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When to switch off?


As new technology replaces old, how do we find out how many people are still using the old technology, and when is the right time to stop supporting old equipment?

That's one of the main issues facing those in charge of switching radio to digital. In Switzerland, a group comprising of public and commercial radio groups has proposed replacing FM with DAB+ by 2024.

The matter in the UK is not so clear cut. A decision on when digital radio switchover will occur has been deferred; the radio industry is first of all sorting out DAB coverage and looking to launch a second national DAB multiplex.

Although FM radio is still very healthy in the UK, there's evidence that listening on AM continues to decline. And reaction from listeners is a principal way of finding out how many are still listening - a method tried and tested when various BBC Local Radio stations trialled closedowns of their AM service two years ago. Interestingly, with the Droitwich BBC Radio 4 long wave (LW) transmitter site undergoing maintenance at the moment, there's been relatively little interest outside of the world of radio enthusiasts - and on a516digital, the biggest reaction has come from listeners in France and Belgium.

On the 15th May, a516digital received reports that RTÉ Radio 1 on 252 kHz LW was off air. A few posts scattered around the internet from users across the UK confirmed this. There was no mention on the usual transmitter information outlets from RTÉ or Irish transmitter company 2rn via internet and teletext. In fact, looking back, it's almost as if nothing ever happened. Rollback to previous occasions when the RTÉ long wave signal has been lost due to transmitter work or reduced power, and you get the distinct impression that in the past two years, there's been a noticeable drop in LW listeners - or those that do listen aren't the type to flock to the internet to complain. Incidentally, RTÉ Radio 1 can be received in the UK via internet radio or via Freesat, Sky or Virgin Media - and has the advantage of being more reliable and not susceptible to "noise" from various types of electronic equipment so common in homes today.

It seems AM, and especially LW for all but die-hard enthusiasts will die out long before any decision is made to fix a date for digital radio switchover in the UK. Broadcasters will be trying to figure out when the right time is to stop supporting AM radio.

DAB expansion
The BBC finally updated its DAB webpage in the past week to show how it has expanded its DAB radio network in recent months.

Since February, new transmitters have been added at Aberdare, Bala, Deiniolen, Betwys-Y-Coed and Wrexham-Rhos improving DAB reception for households and motorists in North Wales. In Derbyshire, transmitters at Calver Peak and Birch Vale have gone live, improving reception in parts of the Peak District. And a transmitter serving Thetford in East Anglia is now in service.

Additional transmitters on local DAB multiplexes have gone into service in recent months. A transmitter at Boar's Hill expands coverage of the Oxfordshire multiplex, and a new transmitter at Daventry expands the Coventry multiplex eastwards, filling the gap left when the West Midlands regional DAB service ceased last year.

Tests continue in Derbyshire for the new Derbyshire local DAB multiplex. A test consisting of a carrier, but no radio stations has been observed on VHF block 10B over the past few days. Many DAB radios therefore ignore the tests until there's an actual radio station broadcasting.


  1. I do hope DAB does not replace FM as I can listen to Smooth Radio in glorious "Stereo", but on DAB it is transmitted in Pirate Radio style "Mono".
    D-a-b. not for me.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Just to note that the national, mono version of Smooth is set to be removed. Stereo versions of Smooth are available on many local DAB multiplexes.

  2. When quality improves it'll be fine, 64kbps mono is not acceptable, 128Kbps MP2 can also sound very compressed. With normal DAB it's a big quality issue where analogue sounds better, but the government/ofcom/bbc seem to think we don't care about quality.

  3. I have been listening to Premier and UCB UK in 64kbps mono for years and I have always found the quality of their music output just fine as I listen on Pure Evoke radios at home as well as on a JVC in the car. Being able to listen to a variety of CCM, gospel and worship music in good quality is more important than whether or not it is in stereo.

  4. As far as listening to RTE on longwave is concerned, you are correct in saying that a signal via satellite is far more robust and indeed is probably the mode of choice for most listeners when at home. However a lot of listening is done in the car and when such things as transmitters are out of service it just becomes an annoyance which is forgotten about by the time the journey ends, hence little reporting via internet etc. Any correspondence sent through to RTE on line takes about three weeks for an answer, (when they can be bothered to answer, in my experience at least) so they would not be the best people to state whether listeners are concerned or not. In my opinion they simply couldn't care less. There was quite an uproar, particularly north of the border, when RTE decided to turn off the 657kHz AM signal a few years back. The indoor fm signal is weak in many parts of northern Ireland including around Belfast and the only way to listen on an analogue radio is via longwave, unfortunately messing about with the transmitter during daytime listening hours mainly affects the elderly who simply have to suffer in silence. RTE could of course apply to use the space available on Bauer mux and broadcast via DAB (or DAB+)throughout the north and border areas but this I suspect is not goping to take place for many, many years.

  5. After working for the past couple of weeks, it looks like RTE on LW252 has disappeared again :(

  6. September 2014 , DAB is unpopular and largely unused in UK , unlike the propaganda put out (greased palms?) by certain journos those listening on real radios to RTE Radio 1 LW 252 kHz get a good signal round Britain - try that with DAB or even FM - and RTE do reply if you address your emails properly.Try taking better than cheap chinese portable out into the garden to hear RTE or BBC and still many European and Overseas stations - try that with Sky, BT or Virgin unless you buy an illegal WiFi booster and hate your neighbours. For 80 years AM real radio has allowed us to listen not just to local mux's but world-wide stations. Is it real progress that we in England may soon not hear Ireland , Scotland, Wales and only have memories of pre-digital listening to France, Netherlands, Spain etc.


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