Economics of DAB+: Broadcasting: Use it or lose it


3 FM antennae, one tower. BA Tower
Mount Coot-Tha, Brisbane
Photo credit: steve Adler

A highly competitive media landscape means  radio, like all other media, must fight hard  to keep increasing its audience and attract  advertising dollars. The Australian commercial  radio industry has loyal listeners and a solid  revenue base. The industry introduced  DAB+ digital radio to secure its future and ensure it continued to innovate. DAB+ allows the industry to continue to compete when  presented with the challenge of competition.

Reliance purely on analogue only limits  radio’s ability to innovate. online streaming  cannot replicate or replace the reach of  large broadcast radio to large audiences  simultaneously. Radio must be available  across all platforms – AM, FM, DAB+, online,  in mobiles, on tablets, in cars and any other  new device that comes to market.

Australian radio broadcasters recognised they  needed to be in the digital broadcast space.  DAB+ digital radio is powerful, spectrum  efficient and offers broadcasters worldwide  the ability to give listeners greater interactivity,  more programming, better sound, plus  scrolling text and slide show to complement  the audio.

In Australia we had the benefit of learning from  a number of digital radio rollouts worldwide  and the economics of investing in the radio  industry’s digital future was clear. The benefits  long term outweigh any initial investment  outlay.

Benefits for broadcasters include:

– Keeping analogue spectrum

– Shared costs and all of industry work  together

– Free spectrum and broadcasters to hold  the spectrum licence

– No new entrants until market established (Australia 6 years)

– High powered robust indoor and mobile DAB+ signal

–  Ability to generate new content

– Joint marketing to promote DAB+ as an  industry to benefit all

Installation of new integrated DAB+ and DTV Panels

Installation of new integrated DAB+ and DTV Panels

Firstly, from the outset it is important for all  of the radio industry both public and private  broadcasters to work together on policy and  regulation. one industry voice is much more  powerful than a splintered approach when  talking to government and regulators.

When developing industry policy,  broadcasters must insist on access to   spectrum and transmission powers that allow  effective broadcast across the whole market  and ask for incentives. One of the incentives  for Australian commercial broadcasters was that each existing commercial analogue  station was given 128 kilobits free as a basic  entitlement. If a radio broadcaster had two  stations they were given 256 kilobits. The  only restriction placed on it was you had to  use it or lose it.

The roll out of DAB+ digital radio provides new, greener transmission infrastructure. Analogue broadcasters own and operate their  own infrastructure and transmit on individual  frequencies, DAB+ digital radio technology  can combine up to 32 radio services in a  single ensemble using shared infrastructure,  lower power and only one shared frequency.

A single transmit antenna can be used  for around 18 DAB+ services instead of  generally individual antennas and frequencies  for each AM and FM service causing  congestion on towers or requiring multiple  tower sites.

DAB+ offers drastically reduced  infrastructure costs compared to  analogue – instead of needing a transmitter  per service, a single DAB+ transmitter can be  used for a whole ensemble of services saving  the same proportion of costs for floor space  rental, power, spares and maintenance costs.

UntitledDAB+ offers approximately 10 times better  energy consumption for 15 the equivalent  FM services over a year  An incentive offered to broadcasters in

An incentive offered ti broadcasters in Australia to invest in DAB+ was to not allow  any new digital licences for a period of six  years. This is to protect the investment,  while broadcasters are carrying two costs  of broadcasting – analogue and digital  and allows time to move listeners to digital  radio and find new revenue to cover costs.  Radio broadcasters were also given the  first opportunity to own and operate the  multiplexes. In Australia joint venture  companies were set up in each state to own  and operate the multiplex.

It is also important for broadcasters to  understand how new content can drive  uptake of digital radio and grow revenue  streams. new sponsor driven DAB+ pop up  or event stations can create new revenue.

And finally, the shared cost of a carefully  planned industry marketing and awareness  campaign is essential. This makes sure  listeners know about digital radio and what  benefits it offers them – fundamental to  winning their support and buy-in.

In Australia, the industry has been very  pleased with the uptake of DAB+ digital after  just three years and without an AM or FM  switch off. The investment in digital radio  has already proved to be prudent and the full  financial benefits will be realised ultimately  when analogue radio is no longer simulcast  with DAB+.

Joan Warner
CEO, Commercial Radio Australia
Chair of the WorldDAB Asia Pacific Committee


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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