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What is RDS?

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That means RDS

Have you stumbled across the abbreviation RDS and wondering what's behind it? We'll explain it to you..

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Image: <span> Slava Dumchev / Shutterstock.com </span>

Anyone who deals with their car radio or the radio function on their smartphone will quickly come across the abbreviation RDS. In this article you will learn what the abbreviation means and what features RDS offers.

That means RDS

RDS is the abbreviation for Radio Data System (in German about "Radiodatensystem"). It is a system for the transmission of digital data via analogue VHF radio (ultra-short wave) and has existed since 1988. The broadcasters use RDS technology to transmit additional information on the current radio program. RDS enables special functions, including:

  • AF (Alternative Frequency): If the current frequency of a station is too weak, the radio switches to an alternative, better frequency of the station.
  • CT (Clock Time): The radio clock is set according to the radio station.
  • EON (Enhanced Other Network): The radio switches to another station in a station group (e.g. NDR, BR, ...) for the duration of the traffic reports if the current station does not offer traffic information.
  • PSN (Program Service Name): The name of the radio station is transmitted and can be displayed on the car radio, for example.
  • PTY (Program Type): The stations are assigned to genres (e.g. pop, news, ...).
  • REG ON / OFF: Regional broadcasters have a relatively narrow broadcast area. If you come to the outskirts, the radio often automatically switches to a station from which it receives a stronger signal. With this function you can prevent this and hear your regional station even when reception is poor.
  • RT (Radio Text): In addition to the station name, other information about the program is transmitted, such as the song title and artist, contact details or headlines. These can be shown on the display of the car radio, for example.
  • TA (Traffic Announcement): Traffic announcements are always given at a certain volume; other audio functions (CD, AUX, ...) are automatically interrupted.
  • TMC (Traffic Message Channel): Current traffic reports and warnings are continuously transmitted via RDS, which suitable radios or navigation devices can output. The latter can also automatically adapt the route to the messages.
  • TP (Traffic Program): In the event of current traffic reports, CD, AUX or other audio functions are automatically interrupted, the radio is turned up and switches to traffic information. When searching for stations, only designated traffic programs are found.

You can switch many of these special functions on and off on an RDS-compatible radio; some are used automatically. Some older devices cannot use all RDS functions; furthermore, not all broadcasters take all functions into account. For example, some radio stations do not send any additional information on song titles and artists.

A new version of the system has been available since 2017, RDS2. This requires other chips in radio devices, which is why fewer devices are compatible with RDS2. The old standard RDS will continue to be used in parallel.

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