DAB switchover in doubt

19 Oct, 2011 2:08pm Jon Morgan

Planned switchover from analogue to digital radio won't happen until 2017, according to new figures

The planned switchover from analogue to digital radio will not take place without support from the public, leading industry figures have said. And if growth in DAB radio listening continues at its current rate, a switchover won’t be able to happen until 2017 at the earliest.

The revelation came during a conference at which the BBC confirmed it would extend its DAB coverage to 97 per cent of the population, with full coverage for the entire motorway network and FM-matching coverage on the primary road network. 

Tim Davie, Director of Audio and Music at the BBC, said, “We’ve now reached a tipping point where coverage is no longer going to be an issue. We can now begin to move to inevitability.”

But, when asked if that meant a switchover wasn’t yet inevitable, he said, “I think the direction is clear, but if we’re going to get public support for a switchover, more work needs to be done.”

The Government has set three targets that must be hit before a switchover can take place:
  • Half of all radio listening must be on digital platforms
  • National digital radio must match FM coverage, currently 98 per cent of the population
  • Local digital radio must reach 90 per cent of the population
And while coverage won’t be an issue soon, the number of listeners tuning in via DAB is. For example, 20 per cent of all radio listening takes place in cars, but only two per cent of cars on the road have DAB radios. 

And while the number of digital radio listeners is growing, it’s not growing fast enough according to Digital Radio UK, which represents the interests of the digital radio industry. And the UK is not on track for the planned 2015 switchover.

Ford Ennals, Chief Executive of Digital Radio UK, said, “If we carry on at the existing rate of growth it will be 2017.” 

What do you think? Are you in favour of a switchover to digital or would you prefer the UK to stick with its analogue radio service? Tell us your thoughts below…

Disqus - noscript

The principle of digital radio is fine, its implementation in the UK is the problem. DAB is old, discredited technology so global manufacturers are reluctant to invest in its bulk production, especially for cars.

I hope that the growing network of DAB transmittors in the UK can handle DAB+ because that is the future. Mindless bureaucracy is keeping us slogging down the wrong path.

DAB broadcasts started in 1995 and 16 years later there are 2% of cars with suitable radios. Do the math.

My latest car had DAB as a no cost option, I got it specifically for BBC radio 6. That is worth it alone in my eyes. it ought to be standard now, just as Sirius in the USA is becoming. Sometimes people need a push to adopt new technologies, otherwise we'd all be riding faster horses as Henry Ford suggested we might!

unless cars get standerd dab radeoes at no extra cost it will never switch over as most new cars bought today still hav the old style radio so it b closer to 2030 before dab is king.

I have a digital radio in my new car and get all sorts of stations I never knew existed. I couldn't get them on my old FM radio so surely that's a good thing?

DAB+ yes please but normal DAB is inferior with it's low bitrates (Quantity over Quality) to a better sounding FM radio,just bought a new car with FM/AM and very pleased with it.

Had DAB in my car for three years and, even though live in rural North Yorkshire, get really good reception.Great to listen to Five Live and all other DAB stations with no hiss .New car comes next March and I have ordered DAB radio again .Would not be without it.

Please no more "doubting " headlines.
All new cars will have DAB as standard by 2013.
The train has left the station, get on board

i for one will just stick with FM thanks don`t use my radio much apart from playing my own choice of music on CD`if they switch FM off then i will just not listen to my radio,i do not like to be pushed into things,we were pushed into digital tv. & i now get picture breakup which i never had with anolog tv to my mind these changes are just there for the sake of the makers of radios etc.to keep there sales going.

I, for one, will welcome the chance to get a DAB radio as standard in my car. All the radios in the house are DAB and give excellent reception, which I miss in the car. I have Freesat, which gives excellent digital tv, because the analogue signal was switched off in my area in April. It's a bit like any changes, you get the "I'll ignore it and it'll go away" brigade. It still amuses me that 40 years ago the change to decimalisation happened so smoothly. Nowadays, you'd get the usual complaints and stalling which would mean it would take for ever. Set a date, stick to it and tell people that's when it'll happen. The sooner the better!

Yes, let's just go for it!

What's to lose, apart from... er sound quality, and the chance to lobby for a digital radio system that delivers!

I was actually one of the Channel Five retuners, and you have no idea the number of ostrich mentalities I met. Me: "may I come in to retune your TV for Channel 5?"
Joe Public : "No, don't want it"
Me: "No you don't understand it will start broadcasting and you may be unable to watch your video recorder as it uses the same channel"
Joe Public: "Don't care, don't want it"
Me: "OK sir, please sign my form saying I offered to retune and you said no"
JP: "No, don't want channel 5!"

If you can get it, I personally own 5 DAB radios, including one in the car. It is annoying though driving down our high street, Hungerford as we lose reception down most of it. However on most journeys that is the only time it breaks up till we come back home. And it only really. Breaks up on the Digital One multiplex BBC is fine.

DAB quality is very poor. Rolling it out nationwide will be a disaster as it will hit everybody in the pocket and still be poor quality.
It cannot compete with FM either in quality or accessability.
It is yet another way for those involved in the industries responsible to screw the motorist yet again.
Don't let us be turkeys voting for Christmas.

Dab has many disadvantages , High power consumption , poor sound quality , cheap and nasty decoder circuitry that goes wrong , However , if we must have it , I see no reason to stop analogue radio . I don't want it and neither does the public , it is being forced on us for reasons that are not in the public interest . Runclad summed it up in his excellent post , " Don't let us be Turkeys voting for Christmas " !!!

