Norway made the bold move of switching over to DAB digital radio in January of 2017, making it the first country in the world to do so. The move is due to be completed on December 13th, when the final region is turned off.
While critics argued that some two million cars do not yet have a DAB receiver and aren’t ready to ditch the analogue FM platforms, the country nevertheless ploughed ahead with the move to digital radio.
The UK is a relatively quick adopter – we’re the testing ground for self-driving cars and drone deliveries – so it’s fair to wonder when we might flick the switch on FM for good and force everybody over to DAB.
What does DAB stand for?
Digital Audio Broadcast. DAB is being proposed as the main broadcast platform for national radio stations by the government.
When will the UK switch off its FM signals?
The British government has yet to decide on a date to switch over from FM to digital radio completely.
Before it does, the coverage of national digital radio has to match that of FM, so local digital has to reach 90% of the UK population before a switchover can be considered. Official numbers from audience research body RAJAR suggest we are nearing that, with the percentage put at 48.7% in the second quarter of 2017. Most new cars come with DAB radios as standard, so that should help accelerate digital radio adoption. This diagram from Which? shows how audiences are listening to the radio.
In January this year, Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital Radio UK, told the BBC that the country needs the move to digital to stay current, and predicted a government announcement of the move at the end of the year.
“We can’t innovate, we can’t launch new stations, so we need a digital future if radio is going to stay robust and relevant in this multi-platform digital age," he said.
Back in 2013, then-communications minister Ed Vaizey suggested that he was looking at “the end of the decade” to switchover to digital radio, but there hasn’t been an update to this since.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the digital TV switchover process took five years between 2007 and 2012. Before and during this change a specially created independent body, Digital UK, put out adverts and offered advice so that nobody was left in the dark.
Which digital radio stations can I listen to?
If you type your postcode into Digital Radio UK you can see which radio stations are available where you live.