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Ofcom plans to lift DAB+ restrictions


Restrictions on stations adopting DAB+ in the UK are set to be lifted under plans revealed by regulator Ofcom today.

Changes to the technical code governing digital radio broadcasts have been put out to consultation by Ofcom and include a proposal to lift the current 30% restriction on capacity that can be used for DAB+ services on the Sound Digital (Digital 2) multiplex that was imposed on applicants for the multiplex licence five years ago.

Ofcom also plans to get rid of the requirement that forces broadcasters to have to ask for permission before they make a switch from DAB to DAB+.

The newer DAB+ standard has now been universally adopted in other countries in Europe, while the  UK, as early adopter of DAB, has been left with a large legacy of original standard DAB services.

New and niche stations have in recent years opted to use the newer DAB+ standard, attracted by greater affordability (as less bandwidth is required), the ability to get a stereo slot and the lack of available bandwidth on established multiplexes.

DAB+ services are now found across small-scale DAB multiplexes, the Sound Digital multiplex as well as on some local DAB multiplexes. Gold became the first station owned by commercial group Global to adopt DAB+ last month on its transmissions in London.

DAB radios that carry the digital tick mark support DAB+ as standard, but many older DAB digital radio sets are incompatible.

Therefore Ofcom plans to introduce a new condition to ensure that multiplex operators liaise with station operators with the aim of providing more information to listeners including advice on how listeners can take to continue receiving services switching to DAB+.

Additional changes to DAB technical standards have also been proposed, to support the introduction of small-scale DAB across more of the UK and to minimise potential interference issues.

The full consultation document is online at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-2/revisions-to-digital-radio-technical-codes