Sunday 23 April 2017

National channels closing 2000 transmitters in Norway. What's happening to the FM band?

Besides local radio and Swedish broadcasting no other demands today. 
Not much happens yet with the FM band, according to chief engineer Tore Lunestad at the Telecom authority Nkom lecturing at the National Local Radio Federation's conference in Stavanger. When the national channels close their FM transmitter in 2017, many available frequency resources are released in Norway. Among other things, public radio NRK has almost 1200 transmitters and private Radio Norge almost 700. All of these and some more will free new frequencies for, among other things, local radio. And the Swedes are keen to get a slice of the cake.

Nkom will now investigate how these frequencies can be used. There are many ideas and suggestions, but nothing is certain, Lunestad said. He mentioned communications and the Internet, as well as maritime broadband use, air traffic and radio amateurs. Localradio is also on the list for NKom, regarding the use of FM after 2022, but Nkom has so far assumed that the local radio will disappear from FM after that. Local radio,  however, needs their FM frequencies, meant the audience almost unison audience.

The FM band will not be completely available until neighboring countries also close their FM transmitters. But so far there are no concrete plans for this in neighboring countries, Lunestad said. The Swedes have already said that they now want more frequency resources. Several stations in Sweden have applied in Norway to increase the effect on their FM transmitters on frequencies that have been in conflict with broadcasting in Norway. Sweden is also planning to create several new FM frequencies for commercial radio upcoming years. Thus there are no plans for FM network vacant space in the future and there is no known need to use the band for anything else, Lunestad said.

There  are a number of areas where it is possible to apply for a license for local radio, without content requirements, both DAB and FM, according to the Media Authority. There are a total of 141 locations for FM local radio and a total of 208 licenses, but in another 22 areas it is also possible to start local radio on FM.

However, there is a ban on commercial local radio on FM in major cities and therefore there are strict requirements for obtaining a license in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim. Here only the so-called "niche radio” (community radio) is possible. In the case of local DAB, seven out of 37 DAB+ areas in Norway are still vacant.

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