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Portsmouth DAB multiplex celebrates two years on air

One of the first small-scale multiplexes to launch in the UK celebrates second anniversary of broadcasting.

Originally launched as a nine-month trial of the viability of low cost DAB transmission, Solent Wireless, serving Portsmouth, has gone from carrying six to 21 stations on digital radio; all but one broadcast in stereo. The multiplex has given various community and internet stations their first financially realistic opportunity to go on DAB.

The multiplex is run by local community station Angel Radio with engineering support provided by local company Commtronix. 

One of the original launch services from Solent Wireless is The Flash, a digital and internet community radio station based in Havant. Station Manager Martin Kirby said:
"I cannot believe that two very successful years have gone by since we started broadcasting on the Portsmouth DAB multiplex. The DAB platform has given our volunteer based station a real boost and new local listeners are discovering us on DAB all the time. We are very proud to be a part of this experiment locally, and hope to be on air in Portsmouth for many years to come".

The services added to the Portsmouth DAB multiplex since launch cover a wide variety of formats from rock, pop, country, oldies, chart hits, easy listening and more. One of the new formats is local ethnic station Awaaz FM - the first local DAB station for the ethnic communities of South Hampshire. Ali Beg, the project manager of Awaaz FM said:
"Thanks to the Portsmouth DAB multiplex, Awaaz FM is now the biggest ethnic radio station in this area. This was never possible before due to the high costs of traditional DAB multiplexes. The small scale DAB multiplex in Portsmouth clearly shows how community focused the new choice of services can be, and how effectively it reaches out to all members of the community and not just the traditional stations that we are used to, giving the area a much needed variety of stations to choose from!"

The increase in station count in the past two years has been made possible through the rapid adoption of the new DAB+ standard, which has left traditional DAB multiplexes trailing, with many of the original DAB multiplexes still not making any use of the new standard. Solent Wireless has been broadcasting DAB+ services in the UK longer than any other operator. One of the longest operating DAB+ services is BFBS Portsmouth. Nick Beer, the Chief Development Officer at SSVC, the organisation behind BFBS, said:
"Working with Angel Radio on the Portsmouth DAB multiplex has allowed us to launch a trial radio service for our significant Royal Navy audience in the city. It also allowed us to trial DAB+ with minimum risk. Something which would otherwise have involved a lot more effort and expense launched very swiftly. Ash and the guys have been great partners in this and we look forward to working with them on an enduring and expanding basis."

Eager to promote the range of formats and to sever the association of digital radio with mono broadcasting in the UK, Ash Elford, Angel Radio's Digital Development Manager said:
"It's been an amazing two years for us in Portsmouth. We've demonstrated that we can just get on with things. Here in Portsmouth, we're improving the listener experience with a broad range of formats, and many of the services feature local content too. And who says stereo is dead - 20 of our 21 services are in stereo! We've embraced DAB+ and DAB slideshow in a way that traditional multiplexes haven't. I'd like to thank our service providers for working with us to enhance listener choice in the Portsmouth area. We've demonstrated that DAB doesn't have to be difficult."

Following the success of the original small-scale DAB multiplex trials, legislation has now been passed that will allow small-scale DAB multiplexes to stay on air, and paved the way for Ofcom to begin licensing new small-scale multiplexes across the UK.

The success of small-scale DAB has also been picked up internationally, with Germany's first small-scale multiplex having launched earlier this month.

Services on the Portsmouth DAB multiplex as of 19th August 2017:
  • 60s
  • 100% Dragon Hits
  • Antenna Radio
  • Awaaz FM
  • BFBS Portsmouth
  • Chris Country
  • Express FM
  • Gaydio
  • JACK Hampshire
  • JACK 2 Hampshire
  • JACK 3 Hampshire
  • Mango Vibe
  • Radio Caroline
  • Sam FM
  • Sleepyhead Radio
  • Starpoint Radio
  • The Breeze
  • The Flash
  • Timeless Radio
  • Totally Radio
  • Weather 24/7 Radio

Meanwhile, Manchester's small-scale DAB multiplex has welcomed its 29th station on board: XS Manchester. The Niocast-operated multiplex is the most populated DAB multiplex in the world, thanks to the use of the latest DAB+ technology.