Norway Switching Radio From FM To Digital In 2017
December 24, 2015 at 12:45 PM (PT)
NORWAY is leading the way as it prepares to move its national FM broadcasters from analog to digital in 2017, according to the website IEEE SPECTRUM.
The switchover will be to the DIGITAL AUDIO BROADCASTING (DAB) standard, a EUROPEAN-originated system also making inroads in ASIA and AUSTRALIA. In the U.S., the HD RADIO standard, introduced in 2003, has had a "lukewarm reception with consumers."
Starting in stages from JANUARY 2017 and rolling through the long length of the country, NORWAY’s three national broadcasters, several regional commercial stations, and many urban transmitters will go dark on FM bands while filling the air with digital packets broadcast at higher frequencies.
There are 22 national DIGITAL AUDIO BROADCASTING channels in NORWAY, offering considerably more choices than the five national FM-radio channels.
The idea gained momentum in the NORWEGIAN PARLIAMENT in 2011. NRK, NORWAY’s government-owned broadcaster, needed its digital coverage area to encompass 99.5% of the country’s population for the shift to begin to take effect. At least 50% of NORWAY’s broadcast audience now listens daily to digital radio.
At this point, though, many NORWEGIAN cars, even some brand-new ones, do not have DAB-compatible receivers. There are places where people can take their cars for modification at “an economically and technically satisfactory level," with adapters available for under €100 (around U.S. $110).
SVEIN LARSEN, who leads NORWAY’s community radio association, insists his station owners worry that an all-digital platform might entice bigger networks from outside the country to enter the market and squeeze out the country’s many community stations, meaning the content might end up being less, rather than more, diverse -- the intended result.
NORWAY is looking for digital transmissions to save money for the national broadcasters and create more bandwidth for additional programming.
The country’s DAB network needs 950 transmitters to reach its required coverage area and for the most part will use existing antenna masts. With FM, analog signals are broadcast at somewhere between 87.5 and 108 megahertz. With DAB, the signal leaves the transmitter in digital data packets from 174 to 240 MHz. The big stations are simulcasting on both bands already. Shuttering FM analog will save them 200 million Norwegian kroner (around $23 million) a year.
Broadcasters in other EUROPEAN countries will be eyeing NORWAY'S experiment, with DENMARK and SWITZERLAND close to making the same move. In countries like U.K. and the U.S., the shift towards digital radio is proceeding, but very slowly.
“There’s been a conscious decision in the U.K. not to announce anything like switchover, because we’re not there yet in terms of listening figures,” says UNIVERISTY OF LEEDS communications technology lecturer STEPHEN LAX.
“FINLAND’s failed with digital radio twice already,” says UNIVERSITY OF TAMPERE's MARKO ALA FOSSI. “Both attempts were supposed to be the future of digital radio.”