/ Technology

Is the UK ready to switch off FM radio for good?

Last week, Norway became the first country in the world to start switching off FM radio signal, going digital only. Is the UK ready to follow suit?

On Wednesday 11 January, Norway began the process of switching off its FM radio signal for good to go digital only.

Proceedings started in Nordland (one of the least populated areas of Europe) and will expand to the rest of the country by the end of the year.

The decision for the switch-off appears to be largely economic.

It’s expensive to get FM signals to a population scattered all over a country riven with fjords and high mountains. It’s also cheaper for radio stations to transmit broadcasts in DAB, rather than FM and DAB.

However, the general population won’t see any of these savings and many will have to shell out to update their radios, as millions of models will soon be rendered obsolete.

Those against it (two-thirds of the population, according to the country’s Dagbladet newspaper) said the move was premature and being forced upon them.

Is the UK next?

Understandably, many in the UK are now concerned about a move to digital-only radio.

And the fact that a week after turning FM off in Nordland, Norway’s DAB system temporarily went down will do nothing to allay any fears.

The UK government has said it won’t start a wholesale radio switchover until 50% of us are listening digitally and DAB signal coverage is comparable to FM.

But with that number now at 45.5% and new cars with digital radio as standard at 86%, we’re not far away from meeting the first target, which means the switch could start as soon as the end of the year.

Are we ready?

But rather than rushing in, as appears to be the case in Norway, I think it’s important we’re given adequate time to prepare.

For starters, the government needs to continue its work to strengthen the DAB signal, especially in rural areas where it can be patchy.

You’ll also need to update your old FM radios.

For your home, a decent quality DAB radio will set you back at least £40. In your car, you’ll either have to buy an adaptor, which cost between £50 and £200, or pay at least £40 for a whole new model, costing from between £90 and £400, to be fitted.

It isn’t all bad news though, as digital transmitters need less energy than analogue transmitters so are cheaper to run than FM radios.

There are also many more stations available on the digital spectrum – almost double in some areas. Plus, if your reception is good, the sound quality on DAB radios is far superior to FM.

Do you prefer to listen to FM, DAB or internet radio? Are you worried that, like Norway, the UK will switch off FM before everyone’s ready?

Comments
John says:
21 January 2017

We live in a rural area and cannot get digital radio, and Fm is weak too (National Stations only!) Will have to go with internet radio when FM dies.

Simon Tory says:
22 January 2017

Like wise John. We live near Bridlington, East Yorkshire.
DAB is wholly unusable.
FM only with an aerial on the roof. Even then we only just get BBC radio but with whistles squeaks and pops!

John Wilton says:
21 January 2017

I’m in one of those peculiar (but very common) locations in the UK where lower spectrum radio can get between and over hills. For instance the only way to get LOCAL BBC radio is via MW frequencies, and FM only available in the car outside if it’s parked right. Welsh stations are two a penny, so how is DAB going to help. We’ve had to Freesat to get English TV. Ever since our Government started ‘selling’ radio frequencies technology has been trying to keep up with an ever deceasing bandwidth availability. ‘Listen to your Local Radio’ we’re told when there’s a crisis. Bring back LW I say!

John says:
21 January 2017

DAB/FM, a complex problem the article doesn’t entirely address.
Firstly, having just experienced the Norwegian change-over was a shock! Oslo may be loosing FM later in the year but it has now switched off DAB and only broadcasts in DAB+. Older DAB sets don’t work, so there has been a rush to get new sets and shops have run out. Will this also happen in the UK as well, when things change?
Secondly, DAB may be cheaper to transmit, but is more expensive to receive – battery sets have a much shorter life. Radio in the bathroom? Can’t use the mains! Many more channels will allow the government to sell more licences, to more specialist providers, giving more fragmentation of society, which has social implications! Murdoch or Mordor?
Many of the people without DAB may be older, less financially affluent, etc., They may not form the 50% of the households needed for the switch but will have the most difficultly adapting to the change-over.
What will happen to all the older FM sets? Will they be recycled, just go to landfill, what?
Money will be made from the public!

