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Posts Categorised: DAB

Digital radio deployments have been greenlit in Europe

GENEVA — In Kiev, on June 15, DAB+ broadcasting started, according to mediasat.info . At present, seven radio stations are available for reception: Promin, Kultura, Old Fashioned Radio, Meidan, Radio Mariya, Kraina FM and Hype Radio.

In Belgium, regulations that will allow the development of a new frequency plan for analog radio stations, while opening the way for the deployment of digital radio (DAB+) in French-speaking Belgium, were approved in the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, reports rtbf.be . This news did elaborate on the specifics of how they will affect digital broadcasting there in the near future.

The French are fans of radio, with about 850 stations available nationwide. It remains the preferred medium for information in the morning, with 43 million daily listeners, according to lesechos.fr . More recently, a revealed that for 94% of French people, access to radio was a universal right; but at the same time, about 75% of the population knows nothing about digital radio , at least according to France’s CSA.

The CSA has announced a new strategy to “relaunch” the deployment of DAB+ in France. Development will be more tactical with tenders issued nationwide for more profitable areas (major cities and major highways and motorways), according to the same article. The long-term objective is to cover 30 regions and to go from 20–70% coverage of the country by 2020.

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All Swiss tunnels will include DAB+; Italy’s RAI increases digital program offerings

BERN, Switzerland —Switzerland’s Federal Roads Office has announced that that radio systems in the motorway tunnels for the DAB+ digital radio reception will be expanded throughout Switzerland. In the area of ​​northeastern Switzerland, work has been completed in all 27 tunnels.

Eventually all the tunnels of Swiss national roads will be upgraded to receive the new DAB+ digital radio standard, for safety and comfort reasons, so that they will duplicate analog FM radio reception, matching expectations of drivers there.

DAB + reception on the highways in the cantons of Zurich, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, St. Gallen and Glarus as well as in the canton of Schwyz along Lake Zurich, is now possible without gaps, according to lokalinfo.ch .

ITALY

In Rome, RAI Radio has announced the startup of two new radio programs in June: Rai Radio1 Sport and Rai Radio2 Indie.

“With these two new channels our offer of radio increases and brings the total number to 12, which should reach 13 shortly with a new specialized spin-off channel of Radio 3. A rich offer, unthinkable only a few years ago, which positions RAI Radio among the main players in the production of audio content, whether for entertainment, information or culture. And that confirms the desire to turn the promises announced into reality, a demanding job that I’m proud of because it looks at the future of Radio RAI,” Roberto Sergio said in this article in primaonline.it .

“The entire production chain is now fully digitalized, from studies to royalties to transmission. In this sense, RAI Radio has recently given a strong impetus to the spread of the DAB+…” said Sergio. “RAI’s investments in DAB+ and digital have been anticipated for a value of around 5 million euros. Today, we can therefore already offer good coverage on the central North motorway axis. The commitment is however constant and will lead us to constantly increase the quality and penetration of the digital signal.”

The RAI Radio platform is available on all digital service types and includes RAI Radio1, RAI Radi2, RAI Radio 3, Isoradio, Gr Parlamento along with five specialized programs: RAI Radio Classica, RAI Radio Kids, RAI Radio Live, RAI Radio Techete’, RAI Radio Tutta Italiana and RAI Radio 3 by the end of 2018.

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Digital radio listening in the UK now stands at 50.9% up from 47.2% a year ago


LONDON — In the United Kingdom, the use of digital sources for radio has reached 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago, accounting for the majority of all listening for the first time, according to RAJAR Q1 2018 data.

“With the 50% digital listening threshold now met, it is anticipated that the UK government will undertake a review to assess digital radio progress and determine next steps in due course,” according to a Digital Radio UK press release.

Digital listening share is comprised of listening across all digital platforms: DAB in homes and in cars, apps and online (which includes the growing number of smart and voice-controlled speakers) and DTV — and this is the first time that listening to digital has been greater than analog platforms — FM and AM.

