Wednesday 24 October 2018

FM Radio Position Still Strong In Sweden Says Authority

DAB system is questioned in public broadcasting consultation.
In view of technological developments and consumption patterns, the public service committee proposal for the forthcoming license period of eight or ten years is too long. This in particular to the requirement that public service companies are bound to broadcast via the terrestrial networks. Post- och telestyrelsen (PTS) - the telecom authority - points to lack a discussion that internet distribution can be done both by wire and wireless and in time.- PTS challenges continued temporary DAB broadcasting and broadcast provider Teracom AB welcomes the continued focus on FM network investments in Sweden.

PTS writes that a final government decision on a terrestrial digital radio (i.e. DAB) would be desirable. Parallel transmissions of audio radio in 87.5-108 MHz and 174-240 MHz mean inefficient use of spectrum and dual distribution costs. Transferring the question to whether Sveriges Radio (SR) applies for a DAB broadcast license or not will have the effect of blocking parts of the 174-240 MHz frequency space, even if the public broadcaster does not apply for permission.

PTS submitted that the Authority supports the development of the analogue audio radio in 87.5-108 MHz by continuing modifying the planning parameters to increase the scope of the broadcasters, thus making for more efficient use of radio spectrum. PTS pointed out that the FM network will to a greater extent be complemented by internet radio.

On behalf of a government mission, PTS has developed a new frequency planning for analogue commercial radio (FM). The frequency planning is aimed at promoting competition and diversity throughout the radio area and providing the conditions for a viable commercial radio. This has resulted in the assignment of three national FM licenses and 35 regional/local licenses in 21 areas from August 2018.

Given the weak interest that, according to the committee report, is shown by SR’ for continued digital radio broadcasting in the terrestrial network, and that commercial operators have now purchased licenses in the FM networks that enable national broadcasting it can be questioned if there is a market interest to invest in digital radio in the terrestrial network. There is, however, military interest to use the 230-240 MHz band according to PTS.

What affects Teracom and the conditions for the company's business is primarily how coverage should look and how many program services will be broadcast on the terrestrial network. The report's proposal means that the regulation will be unchanged i.e. 99.8 percent population coverage including four standard-level television channels (two of which in HD). Teracom believes it is a well-balanced proposal that gives the terrestrial network a good opportunity to continue to develop and be a relevant distribution technology for radio and TV.

Although new technologies for mobile broadband and thus access to Internet radio are growing, FM radio is still strong, especially in relation to the increased awareness of the population about crisis preparedness. By 2018, several major campaigns were carried out by various actors to lift FM radio as a channel of information during crises, and in its brochure "If the war is coming", MSB - the Agency for Security and Emergency Planning - has pointed to the importance of having battery-powered radios in the household's "crisis box".

The investigation also looks at SR broadcasting and suggests that analog audio radio (FM) to be used at the same extent as today. These are well-balanced proposals which provide good conditions in order to continue investing in the FM network so that it can continue to operate with robust and secure broadcasting for a long time, writes Teracom.

With particular regard to radio contingency motives, the Public Service Council (PSR)  in its consultation letter opposes the definition of coverage and suggests that the SR objective should be to have full "geographic coverage" instead of "population coverage". Broadcasting should reach the entire population wherever it is within the country's external (offshore) borders.

PSR warned that using the DAB system for broadcasting means reduced geographic range per transmitter and increased vulnerability. Experience from Norway already proves this. PSR recommends that at an upcoming decommissioning of the terrestrial network for television, the SR infrastructure should be retained for FM radio.

On technical and economical reasons PSR has overall rejected DAB as a being a possible replacement for analogue terrestrial radio. PSR has expressed satisfaction with the 2015 government decision to reject the proposal to replace FM with DAB+ in Sweden.

Download consultation responses (in Swedish)
Post- och telestyrelsen (PTS)
Teracom AB
Public servicerådet (PSR)

Also read
The DAB Radio Project in Norway Is Derailing
Why DAB Radio in Norway, But Not in Sweden?
FM Switch-off in the UK Would Be a Risk
Europe Start Ditching Digital Terrestrial Television