The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has launched an inquiry to review and determine the prospects of digital sound broadcasting (DSB) services in South Africa.
The inquiry also aims to unpack how the implementation of DSB – an audio broadcasting technology – could improve spectrum efficiency and management.
In line with this, Icasa gazetted a discussion document on DSB services on March 29, inviting stakeholders’ input within 45 working days.
“The digital migration process, albeit [with a] focus on television services, will be able to make radio frequency spectrum available, which is currently occupied by analogue services for other broadband and broadcasting services,” said Icasa councillor Dimakatso Qocha.
There is currently a scarcity of frequency modulation (FM) frequencies, leading the authority to publish a moratorium on the licensing of class community sound broadcasting services on the 87.5 MHz to 108 MHz broadcasting band.
“This development, among others, highlights the need for an alternative sound broadcasting system,” Qocha explained.
New, more spectrum-efficient digital technologies should be considered to accommodate more broadcasters in frequency bands such as the 240 MHz frequency band that has been allocated to digital sound broadcasting, the document highlighted.
“Digital radio is also easier to use or tune in than analogue radio in the form of amplified modulation (AM) and FM. Data capabilities of digital radio can be used directly or modified for other related broadcasting activities, such as Internet radio,” Icasa noted.
To examine the potential feasibility and impact of DSB services in South Africa, the discussion document will consider the Digital Migration Policy and the legislative framework for DSB.
It will also consider the various trials undertaken on different DSB technologies; international signatory agreements and existing standardisation and frequency bands for DSB; international benchmarking in regions where DSB is already operational; and a market analysis incorporating statistics on the radio audience profile, radio advertisement spend and radio listenership.