RDS was introduced almost 30 years ago. During the introductory phase in Europe, the car industry became very involved and that was the start of an extremely successful roll-out in Europe. Shortly afterwards RDS (RBDS) was launched in the USA.

In Europe DAB is still trying to become firmly established while HD radio is growing in the USA. Though these technologies are developing, in RDS also exciting new features have been introduced.

 Will RDS be replaced by these new digital technologies within a short time?

 Despite various government plans, like a conditional analogue switch-off in Norway by 2017, it is expected that RDS will remain on the air and will co-exist alongside Digital radio implementations for the next couple of decades, certainly in the majority of European countries and for sure worldwide with only few exceptions. Why?

  • ·     FM RDS is mature, cheap and universally available.
  • ·     Traffic services TA/TP and TMC are well established.
  • ·     Due to sophisticated technologies like multiple tuners; multiple antenna systems and RDS algorithms this system is just about perfect and the perceived audio quality does not differ significantly from that heard via Digital radio.
  • ·     It is ecologically crazy to throw away millions of RDS/FM radios!

Does RDS have a disadvantage?

 The available RDS data is centered on the 57kHz subcarrier with 1187 bits/sec gross; so this is rather limited. Leaving apart the necessary elements for making the system automotive proof against multipath distortion and the mandatory programme elements like PI, PS PTY and AF’s , only a very limited data capacity is available for new features. Often choices, or a tradeoff, must be made between which applications can be applied.

For example: A rich Radio Text (RT) service or an enhanced TMC service. However it is not possible to have both simultaneously on one RDS program.

 RDS 2.0 offers extended capacity.

A couple of years ago one of the active RDS Forum members Attila Ladanyi, from TC-Holding presented for the first time an idea of how to increase the capacity. Basically both sidebands around 57kHZ with RDS should be repeated a couple times and up to a maximum of 4, these centered on additional carriers higher up in the FM multiplex.

The figure clarifies the principle.

In the meantime quite some progress has been made and the first demonstrations within the RDS Forum look very promising. As a consequence the RDS Forum took the official decision to launch the project, RDS 2.0.

 During a workshop in Budapest, from 10 – 12 November 2014, a small group of top RDS experts will work out scenarios and will report on the feasibility and make proposals about high level customer requirements and set out a roadmap showing standards and specifications. Of course complete compatibility with RDS 1.0 must be ensured. Work items will be identified which will be needed to streamline the process. A number of technical issues will also need to be dealt with like:

  1. Identify existing unused functions with RDS 1.0.
  2. Define the technical and upgradable architecture based on agreed standards and regulations
    (Of course complete compatibility with RDS 1.0 must be ensured).
  3. Consider planned FM band extensions in Brazil and China for future AF coding.

RDS 2.0 opens the door for added value features

 1.        Broadcasters and programme makers

Since it started all some 30 years ago the well-known programme service name PS is used as a visible identity to the listener. But broadcasters may wish to use more than 8 character PS and thus, there could be much more flexibility.

Logos will be attractive in addition; this could enhance the identity of the programme.

A more enhanced character coding such as UTF8 (the same as now mostly used on Internet) may be used to better serve regions like Russia, Asia and China. 

 2.        Traffic services

TMC per today is very much a motorway oriented service. However now location tables with a much higher level of detail showing more road classes are available for large urban areas like Paris, London,

 Munich and Berlin. However, currently the limited data capacity in RDS simply prevents the sending of all this information. RDS 2.0 offers new opportunities for a better and richer TMC service.

 3.        ODA

Open data applications (ODA) have proved to be an efficient way to make applications not yet specified in the RDS standard. With RDS 2.0 there is room for even more attractive applications, often of benefit to the general public, like enhanced natural disaster alarm systems or intelligent switching on/off electricity to shift power usage for devices like heaters, coolers, pool pumps etc.

 4.      INTERNET Linking

 A new possibility is offered to broadcasters to provide additional information to web connected FM receivers, including smartphones equipped with an FM/RDS chip. This possibility called Hybrid Radio is basically the combination of audio and RDS data received via FM broadcasting and additional programme related information received via the Internet with more textual information, images, animations and videos.

In France a research programme has been launched called “Hybradio” to explore the possibilities and customer added value features. Radio France together with their project partners are proposing to signal in the existing RDS stream, or on the additional carriers of RDS 2.0, URL addresses to access the  relevant information in order to explore the capabilities of these web connected receivers.

Radio France is already testing for this purpose a new ODA to demonstrate the feasibility of this particular functionality .A few use cases are being tested to find out how visual information can enhance the audio programme content.

Transmitting different URLs will allow receivers in an easy way to obtain from the Internet the programme related content. In addition, the receivers will be able to read multimedia content with a suitable player for HTML, Flash and BIFS. This will also enable to display information like logos and pictograms on a car radio for instance.



01.10.2014 (Frits de Jong, Johnny Berling, Dietmar Kopitz, Vincent Simonacci)