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Sweden: Licenses For Commercial Digital Radio To Be Issued

ISSUE 18 SWEDENDAB+ is the preferred technology and the licensing process is expected to start in autumn 2011.

The Swedish Authority for Radio and Television has now decided on a strategy for licensing of digital commercial radio has been formed together with the Post and Telecom Agency following a public consultation. It states that the terrestrial network is an important distribution platform for radio and that digitalisation is needed to further develop the platform.

Public and commercial broadcasters backed by liberal party Folkpartiet have advocated for digital radio in major newspapers using words as “The existing FM network is full’. The next strategic step for the radio is digitalisation.” All major broadcasters have stated their support for DAB+ and that they could expand the network rapidly across the country. “By introducing digital radio, we could, in a matter of 12 to 18 months, have around 20-40 new channels on air nationwide. Listeners across the country could then easily access commercial channels only Stockholmers have today, as well as public-service channels currently only accessed via the Internet” they wrote.

Success criteria

In the public consultation, broadcasters and network operator Teracom believe that there are several requirements that must be met in order for digital radio to be successful. A broad range of channels is a must, with new digital services alongside today’s popular analogue formats. The launch of commercial digital radio broadcasting must also be coordinated with equivalent plans from the public broadcaster, Swedish Radio. Reductions in commercial radio’s analogue license fees associated with digital initiatives, would further welcome the digital opportunity.

Key features of the digital strategy:

– The licenses will be decided in the form of a beauty contest, no auction. There will be only a smaller administrative fee for application and annual use of spectrum.

– The technology T-DAB and compatible technology should be used and DAB+ could further be specified in the license conditions.

– The entire broadcast space that the government has dedicated to digital commercial radio, two multiplexers in band III, each divided in 34 regions, will be included in the licensing process.

– It will be possible to seek licenses for both national and regional broadcasts. How many such permits granted and the breakdown between national and regional licenses will be determined after an overall assessment of the applications received in each region.

– There will be no requirements in the license for an average minimum or maximum bit rate per service. Each applicant should state their capacity needs per service knowing that the starting point of licensing is that each transmitter can accommodate max 16 services @72 kbit/s each.

– The license holders shall cooperate in technical matters including choice of network operator. Coverage requirements may be imposed to ensure that the digital broadcasts reach a certain proportion of the population within the broadcasting area.

Digital radio is much more frequency efficient and cost-effective than analogue radio and will bring a much broader range of services to households all across Sweden. It is now up to commercial broadcasters to make investments in a digital future, knowing it is the only way to launch new nationwide services. If it turns out that the commercial interest is low, “the question of another use of the spectrum may be appropriate” writes the Post and Telecom Agency in their views on the digital strategy.

Per Gunnarsson Borga
Teracom AB

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