However, consumer and eurolegal backlash is looming.
The European Electronics Communications Code (EECC) will include a new provision that any radio equipment integrated in a new car which is put on the market for sale or rent in the Union shall be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio broadcasting. The political agreement on the EECC had been reached in June 2018 . This might be a step forward for the DAB system, but technical developments for mobile broadband might kill the whole setup.
The European Parliament may also adopt measures to ensure the interoperability of other consumer radio equipment. The impact on the market of low value radio equipment shall be limited and measures cannot be applied to products such as smartphones where a radio receiver is purely ancillary and not to equipment used by radio amateurs.
It is explained that in case of technical regulations adopted by member states for the interoperability of consumer radio equipment, radio sets should be capable of receiving radio services provided via digital terrestrial radio broadcasting or via IP networks.
The final legislative texts which will be made after the final European Parliament vote in October. The proposed regulation is set to come into effect in 2020 for the member states including Efta nations as Norway.
The proposal is on the table after two years of crafty influence by the DAB lobbying complex in Brussels. (Read separate story)
The authors behind this proposal seem not to have been looking into the future when it comes to technology developments.
According to an amendment to the proposal all consumer equipment enabling the reception of radio and/or audio signals made available in the Union, is to possess the capability to receive radio in a technology neutral manner, by analogue and digital broadcasting, and via IP networks. As DAB is just one of several systems for digital terrestrial radio this measure should also include the competing European standard DRM.
DRM is a more modern European system with a stronger position globally and has a wider choice of frequency bands (MF, HF and VHF which includes the FM band) with a robust and much better geographical transmission reach.
The definition of ”digital terrestrial radio” will also be challenged by operators of online radio via mobile broadband especially with the future LTE Broadcast system on 4G and 5G. Also, the proposed provision will collide with policies of individual member states which are not planning to establish DAB systems. And in countries like Finland the frequency band assigned for DAB broadcasting (VHF III 174-240 MHz) is permanently occupied by television (DVB-T2).
Also, there is still not any reported consumer demand for digital terrestrial radio in any European country.
In 2012 the European Commission in a response to a letter from the European community radio sector pointed out that the EU does not currently have a common policy on radio broadcasting. Member States and the Commission have considered up to now that the cross-border element in radio transmission is insufficient in itself to justify the establishment of a fully-fledged EU radio policy. As a consequence, Member States take responsibility for radio policy under the subsidiarity principle.
The Commission also noted that building multiple standards into radio receiver chips is becoming a reality and that software implementation of radio receiver standards is evolving into a mass-market phenomenon. Public policy has to remain both neutral in terms of technological solutions and sufficiently flexible to adapt to future evolutions.
It is difficult to envisage that there will any success trying to force European consumers to switch to DAB. The Norwegian fiasco will be indicative.
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