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Satellite Radio raga in India



April 9: WorldSpace Radio has taken one more step in India, with the launch of its Hyderabad operations. Worldspace Satellite Radio is positioned as the latest in digital radio technology, different from the conventional AM/FM radio.

Unlike conventional terrestrial signal-based radio stations we are used to, WorldSpace Radio is satellite-based. Based in Washington DC, US, WorldSpace Radio owns and operates its own satellites and provides radio content in Asia and Africa. The two satellites are Afristar (for Africa) and Asiastar (for Asia. Each satellite sends out three beams, and each beam is capable of carrying 40 digital audio channels. Which means a WorldSpace Radio receiver hooked to the satellite will be able to access about 120 radio channels with CD quality voice.

WorldSpace is a patented technology firm. The digital signal, as it is beamed down from the WorldSpace Radio satellite is encrypted. The radio receiver's chipset demodulates these signals, putting out crystal-clear audio.

A major chunk of WorldSpace Radio content is made in-house. In India, some of the local language radio channels available are Farishta, Gandharva, Spandana, RM Radio, Sparsha and Shruti.

Besides in-house content, WorldSpace Radio also has tie-ups with a variety of content providers. So you can listen to BBC News, CNN, Bloomberg and a bunch of international news providers, besides a bouquet of music and sports channels. Some of the WorldSpace Radio India channels, (all of which run 24 hours a day) are stations dedicated to Carnatic and Hindustani music. Tune into MS Subbulakshmi and Semmangudi at any time of the day! There is also a host of international pop, jazz and rock stations available. For any age and class, there is always something attractive in WorldSpace Radio.

Better be. Unlike conventional radios, WorldSpace Radio receivers and subscriptions come for a price. The receivers, (shown left) cost about Rs 2800 and above, while the annual subscription costs Rs 1200. For a while, WorldSpace Radio was a free service in India - now, it is not.

WorldSpace Radio receivers can be carried around, though mobility is sometimes limited by access to the satellite signal. Obstructions like buildings and heavily forested areas can disrupt signal reception. Technically, it can be carried if you go boating too. However, the antenna may need adjustment when you move across the satellite beam.

WorldSpace Radio is also planning to introduce receivers suited for cars. There are already some innovators who have rigged up their WorldSpace Radios for use inside cars. We believe the receivers have to be made totally portable to tap the vast majority of the Indian audio-listener market.

In India, unlike radio and TV, there is no policy framework covering satellite radio, a relatively upstart technology. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) the apex regulatory body for telecom, radio and cable in India is reportedly working on a consultation paper to prepare guidelines for the sector. Meanwhile, there are also reports that India's Department of Space (DoS) is also working on a multimedia satellite platform which can host satellite radio just the same way as WorldSpace Radio. Since WorldSpace Radio is a patented technology, others cannot use the same devices or technology; newcomers will have to find their own routes to similar audio success.


God save the Malayalee

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