AM bandplan - medium wave
The broadcast bandplan for medium wave in Europe is based on 9 kHz channel spacing - starting at 531
kHz and ending 1611 kHz. This give 120 potential radio channels but to avoid interference not all channels can be used in each country.
In the UK about 76 channels are used.
AM bandplan - long wave
Long wave also uses a 9 kHz bandplan (153 to 279 kHz) - however
there are some existing long wave radio stations that are unlikely to convert to DRM as their AM carrier is used for data transmissions.
The BBC uses three synchronised long wave transmitters on 198 kHz (1515 metres) to provide national coverage of Radio 4. These transmitter
sites are located at Burghead (50 kW) north Scotland, Westerglen (50 kW) in south Scotland, with the main transmitter located at Droitwich
in central England (500 kW). The stability of the long wave transmitter carrier is very accurate and can be used as a frequency reference.
This long wave transmission also carries a data signal.
Digital data is transmitted by directly modulating the 198 kHz carrier using
bi-phase encoding and provides for 16 different data channels. One data channel is used to transmit an accurate time code. Another
channel is used by the electricity companies for switching domestic storage heaters and setting off-peak electricity tariff.
- short wave
Short wave is divided up into many bands allocated to broadcasting and uses a 10 kHz interleaved channel spacing. Radio
stations broadcast on a frequency that ends in either nnnn0 or nnnn5 kHz.
With a COFDM broadcast it it not necessary to have a frequency
guard band between DRM radio stations. On medium wave there is a 9 kHz gap between stations so that the analogue IF filters in the
receiver can demodulate an AM station without the risk of interference from any adjacent co-channel AM station.
With COFDM the demodulation
is done in the ‘frequency domain’ using Digital Signal Processing software where a brick wall type filter can be implemented in software.
It is possible for DRM stations to be broadcasting right next to each other. The actual bandwidth of a ‘10 kHz’ Mode B DRM station
is nominally 9.657 kHz so there is no overlap or interference between adjacent two DRM stations.
One of the ‘killer
features’ of DRM is the ability to broadcast multimedia but any data stream transmitted has an adverse impact on the quality of the
bit rate available to the audio which has to be reduced accordingly.
To overcome this I would be in favour of allowing medium wave
stations to broadcast using 18 kHz (double channel), this is defined within the ETSI DRM specification so a DRM radio showing the
DRM logo should already incorporate appropriate filters. Some radio stations could continue to broadcast in 9 kHz channel such as
sports or news stations.
Shortwave stations that are broadcasting mainly speech (which constitutes the majority of broadcasts)
or news would find the 10 kHz channel adequate but any station transmitting music or multimedia should be allowed to broadcast
in 20 kHz.
As already explained Single Frequency Networks makes more efficient use of the radio spectrum so this increases
the available frequencies when compared to AM. Only a DRM station broadcasting in mode A or mode B using 18/20 kHz spectrum can deliver
near ‘FM quality’ audio. The audio quality will be greatly improved and the DRM station can broadcasts other services without having
a detrimental effect on the quality of the main audio. Bi-lingual broadcasts become a possibility as well as transmitting text (news,
weather, etc.) or a second audio voice giving traffic news, weather, etc. This would be an attractive proposition particular for the
‘drive-time’ shows where commercial radio makes most of its money.
I would prefer to have fewer medium wave DRM radio stations
broadcasting good quality audio than many stations broadcasting mediocre quality (i.e. DAB in the UK). More stations does not necessarily
mean more choice just more duplication of the same radio format.
A medium wave radio station broadcasting DRM will probably
need to increase the protection level at night to compensate for increased reception errors caused by co-channel/skywave interference.
At night time medium wave reception can deteriorate due to changes in the ionosphere that allow sky wave propagation. As a result
more distant radio stations become audible, these stations are not normally heard during the day and can cause interference.
However this change in protection level results in a reduced bit rate being available. Consequently the quality of the audio will
be far from the promised ‘near FM quality’ if single channel occupancy is being used. (See modes page for more examples of typical
Obviously using a double channel (18 kHz instead of 9 kHz on medium wave) halves the number of radio channels but
more than doubles the available data rate per radio station.
As already explained Single Frequency Networks makes more efficient use
of the radio spectrum so this increases the available frequencies when compared to AM.
In the UK frequencies between
1642 - 1782 kHz was allocated to analogue cordless telephones (CT1). There were 8 channels spaced every 20 kHz, these 'cordless' phones
were withdrawn from sale in 2000 with a 5 year moratorium before the frequencies could be re-allocated. In the US these frequencies
have been allocated to AM radio.
From ‘Responses to the Consultative document on the Future of Analogue and CT2 Cordless Telephony
in the United Kingdom’
..... the Government has confirmed proposals to phase-out the use of analogue and CT2 cordless telephony in
order to make under-utilised spectrum available for new and innovative applications.
If the radio authorities (Ofcom in the UK) want
to promote DRM as an alternative to AM then they should consider allocating this band exclusively to new DRM radio stations.
way DRM could be introduced without the need to replace/move existing AM stations. A DRM radio station broadcasting using 18 kHz radio
bandwidth will easily demonstrate the superiority of DRM over AM in terms of audio quality and data services. This will encourage
sales of DRM receivers which in turn will convince the owners of AM radio stations to convert to DRM.
When broadcasting in a
9 kHz channel the advantages of DRM over AM is not so overwhelming with the audio, particularly rock and pop music, sounding so heavily