Strong growth in receivers, stations and coverage have been reported for DAB digital radio services around the world, as a decision on whether the UK will initiate a switchover to digital radio inches closer.
Statistics released by WorldDAB, the industry forum for digital radio, has found that in those countries where digital radio has a strong presence, almost 50 million consumer and automotive receivers (48,232,000) have been sold. In the majority of markets, up to 5x as many national stations are available on DAB/DAB+ as on FM /AM combined. Coverage in Norway and Switzerland is at 99.5%, with Denmark, The UK, The Netherlands and Germany close behind, with a programme to boost to BBC DAB and local DAB coverage due to conclude shortly.
Over half of radio listening in Switzerland is now digital (53%). Household receiver penetration in Norway is now at 67% with the UK close behind with 56%. Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France and Belgium all show signs of positive growth in the last year. Norway and Switzerland have committed to a digital radio switchover.
Patrick Hannon, President of WorldDAB responded to the findings saying:
“Digital radio continues to go from strength to strength with all markets making significant progress in the last six months.
The leading markets in Europe and Asia Pacific have almost 50 million DAB receivers on the market, offering an impressive selection of national stations compared to FM/analogue broadcasts. Norway will soon be making history by switching off FM services, Switzerland will do the same from 2020. With Denmark and The UK not far behind and Germany working on a roadmap for its own DSO plans, there is clear momentum for digital radio from policy makers, broadcasters and listeners.”
Meanwhile, Laurence Harrison, Technology and Market Development Director, Digital Radio UK, indicated that it's expected the Government will start a review during the second half of 2017 on a UK digital radio switchover, triggered by the percentage of digital listening reaching 50%.
In an interview for WorldDABEureka he said:
First and foremost we must have a clear decision on a future switchover to give certainty to consumers and industry. For the digital radio supply chain and car manufacturers, a timetable is important as it would help planning and investment decisions.
The industry expects the 50% target on digital listening will have been triggered by late 2017 (it's already at 45%) helped by recent increases in BBC and Local DAB coverage and additional stations launching on the platform, plus increases in listening online.
Additional DAB transmitters for local DAB multiplexes have recently been registered at the ITU. These are not part of the current DAB roll-out plan, but would need to go live to provide more DAB coverage before FM services are switched off.