By Aris Erdogdu, Communications Manager, WorldDAB
In November 2018, the European Parliament adopted a new communications directive requiring all new cars sold in the European Union to be equipped with digital radio receivers. The decision, which the 27 European Union member states are expected to embrace at the start of 2019, has been driven by an industry trend away from the FM standard toward digital radio.
The introduction of this directive comes as no surprise to the majority of the EU member states and Italy in particular, which has been one step ahead of the DAB+ curve – and its European counterparts. According to the latest data, approximately 80% of the population of Italy – accounting for approximately 50 million people – listens to radio on a daily basis, with 65% of these listening experiences taking place in the car.
Having anticipated the rapid rollout and successful implementation of digital radio and DAB+ across Europe, the Italian government introduced its own similar law to lay the foundation for the seamless transition to DAB+ digital radio in Italy, and guarantee the best possible listening experience for the millions of listeners across the country.
According to the regulation in question, as of 1 June 2019, wholesalers, retailers and automotive brands in Italy will be required to sell receivers with at least one digital interface to receive digital broadcasts, while all domestic and automotive receivers sold after 1 January 2020 will be required to include digital audio capabilities. The implementation of this law which entered into force at the start of 2018 has already started to bear fruit, and can be reflected by the growing number of new cars sold that are equipped with a DAB+ radio – 46% as of June 2018, compared to 28% in Q217.
However, ensuring that DAB+ is built into cars is not enough to allow for a smooth transition from FM to digital – the right infrastructure needs to be in place in order to support the vehicles of tomorrow. To that effect, Agcom, the Italian Communication Authority, is expected to finalise the plan for the expansion of 39 local technical areas within six months.
In April 2018, less than a year after announcing its intention to accelerate investments in DAB+, public broadcaster RAI – one of three national operators in Italy – announced the approval of the technical project for the extension of DAB+, including the extension of coverage to most of Italy’s motorways, and the aim to reach 60% population coverage by the end of 2019. Speaking at an event dedicated to the future of radio alongside industry leaders including WorldDAB president Patrick Hannon, RAI CEO Fabrizio Salini urged institutions to introduce and recognise DAB+ as the standard form of radio, touching on the laws recently introduced by Italy and the European Union, which all seem to echo the same message – radio has reached a tipping point, and its future is well and truly digital.
With over 92% of 1st level roads in the country already covered by DAB+, and 42 national radio stations now airing on DAB+ (including 21 available exclusively on DAB+) Italy continues to lead DAB by example as it prepares to host the WorldDAB Automotive 2019 at the Lingotto Congress Centre in Turin on Thursday 20 June.