Smike says:
21 January 2017

How on earth did WHICH? come to make such a fundamental error with this article.
Surely they should have ensured that Allson Potter had some basic knowledge of the topic before tasking her

How on earth did WHICH? come to make such a fundamental error with this article.
Surely they should have ensured that Allson Potter had some basic knowledge of the topic before tasking her with it. Even if not, surely someone with a bit of relevant knowledge should have proof read it before going to print?

The Government, in disgraceful collusion with the BBC, set an artificial benchmark for changeover based on how many households who own a single DAB radio, rather than on the proportion of time spent on listening on them rather than via FM .
They have also pressurised car manufacturers to fit DAB radios capable of receiving the obsolete UK only original DAB rather than the superior DAB2 transmissions, despite transmitter coverage being inadequate for their satisfactory use.

The disadvantages for the user are manifold.
– The quality is markedly inferior. Speech is adequate, but music, particularly multi instrument, is poor.
– The average user has less than one DAB and more than three FM radios, which will need to be expensively replaced.
– Battery usage of DAB radios is typically four times that of FM. An environmental and cost disaster.
FM tuners in Hi-Fi equipment will need replacing if separate, and if built-in could require the replacement of the whole setup at several hundred pounds cost.

DAB advantages?
– A few users will find that the DAB reception in their area is better than that of FM, and will prefer it for portable radios that cannot be conveniently connected to a decent external aerial.
– There are currently more DB than FM channels (DAB, with limited bandwidth elected for quantity of channels rather than quality) so if your listening is mainly speech based, or you are indifferent to quality, you will get more channel choice.
– Thats about it.

I suspect that when the switch-over occurs, the majority of people will not buy DAB radios but instead stream content via the internet.

In which case…. R.I.P. FM and D.A.B.

Smike

Dr Dick Morris says:
21 January 2017

Brilliant summary of the situation. This is another example of the “post-truth” society in which Government and others can say whatever suits their agenda, independent of the facts. There are two key aspects for me; first the cost of replacing several high quality FM receivers with (to me) inferior reproduction via DAB and the ludicrous running cost of DAB. This at a time when we are supposedly trying to cut national energy usage.

Phil says:
21 January 2017

” surely someone with a bit of relevant knowledge should have proof read it before going to print? ”

This is part of the fundamental problem. Which? no longer employs any engineers or anybody who could’ve corrected this article before it went to print.

Please don’t criticise Alison. She has kindly provided us with this opportunity to let us register our objections to getting rid of FM 🙂 Looking back, it is over five years since there was a Conversation on this topic.

Which? Conversation often provides provocative introductions, which helps to get the discussion going.

themoudie says:
21 January 2017

Appliable technical knowledge and ‘nouse’ are no longer considered relevant by Government, education establishments and “educated” people who have never worked at something tangible! What happens when President’s Trump and Putin or any other “Tom, Dick or Harry” for that matter decide to ‘jam’ digital signals? Living in a house with 2’6″ stone rubble walls and with an ‘iffy’ transmitter signal for any type of broadcast, shows up the flaws of the ‘digital’ and FM signals. There is strength in diversity and ‘new digital’ is not necessarily ‘best’. “Smart meters” are another example of this gullable leading the ignorant. They are only “smart” because your supplier can twiddle the tariff or turn the current off remotely, if they fancy; it’s not for the consumers convenience. I’m off to adjust the “Cat’s whisker”, crystal and charge the wet lead battery using my bicycle dynamo! Harrumph!

A good external or loft aerial can work wonders with both FM and DAB, especially if you have thick walls. I would not try charging the battery from a bicycle dynamo because most of them produce AC.

themoudie says:
21 January 2017

Aye wavechange,
Thank you for the tweak 😉 When 405 lines were all we could get north of Loch Ness, the aerials into various trees, where available, or onto hillside poles provided some respite from the Arctic blizzards dancing across the screen. Maybe we will see the return of the craic, ceilidh, sing song and knees up, along with people talking to each other, rather than gawping at a screen, with lug plugs stuffed in their ears. Now where is that Woolies wire coat hanger? 😉 Good health.

A fellow Scot. 🙂 I left many years ago but make an annual pilgrimage. 🙂 There are a few gaps in radio coverage in the Highlands.

