Computer says DAB+… cheaper than FM, DRM

“I already have an FM network and I am not  paying to build a new digital one”.  Sound familiar?”

Well, it is still wrong. some  forget to take into account that it costs a lot  of money to run an FM network. You may  already have it, but running costs will remain  considerable. An FM network costs more to  run than a DAB+ network, a lot more if you  want a selection of channels. FM needs one  transmitter for every radio station while one  DAB+ transmitter can broadcast up to 20  radio stations.

Let us look at figures from Norway, where FM  will be switched off in January 2017. DAB/ DAB+ already covers 84% of the population.  By the end of 2014, the Norkring run DAB+  network will cover more than 99.5% of the  population with almost 20 radio stations.  Currently, only one radio station (NRK P1)  covers the same amount of people.

FM Now

To clarify, let us say that to transmit NRKs  radio stations on FM costs 1,000 Euro  annually (the real figure is many thousand  times higher). This means one station (P1)  can reach 99.5% of the population, while  P2 reaches 99% and P3 reaches 95%. Two  additional radio stations (NRK mP3 and NRK  Always news) are available to 30% of the  population.

FM upgrades needed if not phased out FM would need a total upgrade if it were to be  continued past 2016 and the price would then  increase to 1,400 Euro annually from 2015.  This is a cost that is usually forgotten.


DAB+ provides a modern network which can handle parallel services with many more stations for everyone


To transmit up to 20 radio stations to 99.5%  of the population will cost 1,030 Euro annually.  This may be 3% more than FM currently  but there is the benefit of broadcasting up  to 20 more stations and all those stations to everyone. Running costs are 26% lower  than if staying on FM! More stations are  more democratic and provides more choice,  especially to those living in rural areas. 

Double distribution

Distributing via both FM and DAB/DAB+  should also be accounted for. The FM  costs will be as indicated above, although  somewhat reduced as it will gradually be  phased out during the last two years. This  saves 1400 Euro annually as opposed to  continuing with FM only. NRK currently has 15  radio stations, but will soon add to this.

To transmit DAB in addition to FM costs 250  Euro in 2012, 600 Euro in 2013 and 870 Euro  in 2014 (before reaching 1,030 Euro per year  from 2015). This additional cost of DAB for the five years of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015  and 2016 adds up to 3,780 Euro. NRK will  however save 1,400 Euro in the same period  on FM being phased out. The real extra cost  of double distribution for those five years is  therefore 2,380 Euro.

As DAB (1030 Euro per year) is cheaper than  an upgraded FM (1400 Euro per year), NRK  will start paying less per year already in 2017,  while the accumulated costs will be lower  five and a half years later, in June 2022. The  cost comparison can also be put in a different  manner. Figures from Teracom and SRG SSR  show that one radio station via DAB+ costs  respectively 5 and 6 times less than via FM.  There are many reasons to go digital, the  chart sheet shows yet another. The computer  says DAB+.

DAB+ provides a modern network which can  handle parallel and additional services with  many more stations for everyone, unlike FM.  Both NRK and the listeners win. 


A larger version of the table can be viewed by clicking here.


When it comes to digital radio, we also hear a lot about DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). It Comparisons year by year. For this example’s sake, a price of current FM distribution was set to 1,000 Euro per year. All other figures can be seen in relation to this. The costs are based on NRK figures. covers vast areas with few transmitters (i.e.  India). It has also been used in Germany by  Deutschlandradio, until it was switched off  in late 2012. Why? It cost the broadcaster  12 million Euro per year to run the system,  exactly the same costs as for DAB+. The  difference? Their DRM capacity was limited  to 40kbps, just about enough for one  radio station. Their DAB+ offering provides  400kbps, 10 times as much for the same  price. And while there are hundreds of  receiver models capable of receiving DAB+,  there are only a handful of DRM receivers. 

DRM is a good option when you want to  cover big areas with few radio stations or to  reach remote areas. simply put, DRM is ‘the  AM of digital radio’ and should be seen in  such a context.

Independent report on distribution networks

Just out is a related report by independent  Dutch research institute Tno which compares  various networks that may be used for digital  radio and mobile television. Please get in  touch with IDAG or the WorldDMB Project  office if the report is of interest.  WorldDMB members are entitled to a 35%  discount on the report.

Gunnar Garfors
CEO of NMTV (Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation)
President of IDAG (International DMB Advancement Group)
Advisor on Distribution, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation)


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