Saturday 6 December 2014

Royal Academy Rejects DAB Radio

A severe setback for proposal to switch-off FM in Sweden 
The renowned Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) has promptly rejected DAB digital radio in response to the proposed roadmap for a transition to DAB+.
The "Digital Radio Coordinator" commissioned by the former center-right government presented her proposal Dec 1. The plan consists of a mutual launch, extension of the licenses for commercial radio actors to broadcast analogue and a conditional shutdown of FM transmissions 2016-2024.
However, the proposal has been mauled by the public opinion in the press and social media and widely criticized by experts outside the DAB sphere of interest. 

The Academy has now joined this massive opposition to DAB  "It's expensive and unnecessary to invest in on-air digital radio". In a statement, also published in Sweden's no. 1 newspaper Dagens Nyheter, IVA says that consumer needs are better catered to by today´s technologies. The days are gone when producers could decide how and information should be distributed and consumed.

There are technologically several flaws with DAB+,  according to IVA. The academy is concerned that the digital platforms for television DVB-T and DVB-T2 is not also used for distribution of radio.

The academy regard the increasing distribution capacity on Internet will make mobil and fixed broadband will function much better for the future proposed period than the capacity which is being discussed today.

With this background it is highly doubful that there should be significant public investments in a stand-alone digital radio network based on technology which already today can be regarded as outdated.

IVA recommends that radio can develop on-line, also in use with DVB-T2, and that today's FM network and receivers should be retained. Thus there will be no need for an expensive and bad DAB+ solution.


The outlook for a political decision for an introduction of DAB+ seems quite bleak. The total public costs for the transition period is estimated to be at least 1 billion euro of which receiver replacement by consumers is the major part. 

Today's FM network is modern and robust. Recently the broadcast provider Teracom upgraded the FM network and also just "discovered" 68 vacant FM frequencies which the two major commercial networks SBS Discover and MTG now will apply for.

It is proposed that a transition from FM to DAB+ should be implemented 2016-2024 subject to a decision by the Parliament autumn 2015. But the new government with the Social Democrats and the Green party is not very keen to switch off FM. The Social Democrats put a lid on DAB 2005 after ten years with DAB in Sweden.

In March 2015 the National Audit Office will present its review of public involvement in promotion of DAB in Sweden.

Sweden is a well-connected country with 92 % of the households on-line and 4G/LTE is covering the whole country. Volvo cars on sale now offers on-line connectivity. There are plans to introduce the next generation mobile technology 5G in 2020. As it needs 30-40 times less bandwidth than video and television, which is driving the mobile expansion, radio will have no capacity problem on-line.