National DAB network expansion nears completion

Nearly four million listeners could soon benefit from a programme to expand coverage of some digital radio stations.

The expansion was announced by transmitter operator Arqiva in May this year. The first of 19 new transmitters is due to go live in the next few weeks. The new transmitters will carry the Sound Digital multiplex, which includes radio stations talkRADIO, Planet Rock, Virgin Radio, Absolute 80s, KISSTORY and 14 others.

When the expansion was announced it was expected to be completed by the end of 2018. The company says that “tireless work by the project’s joint venture partners” has resulted in the date being brought forward.

Once the expansion is complete the 19 radio stations on the network will be brought to an extra 1.6 million households. Coverage will increase from 77% to 83%.

Wireless operates Virgin Radio, talkRADIO and talkSPORT 2. Chief executive of Wireless, Scott Taunton, said the announcement is welcome and timely.

“We recently announced that Chris Evans is coming home to Virgin Radio, Matthew Wright and Jeremy Kyle have joined the talkRADIO ranks, and talkSPORT is bringing exclusive radio coverage of England’s cricket tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies. There is no shortage of engaging, exclusive and entertaining content across our stations and this announcement ensures we will now reach a larger audience,” said Scott Taunton.

Dee Ford, Group Managing Director of Radio (UK Division) at Bauer, said:

“We are proud to be the home of the UK’s most listened to commercial digital radio station – KISSTORY, broadcasting on the Sound Digital mux… The expansion of Sound Digital coverage will bring Bauer’s great brands into the lives of an even wider audience.”

The Sound Digital multiplex is the only of the three national networks to include DAB+ stations. Jazz FM Stereo, Union JACK and ForcesRadio BFBS are among the six stations to use the newer format.

The areas of the UK to benefit from the expansion are:

  • Norfolk
  • East Sussex
  • Suffolk / Bury
  • Cornwall / West Devon
  • Aberdeen
  • Devon
  • South Wales
  • Plymouth
  • West Cornwall
  • Essex
  • Torbay / Devon
  • Shropshire
  • Swindon
  • Northamptonshire
  • Herefordshire
  • Suffolk
  • Kent
  • East Kent
  • Dorset / Dorchester

When the Sound Digital network was launched in 2016 it reached 77% of UK households. The existing national commercial digital radio network, Digital One, reaches 90% of UK households.

The new transmitters could benefit listeners who found they could no longer receive stations like Planet Rock and Absolute 80s when they moved to the second national network.