In the Western Islands speaking the Gaelic before the “new fangled wireless ” the local,s entertained themselves ( along with a wee dram or “deoch-an-doris ” ) by using the “mouth music ” or singing without any accompaniment.

Stuart says:
22 January 2017

Yes I agree but that only works if you have a fixed place for the radio and/or you want wires all over the house, what about portables?

Mike Isserlis says:
23 January 2017

At any press conference given by the government on this subject the speaker should be asked for details of the plans in place for the environmentally sound disposal of the tens of millions of redundant FM receivers. I suspect they have not even consideed this, let alone made any plans.

Hi Smike, thanks for sharing your take on this debate. To clarify, Alison kickstarted this debate by outlining the latest on the switch over following Norway’s FM switch off, the purpose of this convo is to give you all a platform to share your views on the issue – thanks for adding yours and thanks to @apotter for giving us the opportunity to debate the pros and cons of the switch over

Maybe you should have chosen a less emotive subject for your first Convo, Alison. 🙂

I’d be lost ( figuratively) and forlorn without radio in my car, which doesn’t have DAB. My partner’s car does, but I notice that it switches itself to FM when the DAB signal is weak – which happens surprisingly often around here in North East Somerset and esp West Wiltshire.
Like some others in these threads, I have weak or nonexistent mobile phone signal at home, Freesat because no Freeview, and utterly pathetic broadband – and I live within 10 miles of Bath.
Conclusion: we are not yet ready – though as with superfast broadband the powers that be will probably decide that reaching 95% of the population is good enough and go hang the rest!
Will LW still be available?

Thanks for sharing your take on this debate, Jane. I think you’ve summed the problem up quite nicely so we’ve made your comment our featured comment on the Which? Conversation homepage. Thank you 🙂

Shugg says:
21 January 2017

Definitely not ready. I live in Edinburgh and choose to ALWAYS listen in FM rather than our low-quality version of DAB. The %’age value should be 90% not 50%. Many parts of UK can barely get a good FM signal never mind DAB. So, radios that have worked since FM was invented would cease to operate. No wonder the electronics manufacturers are rubbing their hands in glee.

Bravo Smike’s comments above.

Colin G Griffiths says:
21 January 2017

As i only listen to radio Kent on an old (25 year)transistor radio i’ll switch off lisening if they turn off FM. The radio i’m using is only a cheap one, but the sound quality is far superior ANY of the Digital radios that i’ve heard so far as they all sound too bassy, and lack the clarity of my old FM radio.

jack black says:
21 January 2017

I note that “Which” have not shown the results for car-conversion units. My car has the sat-nav built into the radio, so fitting a new radio is not an option. Is a conversion unit (of any quality ) yet manufactured ?
As another person has already posted, this is being pushed by the manufacturers, and as the vast majority are made by foreign companies, this move will simply push up our balance of payments deficit

Tony Pearson says:
21 January 2017

I listen to lot of live and other programmes on BBC Radio 3 via my Hi-Fi FM Tuner through my Hi-Fi setup. DAB reception here in East Suffolk is very patchy and I only occasionally listen to my portable DAB radio when I am upstairs to get a reasonable signal. The Government needs to decide whether DAB or DAB+ is the future of broadcasting and then to provide suitable coverage to support it. The cost of upgrading the domestic hardware will be significant.

Roger Oakes says:
21 January 2017

Shortly before our local telvision trandsmitter was switched to Digital there was a meeting in the Village Hall, run by BBC engineers, or whoever it was who was responsible for the TV switchover, to explain what was suipposed to happen. We were told in a very firm way that there were no plans to transmit DAB radio in our locality, and that it was unlikely that we would ever be able to receive DAB.
(We are 16 miles SW of Edinburgh.)

Here is an Ofcom report based on market research in 2015: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/58453/2015_digital_radio_report.pdf

An interesting snippet: “Nearly all households are able to receive digital radio services. Ninety-six per cent of households have televisions which give them the ability to listen to digital radio, compared to 80% through their broadband connection, and over half (54%) have a DAB radio set.” Listening to radio on a TV does not seem as convenient as using a radio, so hopefully the percentage of people able to receive radio on their TV will not be used as a justification to turn off FM radio.