Other measurement data provided by RAJAR show the following:

  • Overall, in the UK digital listening hours grew by 7.8% compared to Q1 2017
  • The greatest amount of digital listening takes place on over-the-air DAB radio which now accounts for 36.8% of all listening and 72.2% of digital listening, with hourly growth of 8.9% year over year
  • Online and Apps now accounts for 9.3% of all listening and 18.3% of digital listening, with the greatest percentage hourly growth of 17%
  • Listening via digital TV meanwhile accounts 4.8% of all listening and 9.4% of digital listening
  • 63.7% of adults now have access to DAB digital radio at home, and more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers
  • Digital radio is in over 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33% of all cars in the UK, and 90% of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard equipment [Source: CAP/SMMT Q1 2018]

“Across the UK the success of digital radio has been driven by industry investment in DAB coverage; the availability of DAB in cars; the development of mobile and online apps along with the proliferation of smart and voice-controlled speakers with IP radio capability; combined with a huge expansion in the number of digital stations available,” according to DRUK. “This growth in availability has been matched by an expansion of national and local DAB coverage which is now available in over 90% of the UK due to the launch of an additional 435 digital transmitters, as part of a program of work supported by government and broadcasters.”

The UK’s three leading radio broadcasters — the BBC, Global and Bauer, which collectively account for over 90% of UK radio listening — are “fully committed to delivering a digital future for radio and look forward to working with government and the supply chain to continue the transition to digital radio.”

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More news on the aftermath

The news from Norway about results of the 2017 (national) FM switch-off continues to come in. I heard from a correspondent in Norway, the well-known broadcast engineer Eivind Engberg, with some late observations.

“The U.S. radio industry would maybe like to know more about the switch off in Norway. Well, here we have the story from Mr. Ole Jørgen Torvmark, the CEO of Digitalradio Norge AS,” Engberg comments.

“First of all – Mr. Torvmark writes to the telecom authority and would like to express concern about free music streaming services, which he believes affect the use of radio streaming services. As he writes: ‘The use of music streaming services like Spotify has been steadily growing for several years, but after the largest population areas in Norway lost the FM broadcast transmissions, the use of these services increased significantly, from 34 to 36% in 2017 to 43% daily use in January 2018.’”

Eivind concludes that this may very well be a consequence of the FM shutdown.

“However — if you open the survey ‘Digitalradioundersøkelsen 2018 – strømming,’ you will be more shocked:

  • Before the (national) FM switchoff in 2017, 73% of Norwegians used radio daily in the car, 93% used it at least once per week and 97% at least once per month
  • After the switchoff, about a third of listeners are without any way to get DAB. 55% listen to local FM stations (still on-air); 34% use streaming services; 5% listen to FM from neighboring Sweden; 17% chose silence in the car now

(I’m going to assert here that the numbers add up to more than 100% because respondents could use local FMs, Swedish FMs, etc.—Doug Irwin)

How are sales of DAB radios doing in Norway? Well, according to this financial analysis of the chain Mekonomen , not that great. “The first quarter was challenging for the Mekonomen Group. As we communicated already April 9, 2018, we were negatively affected by significantly lower sales of DAB products in Norway and fewer weekdays due to the time of Easter, together with weak Swedish krona,” writes CEO Pehr Oscarson in the report. During the first quarter, a write-down of DAB products in inventories was made which had a negative effect of SEK 20 million on earnings.”

Eivind made one final comment: “…radio in Norway will be dead in 2022 if they force local radio off FM. I do really hope NO other countries follow Norway here…”

An earlier version of this article misspelled Eivind Engberg’s last name.

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Let’s take a look at the progress of DAB across Europe. The primary reference for this article is from the EBU , written by Ben Poor. As a broadcasting union, the organization does want to see broadcasting continue and even thrive, but that’s no reason to unduly charge them with news “spin.”

The year 2017 saw an increase in the number of available services: Figures from the EBU Media Intelligence Service’s Market Insights on Digital Radio 2018 show that the number of digital stations increased by almost 25 percent. Some 468 stations are only available via digital transmission. Most of these are commercial stations “indicating an increasing recognition by private broadcasters of digital radio as a cost-effective place to innovate and reach new audiences.”

“A recent EBU analysis of the distribution costs for covering national populations by FM, DAB+ and Broadband showed that digital broadcast using DAB+ was significantly more cost-effective than the alternatives – even when calculated conservatively,” the article goes on to say. Thus, as digital listening grows, so does the case for planning for DSOs in the various countries.

For Norway: “The predicted drop of daily reach as a result of the disruption turned out to be less than expected.” Bauer Media predicts by the end of 2018 total radio listening and commercial radio revenues in Norway will have increased, and public radio listening will have bounced back. “DSO is disruptive and terrifying but it’s going to have been successful for everyone,” according to Bauer.

Let’s interject another source here. As reported by radionytt.no , in a recent media survey, made by Respons, for Nordic Media Days, 57% of respondents are “negative” that FM was switched off and replaced with DAB. 27% of respondents expressed their positive attitude towards digitization, while 16% of respondents did not know. The survey also shows that many still have not acquired a DAB radio: about 28% of respondents respond that they do not have DAB; 33% have acquired such a radio; 37% have digital radios at home.

