Barriers to the success of digital radio have now on the whole been overcome

Issue 17 chipFor broadcasters and government it is vital when undertaking the transition to a digital platform that the chosen standard is both robust and mature enough to enable a smooth and cost effective rollout while providing both consumer and broadcaster incentives to switch to digital.

The DAB family of standards provide just that. It is both robust and mature with all the right market conditions already established in over 40 countries, enabling others to follow, learn from their experiences and to confidently digitise their own radio industries.

It has taken time to get to the advanced stage where we now see the DAB family of standards adopted in so many countries. Issues that have been addressed to get to this point have included:

– getting affordable receivers to market
– financial business cases for digital radio
– getting digital radio in vehicles

Radios, radios, radios and lots of them!
Receivers and plenty of them at low prices are vital to the success of digital radio roll out, enabling consumers to affordably buy into the new services that are put on air. In both new and established digital radio markets the success of a country’s roll out is often measured on how many consumers are not only buying the receivers from retailers but how many consumers also tune in. If there are not affordable receivers for consumers to purchase there is little point in broadcasters investing in putting services on air.

Today there are thousands of DAB/ DAB+ and DMB compatible devices on the high street and online with prices as low as 20 Euro. Consequently three of the fundamental elements in ensuring the choice and incentive to switch to digital for the consumer and broadcaster have been addressed – availability, choice and affordability!

ISSUE 17 CW GERMANYWhat do we get out of it?
Overcoming the cost and competition implications for broadcasters Each country’s radio industry has its own unique set of circumstances. In some countries it is the public broadcasters who are proponents of digital radio with commercial broadcasters opposed and vice versa depending on which market we review. However over 40 countries now have the DAB family of standards on air and this has enabled WorldDMB to address the concerns of both public and private broadcasters through learning from what works.

WorldDMB’s commissioned Business Case Scenarios Report now provides guidance on good practice, advice on implementation of digital radio and provides examples of financially viable business models. Importantly for broadcasters, the research demonstrates the financial gains and reduced running costs offered by DAB/DAB+ and DMB which makes a compelling argument for switching to the DAB family of standards.

Significant steps have been made in the automotive industry but there is considerable distance to go

It is vital that receivers are readily available in cars given that a large percentage of radio listening is done while on the road. Progress in the last couple of years has been considerable and today we see virtually all the major car manufacturers line fit DAB/ DAB+ as standard in their newer models in key markets.

However there is still a long way to go and therefore WorldDMB’s work with the automotive industry is ongoing though tailored workshops and communications to ensure more automotive manufacturers integrate digital radio as standard across all their ranges. Work is also ongoing to bring consumers more affordable adaptors for older car models that do not have DAB/ DAB+ line fitted.

There is huge potential in the automotive after-sales digital radio receiver market and WorldDMB hopes to see more products on the high street in the very near future to meet the huge consumer demand.

DAB+/ DMB is the digital radio standard of choice for broadcasters across Europe and Asia Pacific and is now being line fitted or is available as optional by the following manufacturers:

– Chrysler
– Daimler
– Fiat
– Ford
– Hino
– Honda
– Hyundai
– Jaguar Land Rover
– Lexus
– Lotus
-Mercedes Benz
– Mini
– Nissan
– Opel
– Peugeot
– Renault
– Seat
– Skoda
– Toyota
– Vauxhall
– Volkswagen
– Volvo

Hybrid radio as the future

As highlighted in a number of recent events such as the EBU digital radio week in February, hybrid radio is very much on the agenda for the international digital radio industry.

A number of organisations are working on developing and defining the future of digital radio and hybrid is an integral part of this discussion. One such example is the EBU New Radio Group, chaired by Mats Åkerland, the Head of Digital Strategy of Swedish Radio, who argues that the future of European radio lies in both broadcast and broadband, a view supported by WorldDMB.

While digital terrestrial distribution is a priority, online additional elements can add to the experience. Mats Åkerland argues that it is not a case for either/ or but rather a combination of both. Digital terrestrial radio via DAB, DAB+ and DMB is the way to deliver radio to a mass audience both cost effectively and reliably. The internet combined with terrestrial broadcasting offers broadcasters unique opportunities for retaining and attracting new audiences.

The challenge for hybrid radio – affordability, availability, content and universality

In the past few years smartphone use has rocketed, and the number of new styles of mobile devices and tablets now available has grown significantly, providing users with more choice. However, few of these devices are DAB+ and DMB compatible with exception of South Korea where there are 30 million DMB enabled devices. Recent research by Commercial Radio Australia shows that over half of its 16-24 year olds now listen to radio on their phones. In response to these findings CRA is working on setting up trials with Telco Operators to test DAB+ chips in phones which would bring down the cost of listening to radio on mobile devices for the consumer and will enable interactive elements that will be backed up by phone apps to engage the user.

In addition new DAB+/ DMB chips have in recent  years shrunk in size enabling them to be fit more easily into handsets and tablets. This would mean that the phone or tablet battery will not be drained in the same was as when listening to radio over IP. It will also help to drastically reduce the cost of listening to the radio for  consumers who are on the move as listening via terrestrial broadcast is free at point of consumption – unlike IP radio where users must pay charges for broadband usage.

It is important to note that with the new elements of hybrid radio that IP brings to broadcast radio, broadcasters themselves are driving the development of hybrid radio through the production of more visual content for smartphone and tablet users just as they have done when utilising the extra features that DAB+ allows such as slideshow, EPG and Traffic and Travel Services. WorldDMB anticipates many positive and exciting changes in the coming months on the evolution of the combining broadcast and broadband which will ultimately provide consumers with radio, plus more choice.

WorldDMB Project Office


About WorldDAB

WorldDAB is the global forum for digital radio, facilitating the adoption and implementation of digital broadcast radio based on DAB, DAB+. Its membership includes public and commercial broadcasters, network providers, receiver, chip and car manufacturers.

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