People listen to radios in places where they would not, or could not, have a television set – such as their home office/study, back bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, shed, garage, garden, greenhouse, home gym, hot tub [Yes, we get the idea, Mr Ward, – just get on with it] – generally because no aerial is available and also because they cannot justify the expense. For Ofcom to put substitution by digital television to compensate for the withdrawal of the FM service is disgraceful.

Here ! Here ! John you deserve two thumbs up.

Alpat says:
21 January 2017

I have no problem providing they upgrade the signal to rural areas as at the moment it can be patchy. And not allow the same as broadband providers to be able to claim top speeds with only a small percentage of customers able to obtain them. This requires strict supervision by the government.

As a little light relief, can anyone identify make and model of the radio/wireless shown in the introduction? Finding the source and name of the photographer was easy – but does not help – and I am still not certain that this is genuine rather a modern ‘retro’ creation.

It looks either European or American Wavechange but not any genuine one of the 50,s I have come across .Of coarse the US had it commercially from the later 40,s although believe it or not there were FM radios for “TV sound ” in the later 30,s . I actually owned a radio with “TV sound ” . The big thick gold lettering on the dial area is indicative of US design so my guess would be American or a repro. British radio dials being more “enthusiast aimed ” were usually more technical providing additional information like graphic displays with segmented markings of towns or cities with transmitters .

You may remember a similar challenge in an earlier discussion, Duncan. We decided that photos was probably of a Schaub-Lorenz model. I had forgotten that the US had VHF/FM before us. I’m keen not to take an important recent Conversation off-topic for long but we have a few radio enthusiasts here, I’m sure.

I was wondering about the picture myself. I support the idea of it being American rather than continental [the English language is a clue] and not British since we used VHF as the description instead of FM for a very long time. The picture has also been cropped to show only the lower part of the badge and there could be two more parts of it showing a brand name and above that “AM” to balance the “FM”.

Thank you Which -thank you Wavechange !!! If I sound emotional I have a very good reason because of your article and because of Wavechange,s challenge I started looking for early US FM radios , I didn’t find the radio but BOY !! did I find a web page that I have been looking for for YEARS ! Every US magazine relating to radios in any shape or form/ broadcasting / radio stars /the full range of US technical radio mags AND UK ones including Wireless World / radio Constructor Practical Wireless /etc /etc and unbelievably UNLIKE the UK available FREE to browse through at your leisure in PDF form thats right the full (nearly full range of Wireless World ) this includes valve(tube ) equivalents which I have in book form at home but even more issues than my year books which I think you, Wavechange or another poster was looking for as it includes Arthur C Clark,s article on satellite transmission from the 40,s and millions of innovations showing that in the thirties radios were well ahead of even 60,s models . Including ALL the radio patents –amazing , better than a Christmas present to me. Pass the valium doctor !

Why the , ell was Wavechange marked down ? I have been as well I get the impression a member of the Government is posting here or a government lackey or “Yes man ” . Own up please ? I have marked him UP .

Of course, the most appalling tragedy in all this is that, as and when the switch-off occurs, Classic FM will have to change its name – and the translation will not be elegant.

You listen to it as well John ? it calms my soul.

“Classic Dabble’? No, too squelchy. Classic Dig’? No – let’s stick with FM for that reason alone. 🙂

Andy says:
22 January 2017

Let us not forget the appalling choice of bland music available on digital. There are dozens of stations all playing the same boring old records, heard a thousand times over. There’s no imagination. The BBC dumbs down by the week. DAB reminds me of Sky TV, hundreds of channels and nothing to watch.

