Thursday 19 November 2015

Lobby Group Struggles to Retain Frequencies for DAB Radio

DAB frequency allocations is a spectrum wasteland in Norway
There is an increased global pressure from telecom operators to expand mobile broadband allocations in the UHF band (470-862 MHz) which is already underway in the 700 and 800 MHz band with next step the 600 band (Canada and the US). Thus terrestrial television broadcasters are being pressured to regain spectrum for DVB-T2 in the VHF band III (174-240 MHz). This might be a mortal problem for DAB broadcasting as there are no other spectrum allocated for DAB/DAB+ on lower frequencies.

In view of the present WRC meeting in Geneva a statement from the lobby organization WorldDAB President Patrick Hannon says that with the DAB/DAB+ standard (which presently uses Band III) expanding in various countries, it would be impractical to move free-to-air DTT services out of bands IV and V into band III. We encourage spectrum regulators to recognize the benefits, which digital terrestrial radio brings to listeners and also its ability to deliver reliable, free-to-air information to listeners on the move — especially in times of emergency. The radio industry has already given up any claim to L Band spectrum (1,4 GHz), continued the release, stating that the international development of DAB/DAB+ means it is essential that this allocation be retained, Hannon says.

Norway and Switzerland have already planned for Digital Switchover (DSO) between 2017 and 2024. However, the allocation of spectrum for DAB+ in Norway might be a real overkill as only 15-20 percent of the allocated spectrum in VHF band III is used by radio broadcasters. The allocation includes the extra channel 13 which is 230-240 MHz. There is a lack of demand for DAB among local broadcasters opposing an FM switch-off.

The DAB system was taken into operation 1995 and is established in some European countries and Australia. However, there is a significant DAB listening population (15-27% on weekly basis) only in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the UK.  Other countries as Germany and Netherlands the DAB+ network have full national coverage but few listeners (less than 5%).  Finland has already allocated VHF band III for television DVB-T(2) only and Sweden recently opted out of a proposed transition from FM to DAB+.  

Other terrestrial digital radio standards on the global arena is DRM30/DRM+, DVB-T2 Lite, HD Radio and Internetbased LTE Broadcast. 

As terrestrial television broadcasting will gradually lose its dominant position for news and entertainment there are projections that the mobile broadband sector will completely take command of the UHF band in 2025-2030. The prognosis is that everyone will possess a smartphone and new cars will be ip connected.  Still radio and television content will be consumed in great extent but online rather than via terrestrial broadcasting.

Also read
Everybody Will Be Smartphone Connected
Broadcasters To Lose Still More Space in the UHF Band
EBU Shocked By Swedish UHF Band Deciscion