Switzerland –in recent years, Switzerland has significantly built out its digital coverage, ahead of a cut-off date for DSO by 2024. “However, thanks to a close collaboration between government, industry and broadcasters, it is expected that DAB+ will be the main distribution platform from 2020,” according to EBU. “…success factors have included ensuring new cars are line-fitted with DAB+ receivers, [and a] a public information campaign and a partnership between public and private broadcasters.” Another reason given is regional layer built out using ‘low-cost’ solutions based on the freely available DAB+ broadcasting tools from OpenDigitalRadio . This has enabled local services to support the move to digital, bringing audiences with them.

Denmark–Denmark has one of the lowest numbers of digital-only stations within countries usually considered as digital radio ‘leaders’, but a plan for a DSO has recently been floated.

“The plan proposes a shutdown of FM two years after digital listening exceeds 50 percent, or in 2021 at the latest. Current figures (2018) put this at 37 percent, up from 31 percent in 2015.” This has followed a full transition from DAB to DAB+ during 2017, and a reorganization of frequencies for existing transmitters. I should also note that this is just a plan—it isn’t written into the law .

United Kingdom—“Digital listening in the UK is huge, with big seasonal spikes in the sales of home receivers and nearly 90 percent of new cars being line-fitted with a digital receiver,” according to EBU. The number of digital-only stations is almost twice the number of its nearest rival, Switzerland, with around 110 stations.

“A long-awaited figure of 50 percent digital share of listening across all digital platforms is expected during 2018.” This should then meet government criteria defined in its July 2010 Digital Radio Action Plan, triggering a process to “consider a decision on whether to set a date for [DSO]”.

The BBC still accounts for around half of all digital listening time and is a key player in any decision on DSO. A widely misreported speech by the BBC’s Director of Radio and Music, Bob Shennan , at the recent Radiodays in Vienna struck an optimistic but cautious tone. Shennan said a DSO plan “should be “audience-led” and that currently “audiences are best served by a mixed economy” of digital broadcast, broadband and FM in a ‘hybrid’ model.”

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The total number of GatesAir transmitters deployed in that country stands at 1218

MASON, Ohio — GatesAir is getting ready to send its final shipments of transmitters to Norway, bringing the total of its transmitters deployed in that country to 1218 in support of Norway’s transition to DAB.

Norway’s national FM Radio signals vacated the airwaves in mid-December, concluding an 11-month sunset. Many local FM stations remain on the air.

GatesAir says it has been involved in Norway’s DAB digital radio activity since the nation’s first tests in 1994. Upon the Norwegian government’s 2011 approval to switch off FM radio, it says it helped the country to accelerate the site planning and systems design process, and worked closely with partners to set a site-by-site delivery schedule.

According to the company, a pair of redundant GatesAir Maxiva VAX air-cooled transmitters ranging from 50 W to 5 kW support over-the-air content delivery from most sites. The final transmitters being shipped include low-power models.

“Our work in Norway has spanned over two decades to ensure that the exacting specifications of the network and delivery timelines were met in accordance with the Norwegian government’s mandate,” said Darren Frearson, vice president of Sales, EMEA-APAC, GatesAir.

“GatesAir’s modular transmitters were easily configured and rapidly deployed across the network. The compact footprint and small weight contributed to the rapid deployment, which reached as many as 14 sites per week.” 

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Here are some updates from Switzerland, Ukraine and Germany

BERN, Switzerland — Swiss communications regulator Bakom recently said that in 2017 nearly 600,000 DAB+ radios were purchased nationwide. Bakom also reports that about 85% of all new vehicles sold are equipped with a DAB+ radio as standard equipment, and that a total of 3.5 million devices are in circulation in the country, according to telecompaper.com .

In Kiev, the remaining four slots of a new DAB multiplex have been offered once again by Ukraine’s National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting. Applications for participation in the competition for the remaining slots are being accepted from May 17 –June 15 at the address Prorizna, 2, Kiev, tel. 234-97-13. The results from the National Council will be announced by May 14, according to detector.media .

In Germany, the regional public broadcaster SWR (Südwestrundfunk ) has commissioned new DAB transmitters at Villingen Schwenningen using channel 8D. This will improve DAB coverage for the programs SWR1, SWR2, SWR3, SWR4, SWR Aktuell and DASDING in the Black Forest-Baar-Heuberg area and adjacent areas, reports infosat.de .

