The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has launched the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB+) Pilot Project, which, according to them, will revolutionise radio broadcasting in the country.
Initiated at the UCC Headquarters, this pioneering project signifies a monumental leap in broadcasting technology. It aligns with international agreements and national standards, setting the stage for a digital transformation in Uganda’s audio broadcasting landscape.
The DAB+ Pilot Project, operating under the guidelines of the Uganda Communication Act 2013 and the ITU’s Geneva 2006 Agreement (GE06), is a one-year initiative to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of digital audio broadcasting in Uganda.
The project focuses on the Greater Kampala area, with a coverage radius of approximately 80km, and is being implemented in Spectrum Band III (174 – 240 MHz), reserved for such services.
DAB+ technology stands at the core of this project, offering enhanced audio quality, reduced interference, efficient spectrum utilisation, and additional features compared to traditional FM radio.
The technology supports text, images, and program guides and is energy efficient, providing a richer and more diverse listening experience. The project also involves the distribution of DAB+ receivers to select users to gather valuable feedback.
The primary objectives of the DAB+ Pilot Project are multifaceted. It aims to assess the technology attributes of DAB+, understand the prerequisites for a national rollout, evaluate market readiness through listener feedback, encourage digital content development, and inform policy & regulatory requirements for the introduction of digital audio broadcasting in Uganda.
The project seeks to address the limitations of FM radio by offering clearer sound quality, broader coverage, varied content access through a multiplex model, additional data services, and superior energy efficiency.
DAB+ also presents cost-effectiveness through its ability to broadcast multiple stations on one frequency, allowing for cost-sharing and potential long-term savings.
Upon completing the pilot phase, the Commission plans to engage stakeholders on the next steps regarding the digital sound broadcasting standard.
Addressing potential interference between FM and DAB+, UCC assured that interference challenges can be managed and minimised with careful planning, regular equipment maintenance, and collaboration among broadcasters. DAB+ can coexist with FM broadcasting.
UCC also highlighted that several countries globally and in Africa, including South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Botswana, and many European and Asian countries, have explored or adopted DAB+, with mixed experiences regarding benefits and challenges.