Digital Radio Mondiale Tests Underway in Alaska

According to my pal Bennett Kobb, limited tests of the DRM broadcast protocol are now taking place on a station in Alaska specifically licensed for the research. It is important to note, however, that the tests do not involve the broadcast bands – although Digital Radio Mondiale has been certified to work on them all.
Instead, the ultimate hope of these DRM tests is to assess the protocol’s performance in the 26 MHz segment of the spectrum. This falls between frequencies designated for radio astronomy and maritime mobile use – and, according to the experiment’s proponents, could be utilized to provide “hundreds” of new, low-power community-based broadcasting stations across the country.
It is a daring aspiration: instead of fighting for crumbs on the already-congested traditional broadcast bands, or lobbying for a wholesale replacement of the flawed HD Radio technology, U.S. DRM proponents would like to see this digital broadcast service be implemented as a wholly new program.
The license for WE2XRH was granted by the FCC in July, for limited testing in some shortwave bands; the company running the tests, Digital Aurora Radio Technologies, hopes this will be a step toward expanding DRM’s use in other spectrum. It claims that with just 10 to 20 kilohertz in bandwidth, DRM can provide “FM-like” quality to the entire state of Alaska on up to four separate channels of programming. Successful tests of DRM in the 26 MHz band have already been conducted in India.
What is notable about this experiment is the duration and at least one of its affiliates. WE2XRH (click here and type in the station’s call letters for all technical notes and FCC activity to-date on the station) hopes to be operational for up to two years. The Department of Defense is also heavily involved in the tests, reportedly curious as to the propagation and throughput-capacity capabilities of Digital Radio Mondiale for battlefield purposes.
I’m sure having the DoD on board helped the FCC to expedite the experimental license; I sincerely hope its influence does not hijack the good intentions of those who’ve done so much to introduce DRM to our shores.