As digital radio continues to be adopted by British listeners, DAB+ coverage in the UK is slowly beginning to expand. With this in mind, a good proportion of radio stations in the UK are opting to broadcast using FM, conventional DAB and DAB+ signals. This fluctuation is likely to continue in the future due to the sheer number of radio stations being set up in the UK, and across the world.
One of the things that you ought to know about DAB+ is that despite having a digital radio, it may still not be able to receive DAB+ signals. To make sure you purchase a radio capable of receiving DAB+, look for the digital radio tick mark on the packaging. The tick is a form of certification that the radio you have is able to receive FM, DAB and DAB+ stations, and is therefore future-proof. If you already have a DAB-only capable radio, it is advisable to check on the manufacturer’s website for firmware that would allow you to update its software to be able to decode DAB+ signals. If this doesn’t work, then you might just have to get yourself a new DAB+ capable radio.
DAB+ coverage in the UK
Presently, DAB+ coverage in the UK is not as widespread as traditional DAB, and it’s anticipated that it’ll take a considerable amount of time time to address that imbalance. A good majority of radio stations in the UK are also yet to broadcast a DAB+ signal, but there have been a few encouraging developments in the UK that suggest impending growth of the DAB+ network.
In 2016, Arqiva, Bauer and Wireless Group came together to announce a joint venture named Sound Digital. This initiative is intended to create an infrastructure to facilitate a broader reach for transmissions using the DAB+ signal. Their multiplex, also named Sound Digital, was switched on in March 2016, with about 3 DAB+ services available for listeners to choose from. Since then, this number has grown to about 140 radio stations broadcasting on DAB+ in the UK, and this number includes national stations such as:
Virgin Radio Anthems
Virgin Radio Chilled
Some regional and local DAB+ stations include:
London: Asian FX Radio, Chris Country
NE Wales & West Cheshire (including Liverpool): Love 80s Liverpool, Nation Radio
North Wales: BBC Radio Cymru
Suffolk: Chris Country
Surrey & North Sussex: Cyber Hot Hits, Eagle3
Portsmouth: 100% Hits Triple Radio, Awaaz FM Radio, BFBS Portsmouth, Cheesy FM, Chris Country, Indulgence, JAMM Radio, Mango Vibe+, Radio Caroline, Starpoint Soul, Unforgettable Radio
Norwich: Angel Digital, Solar Radio
Birmingham: Switch Radio
Manchester: Antenna Radio, Asian Fever, Cheesy FM, Chris Country, Colourful Radio, Crackers Radio, Love 80s, Manchester Business Radio, Rainbow Radio, Revolution 96.2, Solar Radio, Sunrise Radio, Unity Radio, XS Manchester
Glasgow: Antenna Radio, BLASTI, Radio Central, Radio Sangam, Starpoint Soul
Digital Radio coverage in the UK currently stands at about 83% (Sound Digital) and 91.5% (Digital One) for national commercial stations, 98% for BBC national stations and 91% for DAB.
Also worthy of mention is that in 2015, The Office of Communications (Ofcom) was granted funding to carry out small scale testing to establish the technical scope of requirements for DAB/DAB+. This was carried out to allow listeners to sample their local stations in DAB/DAB+ quality. Here is a short list of the small scale DAB+ radio stations that participated in the trials:
Portsmouth: ANGELxtra, Express FM, JAMM Radio, Mango Vibe, The Flash and Triple Hits
Aldershot: BFBS Radio, BFBS Gurkha, Radio Woking and The Breeze
Brighton & Hove: Juice 107.2, Radio Reverb, Smile Sussex, Totally Radio, Resonance and Brighton City Student Radio
Bristol: Hub Radio, BFBS Gurkha, Ujima Radio, BSR 103.4fm, BCfm 93.2, Somer Valley Radio, The Breeze and BFBS Radio
Norfolk: Future Radio, Norwich 99.9, The Music Machine, Solar Radio, Jazz FM, Totally Radio and Future Plus
Manchester: Panjab Radio, Revolution 96.2, Manchester Business Radio, The Steve Penk Wind-Up Channel, Chris Country and Gaydio
Birmingham: Switch Radio, bringing Switch Radio, Scratch Radio, Gaydio, Oak FM and Touch FM
Glasgow: Your Radio, Celtic Music Radio, Pulse FM and Go Radio
London: Resonance, London Greek Radio, Rinse FM, NuSound Radio, Reprezent, Solar Radio and Crackers Radio
Cambridge: Star Radio, Gaydio, Chris Country, Core Radio and Cambridge 105
A more elaborate list of all DAB and DAB+ stations in the UK can be found here.
The success of the trials then paved the way for the UK government to consult on a new type of license that would be specific to local radio stations that would allow them to broadcast on a digital radio frequency. As of July 2019, a statutory instrument regarding the same is still yet to be approved by the UK parliament. It proposes to give Ofcom the power to license small scale DAB/DAB+ stations.
The digital switchover
As you might know, there’s a lot of talk about a digital switchover taking place in the UK, but it can only happen once three criteria are met. These criteria are;
National DAB coverage should match current national FM coverage.
Local DAB coverage should reach 90% of the population.
50% of all radio listening to be digital.
As of May 2019, all these regulations have been met, and as a result, the Minister for Digital and Creative Industries, Margot James, announced that digital radio in the UK is to be reviewed so as to come up with a more viable solution for digital listening. The review is to be concluded by mid 2020.
Conclusion on DAB+ coverage in the UK
DAB+ coverage in the UK compares well to other countries around the world. Also, with the criteria proposed by the government to qualify for a digital switchover being met, it is only a matter of time before the British people switch to a more capable digital audio signal.
Already enjoying DAB+ coverage in the UK? Then let us know what you think about the service so far, as well as your favorite DAB+ radio station(s).
Stay tuned to the latest radio industry insights with Radio Fidelity.