Good perception Andy –nail on the head ” in the Dumb down ” the public social control and LCD mindset they want a compliant -servile -public=sheep as we are used as a means of profit for banks +business – “roll on Globalisation + and a “fully digital world ” I say (NOT ! ) The question is are the British public socially “compliant ” as the American public -now thats the right question as per the movie-I- Robot.

bishbut says:
22 January 2017

Whatever the public need or want or say the government will just do anything the “experts” it uses to decide things suggest The public will have no say in the matter at all even though the government will say it has consulted them Consulted a very small unrepresentative minority maybe

Exactly Bishbut -good observation its called the loss of Electoral Franchise .All the appearance of a “democratic society” is put forward at voting time but once in the voters rights are totally ignored and replaced with those who REALLY runs the country . It is now so blatant that the government +Media put forward diversions to take the publics mind off the situation as perceived by the wise and come out with “causes ” . This psychological control of the masses works but as more and more of the population are “controlled ” it builds up resentment in those who can see through the poker player with his card up his sleeve. Several people have commented on this here so inner perception is not dead but hey !! you have Radio 1 to “entertain you ” , whats that it sounds like continual screeching of cats at night outside your window , get with it man your not “on programme “

I think it’s time for your Classic FM session. Duncan.

Maybe your right John ?

I have 11Gib of WAV music on my “hi-fi ” PC set up (top audio cards etc ) playing through a high quality amp+speakers and you will be pleased to hear I am listening to Greig,s Peer Gynt Suite No1 -“Morning ” Ahhh ! the pure bliss of it all political thought flows away I am transported to a make believe world in my head , I think I will leave Die Walkure to later (slipping into a delightful slumber ) .

Tony Kessler says:
22 January 2017

DAB Radio is great when it works.

We have three DAB radios in the house and we have to go searching round for a solid signal.

One would have though that living in Leeds not far from the main transmitter would ensure good service but unfortunately we’re on the wrong side of a hill and the house is built of thick solid stone.

The radio in the kitchen is on the wrong side of the house and it is permanently on VHF/FM as DAB is rubbish.

We didn’t have any problems with 192 kHz. DAB is progress?

Last line Tony thats why (as far as I know ) HMG nuke subs are keeping their Long Wave communications in case of satellite shoot down. Its also the reason Russia has designed new Short wave radar while the west goes into the frequency stratosphere digitally for its defence.

I think it’s more because the longer the wavelength the greater the water penetration, Duncan. Subs still use wavelengths of 40 miles, and have half-wave antennae buried alongside some lochs in Scotland. Fascinating field, underwater radio.

VLF radio can penetrate down to roughly 60 feet but VLF data transmission rates are around 300 bit/s – or about 35 8-bit ASCII characters per second (or the equivalent of a sentence every two seconds) – a total of 450 words per minute. Simply shifting to 7-bit ASCII increases the number of transmitted characters per time unit by 14%. An additional shift to a 6-bit or a 5-bit code (such as the baudot code) would result in speeds of more than 600 and 700 words per minute.

ELF goes a lot deeper but requires antennae of around 2500 miles long 🙂

Thanks for the additional info Ian , while I know ax bit about military communication I like to keep up to date. I have an old Murphy B40 communications receiver pulled from an old warship which has FSK and thats in the days of valve technology which was used by Russian aircraft to combat radiation attacks but I got info saying the solid state stuff is “hardened now ” but being skeptical I keep an open mind . Your right about the size of the aerial look at the pictures of US/Russian ground stations and limited the subs to one way communication at VLF . Then we have the little talked about but perfectly capable Ground Transmission known way back in the last century you can see why governments want everybody onto digital they can control and intercept .

I think (but I’m not certain) that military radios are still mostly valves, being more EMP resistant.

It was certainly the case with the GPO / BT who kept manual exchanges hidden away in places you would never think of looking (but I did ) .

OldProgrammer says:
23 January 2017

I wrote a 5-bit compression (from 8-bit ASCII) program for the BBC Computer back in ’84. Wonder if they’d be interested in it?

Why don’t you try the NMOC-National Museum of Computing.org -OP or the British Chartered Institute for IT

Patrick says:
22 January 2017

There is no plan to “switch off” FM. Smaller local stations, Community and Restricted Service stations will remain there, but national services will go to DAB. But all these and more are already available on the internet, which offers thousands of stations worldwide on your phone, tablet, digital radio (with internet access) or in- home streaming devices. This is the future – not DAB.

Internet can offer high quality sound with huge capacity. However I, like many, do not roam the country linked to the internet so that would not work for me. The assumption often made is that everyone has smartphones and all services can use that platform – well it never will be true for many people. As an alternative yes, but as a substitute no.

