By Aris Erdogdu, Communications Manager, WorldDAB
A new European legislation, manufacturers and broadcasters coming together in support of digital radio, and recognition of DAB+ as the industry standard – we take a look at the latest developments that have helped drive the significant progress of DAB+ in the car in recent weeks, and what we can expect to see in coming months.
Mandatory digital terrestrial radio for all new car radios in EU
In an effort to guarantee the best possible listening experience for the millions of radio listeners across Europe, the European Parliament adopted in November 2018, a new European Electronic Communications Code requiring all new cars sold in the European Union to be equipped with digital radio receivers, in addition to any FM or AM functionality which manufacturers may wish to include.
Following its formal approval by the European Council earlier this month, the next step for the directive, expected on 20 December 2018, is its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) – at which point the directive will enter into force, marking the start of the two year period at the end of which all EU member states will have to transpose the code into their own respective national legislations.
In addition to making the inclusion of digital radio in all new cars sold and rented within EU member states mandatory, the directive also formalises EU consent for member states wishing to introduce rules that require consumer receivers to be able to receive digital transmissions.
While there is little doubt across the EU that the future of radio – both in and out of the car – is digital, legislations currently in place across EU markets do vary significantly, hence why the directive has been welcomed as yet another positive step in the path to the digitisation of radio.
Italy leading by example
Italy, for instance, a country in which approximately 50 million people listen to the radio on a daily basis, already had its own legislation in place to ensure that listeners – 65% of which tune in while in their cars – are able to benefit from the best possible listening experience. Having anticipated the successful and rapid rollout of DAB+ in Europe, the Italian government introduced a regulation which requires all wholesalers, retailers and automotive brands in the country to sell receivers with at least one digital interface to receive digital broadcasts, while all domestic and automotive receivers sold in 2020 and beyond will be required to include digital audio capabilities. Today, almost half of new cars released in Italy are already equipped with DAB+.
Meanwhile, neighbouring France is expected to trigger the French receiver law requiring all new radio receivers (including automotive) to be capable of receiving digital (DAB+) broadcasts before the end of the year, with the law due to enter force at the second half of 2020.
Other EU member countries may have more ground to cover as far as getting DAB+ into the car is concerned, there is however little doubt that this new directive will nudge countries in and beyond the EU to get started. To that effect, 98% of new cars released in Norway – the first country to have completed a digital switchover – are now equipped with DAB+ radios, while this figure stands at 85% for Switzerland, which is on track to complete its digital switchover in the next five years.
Audi, Ford and Fiat united in support of DAB+
As witnessed at the WorldDAB General Assembly2018, car manufacturers are also aligned with the European Parliament’s initiative to standardise digital radio to cars. Speaking at the event held in Berlin in November, representatives from Audi, Ford and Fiat all agreed that DAB+ is the future of broadcast radio, identifying personalisation, the hybrid radio and the multi-screen dashboard as key areas of focus for in-car DAB+, while also highlighting the importance of collaboration between broadcasters and car manufacturers in order to deliver the best possible DAB+ experience to drivers.
UX at the heart of it all
User experience and preventing potential performance and reception issues in the car also featured high on the agenda, as the WorldDAB Automotive Working Group updated the assembly on the numerous meetings that were held with leading OEMs – including Peugeot, Mercedes, Renault, Jaguar LandRover amongst others – since the introduction of the UX Guidelines from WorldDAB in February 2018.
DAB+ continues to gain significant ground across the globe with the automotive industry on-board – more to come at the WorldDAB Automotive 2019 in Turin, Thursday 20 June.