Will my “old” DAB radio be made obsolete by these arbitrary changes?
There are currently no plans to move existing popular radio stations from DAB to DAB+. However, many new stations are launching in the newer DAB+ format and a very small number of existing stations have switched to the new format in recent years. It is unlikely that your radio will be made obsolete any time soon – but it is definitely worth making sure any new radio can receive both DAB and DAB+.
As of February 2019 there are eight DAB+ digital radio stations available across the UK. If you live in an area like Manchester or Norwich you could receive an additional dozen or more DAB+ radio stations. These local stations are part of the ten small-scale DAB trials currently ongoing around the UK.
Many of the stations available on DAB+ are new radio stations which have only ever been available in this newer format. Virgin Radio Anthems and Union JACK launched as DAB+ stations rather than using the original DAB format.
A small number of DAB stations have switched to DAB+, such as Gold in London.
So far adoption of DAB+ has largely been led by the broadcasters. As DAB+ is more efficient than DAB it’s possible to broadcast digitally using less space. The DAB+ stations Virgin Radio Anthems and Virgin Radio Chilled each broadcast in stereo at 32kbps. However, if they were to broadcast using the original DAB format they would take up more space. This would mean higher costs or only broadcasting one of the two stations, therefore providing less choice.
In February 2019 the media regulator launched a consultation which includes questions about DAB+. The changes could see more stations broadcast using DAB+ across the UK. Stations wishing to broadcast in DAB+ would no longer need permission from the regulator. However, the proposals include a condition which would mean advice should be given to listeners on how to continue receiving a station which switches from DAB to DAB+.
Will older DAB radios be made obsolete?
Ofcom estimates that 50% of receivers are compatible with DAB+ services. This means it’s very unlikely that a station which has been available on DAB digital radio for a long time would move to the new format in the near future. Changing to DAB+ would disenfranchise many listeners who would need to buy a new radio or continue listening on an alternative platform.
Some Pure digital radios which don’t currently receive DAB+ stations can be upgraded with a software update. The radio manufacturer lists more than 20 models which are DAB+ compatible and can be updated on its website. If any of your radios can be updated this would ensure they can be used for years to come as well as receiving more services.
Radio stations in some countries have moved from DAB to DAB+, such as Deutschlandfunk in Germany in 2016. Although DAB has 97% population coverage in Germany the penetration of population is only 18%. In the UK this figure is 64%, which may explain why Germany made the switch two years ago but why the UK does not have any plans at the moment to move equivilent stations to DAB+.