WorldDMB in collaboration with Trentino Network and Club DAB Italia organised a seminar on digital radio. The event was held on the 15-16 April in Trento. Trento is the first Italian province where the transition to the DAB family of standards is being made under the authority of AGCOM (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) and the Ministry of Telecommunication and Economics.
The two day event was attended by over 200 broadcasters and digital radio stakeholders from across Italy and further afield. The seminar provided an overview of how to bring digital radio successfully to market and provided the Italian broadcasting industry with insight into the experiences of other European countries who are undertaking their own digital radio transition. The seminar also provided an overview into the whole digital radio value chain and best practice on digital radio rollout. Representatives from the automotive sector, from technology suppliers and from professional equipment manufacturers and service providers were on hand to provide in depth perspectives on the development, processes and consumption of digital radio in Europe.
The Trentino district is well suited to being the first pilot area for the launch of DAB tests because the area is one of the most technologically advanced in Italy. Trentino has hosted other similar pilot-projects in the past such as for digital TV which was successfully started in the region and spread out across Italy. The Trentino region is also an area with as many as 12 public research centres that are stimulated by the government to produce innovation.
Isabella Bressan, DG for Innovation for the Province of Trento said “The Trentino region is an area suited to technological innovation. We are a small region with 500,000 inhabitants, with 70% of forests but spending on research and development that exceeds the European average”.
Making the transition
During the opening day Stefano Ciccotti, CEO of RAI Way (the network operator for public-service broadcaster Radiotelevisione Italiana) announced the organisations intentions to move towards the implementation of digital radio technology. Stefano said “Within three years RAI will deploy DAB+ coverage of the entire region of northern Italy, from the French border to the Slovenian one, and from the Brenner Pass to Rimini”. Stefano also emphasized that digital radio must offer content that is new and different from that available on FM. It is important for broadcasters to create content and exclusive products specifically for DAB so that it is complementary to traditional content,” he said. “The material must be capable of offering value-added information with the aim of creating an attractive market for advertisers and listeners.”
It is interesting to note that the network rollout strategy for DAB+ in Italy differs from the approach usually adopted such as in Australia, Germany and Switzerland. They Italian approach will see focus on rural areas as opposed to the usual initial focus on densely populated cities.
In-car digital radio of key importance
The event focused heavily on the importance of ensuring digital radio was fitted in all cars that were coming to market as well as the need to address the aftermarket. There were a number of exhibitors who displayed DAB+ products and solutions for the automotive sector such as antennas, factory fit and dealership fit solutions.
WorldDMB were also delighted to have the following original equipment manufacturers, Ford, Audi, Hyundai and Honda on site with a number of cars fitted with the latest headend units which included DAB+. Delegates were able to experience the enhanced sound quality and test the usability of digital radio in the dashboard.
A harmonised approach
The topic of receivers at a European level was also addressed during the two day seminar. Delegates were informed that work is underway to ensure that all receivers and mobile devices are DAB+ enabled — from tablets to smartphones. All devices should be capable of receiving both FM and DAB+ broadcasts, this will allow European operators to standardise their offerings and be available everywhere. This message ties in with recent release of the EBU 138 Recommendation that acknowledges that the future of radio is digital, that the standard to be used is DAB+ and that agreement harmonisation in Europe is needed to provide added momentum to the switch-off date of radio in Europe.
The international radio industry now turn their eyes to Italy to see if they can follow in the steps of Germany and successfully deploy digital radio. The WorldDMB community and international digital radio stakeholders look forward with anticipation to seeing the trials of digital radio services on air becoming established services across the Italian peninsula.
WorldDMB Project Office