In this guest post, Gunnar Garfors and Håvard Wien from NRK in Norway discuss the new DAB+ announcement functionality and how it can be adopted by broadcasters and receiver manufacturers.
The introduction of digital radio via DAB and DAB+ has increased programme choice and genre diversity for hundreds of millions of listeners in dozens of countries on four continents. It is also relatively well known that DAB+ offers many additional services, such as traffic information, delivery of instant news flashes and immediate alarm announcements in case of emergencies. It is less well known that one of these functions, the Alarm announcement, is now mandatory in the DAB specification. (ETSI TS 103 176 V2.1.1 (2017-08) )
Receiver developments do, however, take time, so the mandatory status doesn’t mean that all new receivers come with this functionality yet. But they should. And the specification is crystal clear: “Receiver support for tuned ensemble alarm announcements is mandatory and receivers shall meet all requirements of clause 7.6.1. “
Although WorldDAB can’t enforce the requirements with manufacturers, there is pressure from broadcasters, the car industry and consumers. NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, introduced Traffic announcements in January 2017 and followed up with Transport announcements (for public transport) a year and a half later. And more is in planning.
NRK is currently testing alarm announcements, and it works perfectly from our side. We will put it on air in one of Norway’s seven DAB regions later this autumn. The operator presses a red button that triggers the alarm announcement in the DAB ensemble, and all programmes on all of NRK’s radio stations will be interrupted to play out this message before normal programming resumes.
We are using potential leaks of hazardous gas from a factory as the worst-case scenario in this test. “There have been a couple of gas leaks there previously,” says Håvard Wien. Wien is a senior DAB advisor at NRK, and he will also set up a similar demo at WorldDAB’s interoperability event in Munich in November and he encourages all manufacturers to participate at the event.
The gallery below shows the alarm functionality in different automotive receivers.
Alarm announcements carry emergency warning information that is of utmost importance to all radio listeners. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation plans to add such announcements to its transmissions all over the country. Norwegians still shouldn’t expect to hear them very often, because they are only to be used in serious or even life-threatening situations. NRK is considering to also add less critical but much more used announcement to the DAB+ transmissions, namely weather info, warning and news and broadcasters and network owners elsewhere are following suit. But what about receivers? Older receivers will ignore such announcements, no damage done. The main industry challenge now is to make sure that the majority of all new radios produced and sold come with support for these capabilities.
A few car radio models already support these features, and more are expected. But drivers and passengers aren’t the only ones that deserve to be notified about tsunamis, nuclear fallout and terrorist attacks. NRK would like to see this added in radios made for kitchens, gardens and bathrooms too. So, naturally, would listeners too. They could then get notified of disaster a few life-saving minutes or seconds earlier than they otherwise would.
Receiver manufacturers that fail to include these features are currently missing out on an opportunity and depriving customers of important features. Unfortunately, it seems like the responsibility is yet again pushed onto the consumer. They must ask for radios with these critical features every time they shop in order to make radio manufacturers understand the urgency. Power to the people, let us just hope that they accept the challenge!
Implementation shouldn’t take long. Car adapters sold in Norway under brand names Pop and Tiny added support for traffic announcements only a few months after NRK introduced it in their transmissions.
An ETI test file from NRK with all announcement types can be downloaded by WorldDAB Members from the WorldDAB ETI library. For questions please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org