towers for putting up transmitters is expected to be lower than it was in the first phase of private FM. In metros, the prescribed height of towers in the first round of private FM was 300 metres. However, in smaller towns, the towers could be as low as even 75 metres. For the second phase, the exact size of the towers is yet to be decided. Transmitters are also expected to be less powerful in the second phase, sources said.

With shorter towers and less powerful transmitters, an overall cost advantage of 20 to 30 per cent is likely, industry sources said. Also, the idea is to have more FM radio stations in the second phase. While phase one was spread over 40 cities, phase two would be across 70 cities/towns/districts. In the first phase, a total of 37 licences were issued, out of which 22 became operational. Even out of 22, one had shut down. In the second round of privatisation, 210 radio stations are expected across 70 cities (three licences each).

The expert team, assessing frequency requirements, has members from the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of the Communications Ministry, All India Radio (AIR) and Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (Becil).

As for sharing of a tower for putting up transmitters, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants six cities (four metros, along with Bangalore and Hyderabad) to go for it. However, no decision has been taken on the same. In the first phase of privatisation, metros were told to co-locate. But, Mumbai players have transmitters on separate towers due to technical problems. According to experts in the area, co-location of transmitters or sharing of tower by all the players in a city is meant for “uniform signal” for all.

Last month, Trai had issued recommendations on the second phase of private FM radio. But, government is yet to take a decision on it.

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