Sunday 25 October 2015

Transition to DAB Radio Collides With Reality in Norway

Irritation among public service listeners losing FM.
Criticism of safety deficiencies countryside and on roads. Smartphones will kill DAB+
The government prescribed  transition to digital DAB radio and the closure of FM 2017 meets the population's continued complaints and protests. The car business is reporting customer dissatisfaction. Most of the vehicle fleet, especially buses and trucks, have not installed DAB radio. In addition, motorists from abroad, including neighboring Sweden will not be able to listen to Norwegian radio. Now the irritation of public service radio listeners (and license payers) is mounting. A 2017 chaos might hit Norwegian households and motorists. Moreover, the assessment is that with online radio in smartphones the future of the Norwegian DAB+ network seems to be doomed.

For several years NRK broadcast digital radio with the first-generation DAB system. While switching off FM 2017 DAB+ will replave DAB. With a DAB receiver older than five years, you can not listen to the "new" DAB +. This has particularly irritated those who bought the previously expensive DAB receivers for cars and for their stereos. They are currently unable to listen to,NRK Classic which moved to DAB + which also carries NRK Sport, NRK P13, NRK MP3, NRK Folkemusikk, NRK Radio Super, NRK Sámi Radio och NRK Vær (Weather). NRK Jazz has recently been closed.

Recent listening poll reveals that listeners do not automatically revert to the DAB channels. It is only NRK P1+  that has influx and the channel is only in DAB. It is worse for NRK Sport, NRK Classic and NRK P13. In week 41 actually nobody listened to NRK Sport, in terms of the measurement of a market share of 0.0%. It has been able to be a statistical error if it had not been for that channel earlier weeks remained at 0.1 and 0.2%. Not better for NRK Classic with a share of 0.1%.

In terms of national programs NRK today 64.4% of the radio audience, while two commercial P4 and Radio Norway has 28.6%. The DAB channel with the most listening is NRK P1 + 4.8%.

In the daily Dagbladet Per Morten Hoff Secretary General of the IT industry organization IKT Norge repeats his criticism that Norway will be the first country in the world forcing listeners to use DAB+. He calls the whole DAB project a flop. The whole thing can lead to security issues around the country. People around in the countryside is complaining over lack of reception. This might cause safety problems in connection to accidents, said Hoff.

The FM network was once planned to cover 99.5 per cent of Norway's land area, while the DAB network is aiming for 99.5% of the population. He points out that air alarms and important announcements on the radio today is controlled via the FM signal. This will not work when the FM network is switched off in 2017. 

Hoff points out that only a few cars today DAB radio installed, which can lead to important messages are not getting through. Since Norway is the first country that will be only broadcasting DAB, means, according to Hoff to that foreign registred cars cannot receive important messages. I doubt that foreign tourists will buy a DAB receiver when coming to Norway, he says.

As previously reported, the switching to DAB might be in contravention of the European economic framework (EOS), and Hoff now demands that further expansion of the DAB network will be postponed. Politically it is all possible to let the FM network continue broadcasting, at least some more years. First the case should be tested at ESA. One of the central arguments for the DAB stop in Sweden was the inferior emergency preparedness for the system, he says.

Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey (Conservative) disagrees with Per Morten Hoff. The government decision stands as the Stortinget - the parliament - has confirmed the closing process for FM. She says there are no plans to postpone in order to await a pending political processes in other countries.


However, there is uncertainty that a decent majority of Norwegians will accept DAB +, but rather persist to stay and listen to local FM or FM broadcast from Sweden which covers half of the Norway's land areal, and/or switch to the Internet mainly in cars and smartphones.

The transition to DAB + has cost the public service broadcaster a lot. NRK was not granted government permission to increase the television fee to sufficient level in 2016 and now must save 100 million NOK annually. If not most of the radio audience adhere to DAB + in 2017 NRK will likely have to continue to transmit on FM at least NRK P1 and local radio. This means increased not budgeted costs. Rationalization of staff reductions can be expected.

It is reported from several countries that radio listening on mobile and smartphones is increasing. This is primarily online, but also on FM. Forecasts indicate that all adults in the world will own a smartphone by 2025. Smartphones will replace stand-alone receivers as "kitchen radio", "travel radio" and "received radio". The in-car online radio will be a function of the "Connected Car". These developments will also take place in Norway. The DAB platform do not exist in smartphones or is planned to be implemented by the manufacturers. This means that a DAB network will be completely isolated from on-line platforms based on 3G, 4G and upcoming 5G networks. The Norwegian DAB+ network seems to be already obsolete.

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