Monday 4 June 2018

No Lift Off for DAB Radio in New Zeeland

12 years of trial now coming to an end
Broadcast provider Kordia must wrap up its DAB trial by June 30, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says. MBIE oversaw the technical aspects of the trial. The government must now decide whether to green-light the technology. According to National Business Review Kordia has written to Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran asking for her to overrule MBIE and extend the trial. But as things stand, the curtain is coming down on perhaps New Zealand's longest-running technology trial. Globally, there are still only a few countries with established DAB broadcasting.

The trial began in 2006, utilising a 22 MHz slice of the Band III spectrum (174-230 MHz) left over after the analogue TV switch-off and the attendant 4G auction (the DAB trial occupies frequencies between 184-206MHz; MBIE has reserved the balance for Internet of Things applications and the NZ Defence Force).

It now falls on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which handles broadcasting policy, to make a recommendation to Ms Curran on whether DAB should be licensed for the commercial market. The state-owned Kordia is playing politics as well. The company, which has lost its analogue TV broadcast cash cow, is looking for new work.

This island nation with 4,8 million inhabitants is exceptionally well provided with FM and AM (medium wave) frequency spectrum. The neighboring countries first of all Australia is on a far distance for interferences. Thus, there are plenty of available frequencies for this nation.

For example in Auckland there are 27 FM radio stations, broadcasting on 32 frequencies and 17 AM radio stations, broadcasting on 15 frequencies. Also there are about 70 low power FM stations. New Zeeland residents are allowed to broadcast licence free-of-charge ”citizens access” at a maximum of 1 watt.

As in other highly developed countries New Zeelanders are also increasingly listening to radio (and music streaming) on-line primarily on smartphones.

Thus, New Zeeland already has a wide choice of public, commercial, community and citizen radio. It is quite difficult to envisage DAB radio in New Zeeland ever becoming successful.

Still there are only five countries with established DAB radio i.e. more than 10% listening on a weekly basis (United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Australia). In other countries with a some kind of DAB presence it is - as in New Zeeland - on experimental or trial basis. All 220 countries of the world (including Norway) are still broadcasting on FM.

Also read
Next Month DAB Radio in Hong Kong is All Gone
Digital Radio Will Not Replace FM in Australia
The Impossible Mission: A Global Future for DAB Radio