DAB+ is I understand more efficient and better quality than DAB, and I have seen mention of supposedly better technologies – DAB-T2 and DAB-NGH. Anyone know about them (I haven’t checked earlier posts)?

Malcolm I have said twice already that saying DAB+ is “better QUALITY is not true . A good advertising gimmick but nothing more , so for the THIRD time ( and please spend time checking up websites that are engineering ) DAB+ ONLY improves the DROP_OUT bit rate in bad reception areas it does not in any shape or form INCREASE the normal bit rate which is shocking as far as fidelity goes . You want DAB to equal FM ? then increase the bit-rate to 300Kbps (screams of anguish from the government, shouts of “too dear ” from the business section ) and if you don’t believe me I rechecked on the USA,s communications engineering website. Patrick- this is the future(Internet ) not DAB (quote ) –that is until times of “unrest ” both in the USA and UK and then guess what will be “switched off ” but only for the general public and check out the “reasons ” it will be switched off ( no, not only for “all out war “) but for—-“social unrest ” on a large scale , did you know that ? Malcolm -dont you mean DVB -T2 not DAB-T2 and its not suitable for mobile reception anyway.

I tend to agree with Duncan. Dab+ has the potential to be higher quality, in fact, but because there’s a desire to pack as many streams as possible into the DAB station the bit rates tend to be lower, and thus the quality follows.

From Ofcom: “The original objectives of converting to digital transmission were to enable higher fidelity, more stations and more resistance to noise, co-channel interference and multipath than in analogue FM radio. However, the leading countries in implementing DAB on stereo radio stations use compression to such a degree that it produces lower sound quality than that received from non-mobile FM broadcasts. This is because of the bit rate levels being too low for the MPEG Layer 2 audio codec to provide high fidelity audio quality”.

One issue that’s pushing all this along is the desire on the part of businesses for more and more frequencies, given the ubiquity of wireless transmissions and the need for more and more frequencies for all sorts of applications. Digital encoding is one way of creating more stations on the same frequencies.

We all repeat things duncan. I was simply asking questions and I should have given a reference to what I had found. I do not profess to be knowledgeable on this topic but came across this paper by “checking up websites that are engineering” as I often do. By the way yes, I meant to type DVB-T2.

This paper (undated) is by Steven Green: “I took an MSc in Communications & Signal Processing at Imperial College, University of London, which led to my interest in digital radio, as the MSc covered the technologies that are used in digital radio systems.” So unless he is a complete charlatan I thought what he said would have some credibility since he seemed to have specialist knowledge. But I cannot comment otherwise. It may be a load of tosh. Things may have changed….

But it is from a University, not from industry!……That might please some 🙂

Page 8 of the paper I linked to comments on the potential advantages of DAB+. It seems largely to depend upon how it might be implemented. Is the author wrong?

Whats the date of your link malcolm so I can check it, I dont see it on this webpage ?

Sorry duncan, I lost the original reply and missed the link when i retyped – https://www.parliament.uk/documents/documents/upload/stevegreen.pdf

Just testing if I can reply to you malcolm didnt work there.

The summaries were interesting, Malcolm. One major point (for me, anyway) was when the author concluded that the different DAB systems would render DAB-receiving car radios essentially obsolete, as throughout Europe they’ll all be using different systems.

bishbut says:
22 January 2017

Internet is fine when you are connected to it Not connected nothing at all How do you stay connected everywhere without paying for data on a phone if you can get a signal ?

Okay try this time , checked out the URL you gave me malcolm his “thesis ” doesn’t stand up to close inspection he actually admits that it depends on the traffic on DAB+ as to the bit rate but in saying- “high quality audio can be delivered ” and then quotes- AAC+ at “higher bit levels than 80Kbps ” (you cant be serious ! ) he then quotes Redd-Solomon error correction – exactly what I have stated as -bit error DROPOUT , he spends most time on the issues of what big business require -more stations as pluses. At no time does he state DAB+ =FM If this was a thesis entitled –real fidelity from digital transmission his professor would mark it down.