SWR is planning further expansion of the DAB + network this year in Bad Urach, Baiersbronn, Brandenkopf, Schramberg, Sigmaringen, Waldburg and Weingarten, and other transmitter locations are being planned. 

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Digital Radio News From Europe

France’s CSA has approved seven sites in the Hauts-de-France (the north of France) for DAB+; Germany will remain a VHF country for the foreseeable future; and in Norway, over-the-air radio listenership appears to have stabilized

PARIS — France’s CSA has approved seven sites in the Hauts-de-France (the north of France) for DAB+, to be launched in the region on June 19. This deployment will include 39 radio stations in the Lille area and between nine and 13 radio stations in the other areas of the region (Douai-Lens-Béthune- Arras, Valenciennes, Dunkirk and Calais-Boulogne-sur-Mer).

The new deployment plan provides for a first phase with a tight schedule (2018/2020), refocused on the densest areas of the territory (major cities, living areas of more than 175,000 inhabitants, major highways and roads), according to offremedia.com . The less populated areas will be covered after 2020.

“…DAB + is struggling to develop in France mainly because of the lack of enthusiasm of large private groups that favor investment in broadcasting via the internet,” according to the same article.

From Germany: “One thing is certain: at some point, the analog radio reception will be history, as in the case of [digital] television since 2003. The public radio stations have been pushing for years to make DAB + the successor to FM,” according to this article in tagesspeigel.de . Private broadcasters are mixed on the digital radio over-the-air concept: many see the digital future more on the Internet, using 5G.

“Nonetheless, Germany will remain a VHF country for the foreseeable future. The federal government has not committed to a shutdown date for the analog technology,” the same article goes on to say.

In Norway, over-the-air radio listenership appears to have stabilized. Key findings for March of 2018, reported by Kantar Media, are as follows:

  • Daily listenership in January was at 56.9%; in February 57.0%; in March 57.4%
  • Listening time: In January 71 minutes; in February 72 minutes; in March 74 minutes
  • While listening time has increased by three minutes in 2018, it is still eight minutes less listening than January 2017

“Listening on national channels seems to have stabilized after a gradual decline through the turn-off year 2017,” according the medietilsynet.no .

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DAB expansion is completed in the UK

VIENNA and LONDON — The first regular broadcasts of DAB + have started in the Vienna, Austria region. Twelve radio stations can be received on the channel 11C multiplex. Many of these are not available on the FM band, according to radio.nl .

The multiplex is operated by Radio Technical Center, which received a license from KommAustria at the beginning of this year. For the last three years, Radio Technical Center has been handling the test broadcasts in Vienna. Recently the test broadcasts were converted into regular broadcasts.

Across the UK, the program of work to increase the coverage of DAB network, either with new transmitters or modifications to 221 local DAB sites, has been completed. Local DAB coverage has gone from 72% to more than 90% of UK households. An additional 10 million listeners have been brought into DAB coverage for the first time, and over 4,000 miles of roads are now also covered, according to WorldDAB.org

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Ukraine’s National Council says 10 Kiev radio stations will broadcast in DAB, three of which will be reserved for public broadcasting

KIEV, Ukraine — On March 29, Ukraine’s National Council announced the results of the competition for digital radio broadcasting in Kiev: 10 radio stations are to broadcast in DAB, with three of those being dedicated to public broadcasting, according to nrada.gov.ua .

All eight of the companies that entered the competition were granted the right to broadcast in digital radio standard in Kiev. The multiplex proposed for competition has 14 channels but there were no applications for the remaining four. The National Council decided to terminate the competition for those.

Member of the National Council Serhii Kostynskyi remarked that the regulatory authority was preparing for this event for quite some time, and in particular, it has been very active in the last two years — issues such as the possibility of importing transmitters, and participation of the industry were discussed, according to the same article. Chairman of the National Council Iurii Artemenko said that the regulator will announce the competition for the remaining two seats in the multiplex at the next meeting.

The digital broadcasting licenses have been granted to broadcasters for the period of seven years.

WorldDAB President Patrick Hannon said, in a message marking the occasion, “…One of the questions I’m often asked is: ‘Well, this is all very interesting but…Why? Why are people doing this?’ Well, the short answer is that radio, if it is to remain relevant in the 21st century, needs to innovate. And the basic problem it has with FM is that FM spectrum is full. So, there’s no extra capacity — which makes innovation extremely difficult. And that’s where DAB+ comes in,” also quoted in nrada.gov.ua .

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