Issue 24: Regulation and Spectrum Committee Update: The Evolution of Digital Radio

Hanns Wolter, Technical Director, Club DAB Italia and WorldDMB Regulation and Spectrum Committee, Chair

The discussion on the switch off of analogue radio and the transition to digital radio is under way. Some countries like Norway have already paved a clear path towards an all digital future and others, like Switzerland and Sweden have already presented their strategies. Other Administrations and actors are starting the discussion on the road to digital.  Interestingly all switch off strategies involve a clear statement towards the DAB+ standard.

This process of digitization comes in hand with the discussion about what to do with Band II once analogue radio is switched off. Should it be used for mobile broadband, PMSE, ALDs or what? The Regulation and Spectrum Committee of WorldDMB is convinced that the best usage for Band II, which has been assigned to sound broadcasting for over 40 years, is still sound broadcasting, using the best technology available today – DAB+.

There are a number of reasons which speak in favour of the implementation of DAB+ in the former FM band:

– the spectrum is already assigned to sound broadcasting, so at ITU level there is no need to adopt changes

– the frequency band has excellent propagation characteristics and allows therefore to reach more people with less transmitters and less power

– DAB+ encoders, multiplexers and transmitters are getting cheaper ever day – once analogue services have ceased it will allow access for local radios and community stations which otherwise will not have the financial resources for being broadcasted and for which there might not be enough spectrum available in Band III

– broadcasters transmitting in Band II have the same commercial opportunities as those in Band III

– mesh networks could also be implemented in areas where coordination or self interference is a problem

– with the loss of L-Band spectrum for digital sound broadcasting has already lost nearly half of the available spectrum, it would be shortsighted to allow another 20 MHz to be lost and block any future expansion of radio services

– there are countries where spectrum in Band II will not be enough to accommodate all broadcasters who want to broadcast digitally

– DAB+ is a well known technology, reliable and mature

– DAB+ is also well understood by the market, both at consumer level and at distribution level – there will be no need to advertise a new technology and consumers will understand the system easily as they are already used to DAB+ in Band III – receivers will be simple to use

The RSC wants also to underline the big advantages the DAB technology has over other broadcasting technologies, which is a substantial reduction of transmitting costs. Generally speaking today DAB broadcasting costs 1/10th of the analogue broadcasting with a comparable coverage. These costs can be further reduced over the next years through the optimization of the low cost multiplexing and modulation equipment and the improvement of the transmitter efficiency.

The RSC provides useful guidance on the advantages of different regulatory approaches needed in countries with varying regulatory needs. A vital role of the RSC is to produce a regulatory model and to identify possible routes to common regulatory frameworks to facilitate the introduction DAB/DAB+/DMB services internationally. The RSC actively lobbies to ensure the availability in the medium-to-long term of sufficient DAB based frequencies beyond those already allocated and safe guard those frequencies currently allocated.

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This entry was posted on December 12, 2014 by in WorldDAB Project Office.

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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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