Each trial will allow new digital radio services to broadcast to a local area and will also inform Ofcom’s work on identifying suitable frequencies for broadcasting smaller digital stations and help understand how these services could be licensed.
Small scale DAB was trialed by Ofcom engineer Rashid Mustapha in 2012, utilising a low powered transmitter in Brighton. The test, which used a small transmitter, freely available software code from opendigitalradio.org and a ‘Linux’ computer, successfully delivered a reliable, high quality digital radio broadcast. The test transmission was an audio track of squawking seagulls.
The trial proved that it was possible to launch low powered and low cost transmissions on DAB, opening the way for smaller local commercial and community stations who can't go on local DAB because of the cost or lack of capacity. Unlike local DAB multiplexes, which are designed to cover counties, small scale DAB can be restricted to a particular town, city or district in the same way as local FM services do today.
Ofcom wants to allow three types of trials which would see either a single transmitter carrying multiple services in a localised area, or a network of two transmitters on a single frequency network (SFN) carrying multiple services, or a network of two transmitters on a SFN, with one of them being an on-channel repeater.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom Consumer and Content Group Director, Ofcom, said:
"We're looking for local and community radio stations to take part in trials to test this innovative new technology.
'If successful, this could significantly benefit digital radio listeners up and down the country."
The trials are being funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Ofcom is today inviting applicants to take part in the trials, which are expected to run for nine months. The deadline for applications is 3pm on 7 April 2015.