Sunday 10 March 2019

Sweden: No Commercial DAB Without a Government Frequency Guarantee

Private terrestrial digital radio is postponed - again. 
Listeners and public service broadcaster is turning its back on DAB.
NENT (formerly MTG), may postpone the start of national DAB+ broadcasts until July 1, when 35 percent of the population should be able to receive. One year later, 50% must be reached and on July 1, 2021 the network must be expanded to a coverage of 70% of the population. NENT has requested a postponement of the DAB start due to "technical and organizational challenges". The fact that other license holders (as Bauer) have been deferred with the first launching start to January 1, 2020, contributes to the request being admitted by the media authority.

In the investigation report to the government Frequencies in the service of society there is a proposal that the space in VHF band III 2027 should be transferred for military needs. As a result, DAB, like in Finland, will lose its only frequency space in Sweden. Thus NENT now request a government guarantee that this frequency space will be able also in 2027 before starting to broadcast DAB radio in Sweden. However, it is unlikely that the government can provide such a guarantee during 2019, if at all. The investigation report is now distributed for a consulting round.

Meanwhile, NENT in Sweden is investing heavily in "digital listening" thus via the Internet. 80% of this listening is via mobile phone. The current broadcasting licenses for DAB for NENT and the other commercial players apply for 2014-2021 and have not yet been put into use. The media authority has approved postponements of DAB introduction four times during this period. Meanwhile the commercial networks have been awarded expanded FM permits on an extensive national and regional scale.

During 2018 NENT and Bauer radio broadcasting business has been successful in Sweden but last year was a failure for the same broadcasters in Norway. The companies are terrestrial broadcasting on DAB+ only in Norway and on FM only in Sweden.

The scenario also includes persistent rumors of Kinnevik's forthcoming sale of NENT, which also broadcasts radio and television in Norway. Most recently, Norwegian Telenor has been mentioned (by Jan Scherman in Dagens Media) as a potential buyer of NENT. In the end of March NENT will be introduced on the stockmarket. Here is the IPO prospectus

On February 1, public broadcaster Sveriges Radio (SR) left Teracom's test network for DAB+ in Stockholm, Uppsala and Gävle. SR continues to send six channels DAB  in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Luleå.

There is no reported demand for DAB radio in Sweden. In spite of DAB broadcasting since 1995 there are very few listeners. SR announced in 2018 that it does not intend not to continue with DAB when the temporary permit for trial transmissions expires this year. SR will rather invest in its internet expansion.

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