private FM channels resumed services, everyone caught the
radio bug once again. I remember seeing silvery FM pocket-radios
on the footpaths of Mumbai. Like many others, I too tuned
in, but the excitement didnt last long. There were too
many commercials and jabbering RJsand less music. But
Satellite radio is different and better than conventional
radio in many ways. Its available in India and its
much cheaper than subscribing to cable or wireless services.
Satellite radio is a digital broadcast. End-users with specific
receivers can pick up programmes from the overhead satellite.
Since the broadcast is digital, reception is free from interference;
it is fade-free and offers crystal clear sound.
Capt. Mark Nazareth, who has been listening to satellite radio
for more than a year, says it is much better than FM radio
in many ways. Since the broadcast is digital you get
CD-quality sound. There is either a strong signal or no signal,
but no weak signal. Occasionally you do get a break in signal,
but that lasts for a few seconds, and its very rare.
Capt. Nazareth says he opted for satellite radio since it
offers 24 hours of music on channels dedicated to various
genres of music.
In India, you can tune into WorldSpace, which offers digital
broadcast of satellite radio and multimedia services, directly
from satellites to portable receivers or PCs. The WorldSpace
network has three geo-stationary satellites that have footprints
or spot beams over six continents. These three are: AmeriStar
(Central and South America), AfriStar (Africa, Europe, Middle
East, West Asia), and AsiaStar (Asia, East Europe, Middle
East and Western Australia).
Each satellite can support 40 satellite radio channels and
a variety of multimedia services.
The AsiaStar satellite beams both English and Hindi channels.
There are free channels and paid/coded channels. Subscribers
can pay Rs 199 for three channels for six months. This is
a recurring cost. They will receive codes for the three channels
and these codes need to be entered into the receiver. One
can also avail of additional channels for a nominal fee. For
instance one can go in for an additional three Hindi channels
by paying Rs 100 for six months.
There are news channels (BBC, CNN, RFI, WRN), info channels
and of course music channels. Here is a sampling of some channels:
Jazz: RIFF; Up Country; Dance: 24x7; BoB: Latest
rock music; The Hop: Music of the 50s, 60s and 70s; Orbit
Classic Rock; Oyeme: Latina Music.
Information on all channels is on the WorldSpace website:
All these channels cater to a specific genre of music. Whats
more they offer 24-hour programmes with minimal commercial
advertisement in between.
Besides music and news, WorldSpace also offers Direct Mediaa
service that enables you to receive content from select websites
on your PC. The content includes global news, financial, health,
sports, entertainment, and education. This content can be
selectively stored on a users hard drive for offline
To avail of this service youll need either a WorldSpace
PC card or WorldSpace PC adaptor (which connects to the data
port on your receiver).
WorldSpace receivers are available through resellers all over
Indiaor you could buy directly from WorldSpace. Youll
find a list of dealers on the WorldSpace website. The following
models are available in India: AMI (Rs. 8,490), Joygear II
(Rs 8,990), BPL Celeste (Rs. 7,390), BPL Celeste Mk II (Rs.
6,990) and Polytron (Rs 12,490). You can also buy receivers
from the grey market or from abroadbut youre unlikely
to get a warranty.
If you have a PC and broadband connection, then you need not
buy a receiver. WorldSpace offers a PC card (and the relevant
software) that converts a PC into a receiver.
The receivers usually have built-in mono or stereo speakers.
But sound quality is much better through the home music system.
So make sure the receiver has line-out, optical out (pure
digital output) and headphone sockets. Also select a receiver
that lets you preset 10 or more channels.
Most receivers have a built-in rotatable antenna. Thats
great if you plan to take the receiver on picnics. But if
your home is surrounded by lots of buildings and trees Id
recommend an outdoor antenna.
I take my receiver on the ship and have to keep adjusting
the outdoor antenna as the ship changes location. But the
movement of the ship does not affect the clarity of sound.
So I think it is better to listen from a fixed location,
says Capt. Nazareth.
WorldSpace offers accessories like standard and high gain
outdoor antennas, low noise amplifiers, and extension cables.
The antenna has to be aligned such that it is in line-of-sight
with the satellite. WorldSpace technicians or its dealers
will install and align the antenna for you.
If you are wondering what are the drawbacks, there are few.
Cost is not an issue here as the channels are really affordable.
Some may find the cost of equipment (receivers, antenna, PC
card and adaptor) steep. But users feel they are getting lots
If you love a specific genre of music like jazz for
instance, you can listen to jazz songs throughout the day.
Unlike radio, you need not tune in at a specific hour or day
for the music you like, says Capt. Nazareth.
Whats more, you can stop buying CDs and save yourself
Another drawback is that you dont get local news and
announcements on weather or traffic conditions in your city.
However, you can catch CNN or BBC news channels for international
news. Some receivers double as AM/FM/MW radios, so you can
catch local news by tuning into these stations.
The other drawback is that the receiver is specific to WorldSpace
broadcasts as the channels are coded. So if this service suddenly
closes down, your receiver becomes a showcase itemunless
it has other features like AM/FM radio and a cassette player.
But, WorldSpace has been around since 2000 and has global
investors, so theres a small chance of that happening.
So get yourself a WorldSpace receiver and tune in to satellite
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