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DAB – Do not sacrifice FM radio for DAB services

Comment 20th July 2010

It is planned that Band II of the radio spectrum – between 87.5 to 108.0 MHz  is to be relicensed for Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) services.

I believe that the proposals take no account of the UK listening infrastructure, is using a technology which is becoming obsolete, has many problems of reception and quailty and is an expensive path to take.

The plans should be reviewed and the real listener requirements considered before any reallocation occurs – perhaps by taking the option proposed below.

Why does this matter?

Radio is a great medium for news, drama and music with content for local, regional and national audiences.

For a large proportion of the users across most of that material the FM services are entirely satisfactory using an often surprising number of receivers around the home and office.

I believe that a small proportion of the population, for a minute proportion of the broadcast content, served by just a handful of providers require, or even appreciate, the higest quality that DAB could offer.

DAB has been a set of technical and operational compromises both here and in the rest of the world producing poorer reception and coverage than many VHF services. Additionally the UK has adopted a DAB standard that is already out of date – the world standard being DAB+ with which there is no back-compatibility with DAB.

So we each face the prospect of replacing several radios with DAB radios that do not work well and that will not, in supply terms, have the advantage of volumes of production as they use a non-standard protocol.

Even if we swapped to the new standard it would be expensive for many smaller stations to transmit their local content and I, for one, want to retain my local stations and I enjoy the local stations of regions I visit.

There is probably a place for a small number of high quality music stations – where else would quality really matter? – taking up well, about as much bandwidth as they do at present. Let's let those listeners get on with and let the rest of us continue with what I think we find to be a good quality service from local to national stations on FM.     

If there is a cost issue with providing a 'special service' using DAB/DAB+ etc. then make it a subscription service or even run it as a satellite service and release more FM slots for regular FM radio.

So, modify the plans to reuse the Band II for DAB and allow the current FM services to be retained.


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