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Local DAB coverage expansion completes

The long-running expansion of local DAB coverage in the UK has been completed.

With 90% of the UK population now covered by a local DAB service, it's been confirmed that the final two transmitters forming part of the local DAB coverage expansion programme have come into operation, with the launch of a new transmitter at Edinburgh Castle (pictured) broadcasting the Edinburgh multiplex and at Fishguard broadcasting the Mid and West Wales multiplex.

The expansion of local DAB was first announced in 2015, and was supported by broadcasters, Government and the wider radio industry. It allowed local DAB multiplexes to increase coverage to match the FM coverage of each area's main commercial radio station.

The programme of work, which was delivered by communications infrastructure company, Arqiva, has doubled the local DAB network, with new transmitters or modifications to 221 local DAB sites, boosting local DAB coverage from 72% to more than 90% of UK households.

Across the UK, an additional 10 million listeners have been brought into coverage, allowing them to receive their favourite local BBC and commercial stations on DAB for the first time, and over 4,000 miles of roads previously not served by local DAB services are now also covered.

But large gaps in local DAB coverage remain, such as in Cumbria and Highland Scotland. Here, new initiatives including small-scale DAB may be able to provide coverage to previously commercially unviable areas. Additionally, the BBC was names last month as a partner in a DCMS-sponsored 5G project, where it will be trialling broadcast radio over a 5G network.

Further roll-out of existing local DAB was to be linked to a possible digital radio switchover, although broadcasters, including the BBC and Global Radio have in recent weeks indicated the UK isn't yet ready for such an event.

Of the local DAB roll-out completion, Margot James MP, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said:
“The completion of the local DAB expansion programme is a tremendous milestone for the UK radio industry’s transition to digital. This, along with the unprecedented choice of stations available on DAB, both nationally and locally, will see listeners continue to embrace the benefits of digital radio.”