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Digital Medium Wave

You are in: Devon > Digital Medium Wave > Your questions answered

Plymouth Hoe

Digital Medium Wave - your questions answered

Digital Medium Wave is otherwise known as DRM - Digital Radio Mondiale. But what is it? And why is the BBC trialling it in Devon?

What is Digital Radio Mondiale?
Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is the digital replacement technology for short-wave, medium-wave and long-wave radio. It offers the benefits of digital radio - clear, consistent audio quality and easy-to-use reception - to these frequency bands. DRM has been under development for a while and is standardised across the world. The letters 'DRM' can also stand for a number of other things, so to keep it clear we're referring to the technology as 'digital medium-wave'.

Is it available throughout the UK?
No. We're running a 12 month trial to assess the technical aspects of the technology. These trial transmissions will only be available to those with a suitable radio in the Plymouth area. It'll be the first trial of digital medium-wave in the UK.

Is DRM available outside the UK?
Yes. There are several countries trialling DRM but principally for international broadcasting using short-wave. We already make the BBC World Service available in DRM to some parts of Europe and north Africa and other broadcasters are also experimenting with the technology. For information about the BBC World Service's transmissions on DRM, visit their website. And for more information about the services from other broadcasters, visit the DRM consortium's website.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Do I need to buy a new radio to listen to digital medium-wave?
Yes. There are a number manufacturers in the UK who are planning to produce digital medium-wave capable radios, although none is yet ready to buy in the shops. As they are not yet readily available, we're not able to say how much a digital medium-wave radio will cost.

How is the trial going to work?
We'll broadcast a test digital medium-wave - DRM - transmission on 855 kHz from the Plymouth MF transmitter in place of the AM transmission that's currently there. We're looking to recruit around one hundred people as an audience panel for the trial. These people will be provided with suitable radios, as well as being asked to complete a number of listening diaries and questionnaires. The trial will start towards the end of April 2007 and last for twelve months. If you'd like to volunteer to take part in the trial, you can apply here.

Why is the BBC running this trial?
We have a long tradition of trialling new technologies in order to understand their characteristics and benefits for our audiences. The trial will give us useful information about the practical issues surrounding digital medium-wave reception inside listeners' homes. Although the BBC World Service has experience of using this technology both on short-wave and on medium-wave, none of these services is intended for UK audiences.

What service is the BBC planning to broadcast using digital medium-wave?
The BBC's trial will broadcast the Plymouth version of BBC Radio Devon. We have no plans to introduce any new services.

Why is the BBC spending money on trialling new transmission technologies?
The BBC has a clear remit to undertake research and development into broadcasting technologies. The BBC has contributed to the development of the DRM standard so far and now needs to determine what role digital medium-wave has to play in the digital future. This trial will help us do that.

Who is providing the transmitter for the BBC's trial?
The BBC is working with National Grid Wireless, who currently provide all of the BBC's analogue television and radio transmission services, in this trial. You can find out more about National Grid Wireless on their website.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Why is the trial only taking place in Devon?
The trial needs to be conducted a well-defined area and re-using the medium-wave frequency for BBC Radio Devon in Plymouth presents the right technical conditions. BBC Radio Devon is now available on 95.7 FM, DAB digital radio, and online in the Plymouth area, which means that its medium-wave frequency can be released for the trial.

Will you make the results of the trial public?
Yes. The BBC and National Grid Wireless intend to publish the results after the end of the trial. A copy of those results will be available from this website.

Does this mean that the BBC is giving up on DAB?
No, absolutely not. DAB is an established technology in the UK and we already have an extensive DAB network carrying our national radio services. We also make our local and regional radio services available on DAB wherever we can and we fully intend to continue to do so. We're exploring the whole digital future for radio, where services are delivered by the most appropriate mix of technologies - DAB, DRM, or over the internet. This trial will help us explore what part DRM has to play in that future.

When will the BBC make other services available on digital medium-wave?
We're not able to make any long-term commitment to provide services on digital medium-wave for any of our UK audiences. The trial is intended to help inform our future digital radio strategy.

Why can't I receive BBC Radio Devon on 855 AM medium-wave?
In order to trial the new digital medium-wave technology, we're re-using the 855 AM frequency in Plymouth. That means that the AM service that was there previously will be switched off on 1 April 2007. In order to continue enjoying BBC Radio Devon, you'll need to re-tune your radio to 95.7 FM - or find us on DAB digital radio.

Is it only BBC Radio Devon in Plymouth that's affected?
Yes. Only the 855 AM frequency is affected by the trial. Listeners to BBC Radio Devon on any of our FM frequencies aren't affected, nor are those listening on 801 AM in Barnstaple, 990 AM in Exeter or 1458 AM in Torbay.

How can I take part in the trial?
Simply follow this link to more details. You'll be asked to complete a short questionnaire and leave your details. If you are successful, you will be invited to BBC Radio Devon's studios in Plymouth in mid-April to collect your radio. We're looking for a representative sample of listeners so we're afraid that it's likely that not everybody who expresses an interest will be able to be part of the trial.

How long will the trial last?
The trial will start in April 2007 and will last for 12 months.

Where can I find out more about DRM?
There's a wealth of information on the Internet about the technology behind DRM. A good place to start is with the DRM website, or with this article written by one of the BBC's engineers who helped to develop the standard. And there are further technical publications about DRM on BBC Research's site.

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