Steve Whitt says:
22 January 2017

Duncan I agree with you that DAB+ is a good advertising gimmick, but for slightly diiferent reasons. I’m not advocating that we stay marooned with DAB, but unless the business model of digital radio is revised then DAB+ will only result in more saleable channels on a multiplex rather than a move towards higher bandwidth per channel and better audio quality. A multiplex owner will aim for the commercial “sweet spot” where they minimise bandwidth per channel without losing broadcasters due to poor quality audio. Untimately are broadcasters willing to double their cost of transmission by upgrading from mono audio to stereo on a DAB multiplex?

At the heart this is a consumer issue (so why isn’t Which properly engaged?). But there is a conumdrum at the heart of consumer behaviour. Why are people keen to rush out to upgrade TVs to 1080p then to 4k then to 3D at considerable expense to themselves, yet the radio industry lacks similar direction or momentum. Perhaps the TV example shows that people are willing to spend to get more performance – not just more channels.

Well, it was not a thesis but a commentary on the position that presumably pertained at the time. However, he had studied the topic and presumably is no slouch if the university awarded his MSc – presumably his professor did not mark him down. The article is entitiled “Plans for digital radio switchover are against the interest of consumers” so I don’t think it can be seen as pro “big business”.”

I take it from what is said that DAB+ has the potential to deliver better quality providing it is not overloaded with channels – a trade-off? Is that so? If we could track him down his current views might be informative.

To give you some idea what I am talking about malcolm click on : http://a-bc.co.uk/audio-quality-comparison-dab-pcm-fm-am/ by Associated Broadcast Consultants showing spectrum analyzer pictures and proof that DAB+ transmissions in the UK are well below they threshold of FM quality and actual bit rates are low.

@apotter – You say that Which? is engaged but I wonder to what extent. In the case of smart meters, I saw little evidence that Which? had considered the possibility that the huge rollout cost was an unnecessary burden on consumers, particularly those who struggle to pay their energy bills. I recall that Which? did question the costs but as an outsider, it seems that Which? simply accepted the industry/government view that smart meters are necessary and kept us informed about what would happen.

I would be interested to know whether Which? accepts that FM radio will be turned off in the next few years or believes there may be case for keeping it. Contributors to this discussion have made some valid points for retention of FM.

Incidentally, I am not anti-DAB and bought my first DAB radio about fifteen years ago. If we are going to phase out anything, perhaps it should be radios that can only receive either FM or DAB.

Thats the kind of positive comment from Which I am looking for–FOR the consumer Alison.

Thanks Alison. It would be great if you could keep us informed of any developments.

Radio Gaga says:
22 January 2017

I don’t consider the area I live in to be particularly rural, we are not “out in the sticks”, but the DAB reception is very poor unless a roof ariel connected. I have no intention of buying one so will not be listening to the radio at home after switchover. My car has DAB radio but again, in my home area the signal cuts in and out every few minutes making it impossible to use … so much for better quality.
If the signal strength is not greatly improved I fear it will be the death of radio in all but the main cities.

Steve Whitt says:
22 January 2017

As I mentioned previously the economics of DAB broadcasting don’t look great unless broadcasters have deep pockets and large audiences or are willing to sacrifice audio quality – because of the monopoly structure of the DAB multiplexes.
This news just in:
“BFBS to end national DAB radio transmissions: Forces radio station BFBS will come off the national digital radio multiplex Digital One in March after carrying out analysis over the costs. The station can no longer justify the cost of the platform, but the radio service will continue as normal with no job losses (continuing on local FM and online) .”
The necessity for large audiences mitigates against any minority or niche programming. For example BBC Radio 3 on DAB will only survive by virtue of being a BBC station (internally cross-subsidised) – the DAB economics are totally stacked against it. It uses a high bandwidth channel (costly) to serve a tiny audience. If I was an operator of a DAB multiplex I could earn much more money by reselling the capacity used by Radio 3 to 3 or 4 commercial channels each using lower bandwidth.

Steve-Your quite right and realistic -straight business talk and in doing so you make the very point Ian was making about the number of DAB stations using the bit rate . I don’t always agree with business actions but if they are put truthfully that is more acceptable to me. Its funny you quoting forces radio being dumped while at the same time the US Government increases theirs by the minute but there again those F35,s are very dear as is Trident 2 and Trump praised the UK for reaching the US NATO approved GDP in arms (one of 5 countries ) .