As a person who can't bear to be in room without music, I have a radio in each room of my house, including the bathroom. Being as the few radio stations that provide the music I enjoy are only trasmitted on dab, I am left with no choice but to have dab radios. This truly galls me. I am forever having to charge batteries, an extra cost, as I had to purchase several rechargeable batteries and the chargers. The radios were obviously another expense. If I could say I find listening to dab radio a more pleasing experience, I might admit that all of this was worth it, but, quite honestly I can't say my listening experience is any more enhanced. Quite the opposite as I have the aggravation of always being on edge that the batteries will run out at a crucial point (which they often times do!!!). Then there's my car. I have an AM/FM radio. Once again, more expense if I want to change it for a dab, which I would rather not. I read a newspaper article which more or less summed up my feelings about all this, and the solution they came up with is that we should, if we are unhappy with the whole dab/AM?FM issue, boycott the dab radio and at the very least, delay the changeover. As I said in my heading, I am very, very peed off about being shoved into doing something I feel is unnecessary and, at the risk of repeating myself, expensive!!

What happens to our cars that don't have DAB? If I fit a DAB radio into my 57' Astra, it will not be linked to the main digital display in the car and the ariel system will have to be replaced as well - so a costly option. Thank god I will be chanding my car in 2014 which will have DAB

I hate the low quality sound of DAB and hope that analogue continues , All over our house there are high quality fm systems and all of our cars are AM/FM . I will never switch . If analogue is abandoned , That's the end of radio listening for us . Modern DAB portables are real rubbish , badly made power hungry junk . What a mindless retrograde step to switch off a perfect system . Long live analogue !

i love dab it is half good and half bad 2 reasons why dab is my all time favorite but fm is good and good if dab is down

Mike - Worry not FM lovers. I don't see this switch off of the analogue/FM service happening for a very long time - if ever. Even if the trigger rate of 50% is reached, that would leave half the listening population who had not bought a new DAB radio without a radio service. Why would any broadcaster, BBC or commercial, always seeking to increase listening figures, allow a move that would, at a flick of the switch, half their audience? If DAB offered a clear advantage over the existing analogue service, such as the change from black and white to colour (yes, I'm that old to remember) then it would by now have succeeded but the fact remains that as the figures prove there is no convincing difference that makes the majority want to change.

Almost every other country who have looked into switching to DAB have rejected the idea due to the system not being stable enough to support ICE systems,
home based systems may be ok but mobile reception was found to be problematic.

The design of digital radio receivers is ludicrously lumpy and the cost ridiculous. FM radio is built into a myriad existing devices (MP3 players, mobile phones, etc.) and can be miniaturised to fingernail size extremely cheaply. When DAB can match this, then you can switch over. Until then - definitely not. Soon moving to UK

unless the bbc are willing to pay to have my radio changed in my car i suggest they leave well alone as i have had experience with a dab radio and it as ended up in the wheelie bin so then having to revert back to fm without any problems

DAB is a cockup. Politicians wanted it so they could sell off the FM band. Engineers ignored the physics - the coverage of a transmitter is about 1/4 of FM, FM car antennas (cars r the main audience) totally reject DAB, so new antenna and installation costing 400pds is needed in existing cars, most new cars are still not equipped or mandated to have it, meaning its not viable to turn off national FM for another 10 years. The BBC railroaded an obsolete version through, meaning we need twice as many transmitters (or throwing away nearly all radios and relaunching), quality is poor and UK radios wont work in Europe.
The only good thing to say about DAB is thats its good for national broadcasters - non-BBC channels such as Kiss, Classic FM etc. can achieve national coverage simply by renting capacity on national multiplexes. This would be enormously expensive to do it themselves.

I have just bought a new car and could not find a frequency for 5sports extra. I did not realise it is only on dab and even more unhappy now that i realise i will get no radio stations at all when my car is only 4 years old..

Why are we being forced to accept this change. Who needs the FM space this is supposed to free up? It's just another trick to make people spend money on upgrades. The digital TV was similar but at least you could get a box to add on. Not with radios. All of them, domestic and in cars will become junk. And like phone coverage, what guarantee do we get that we get a signal? I've already got DAB in my car but it is for ever dropping out and I'm travelling on the M25! Every classic car will have a useless radio. We don't want or need this forced on us. Politicians should leave things alone.

I don't see much difference in sound quality between FM and DAB but unlike many others find DAB to be better but it's the cost that's frightening.

A decent quality FM radio for the home can be bought for £30 whereas DAB is double that also if you move to portable or personal radio and you can pick up a cheap FM radio for under £10 yet the cheapest DAB still comes in at around £40 and as others have stated the battery life is horrendously low, my personnel FM radio ran for weeks on two AAA batteries where the DAB one I bought gives about 10 hours max on two AA batteries....

I have a DAB clock radio at home in the bedroom, a DAB system in the living room, DAB radio in the office at work and when my car stereo packed in I upgraded to DAB there too but like many have said its in the car DAB loses out compared to static or home based units as on the whole mine is fine I'd rate my satisfaction at about 75% with it in the car as where I live and work, in and around Glasgow, reception is ok but even the strongest stations drop out and driving any distance is a nightmare as many stations seem to change frequencies more often than on FM....

I'd say on the whole I'm happy with DAB but I'm still not even 50% convinced that the switch off of our FM service is justified yet.

DAB is rubbish and only designed to cram as many low quality channels into existing bandwidth as possible. We have a couple of good quality 'portable' DAB radios at home, they chew up 'D' size alkaline batteries at an alarming rate and cannot actually be called portable, as they have to be plugged into the mains all the time, the amount of heat the power supply gives out indicates to me that they are using a lot of power. My wifes FM portable has 3 'AA' batteries that last months when used 2 hours a day, and sound quality is great.

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