Digital radio switchover: what you need to know

As a nation, according to Helen Boaden, BBC director of Radio, 20% of radio listening is done in the car but 90% of cars on the road don't support digital.

Pure Highway

The Pure Highway is a DAB alternative

Arqiva is currently busy making sure that a further 7,500km of road coverage gets DAB coverage which should put our roads in good stead for digital radio. New technology that seamlessly changes the station (called service linking) once you go from one local station to another has also been developed.

Mike Hawes, CEO for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, believes that cars are in a good place for the digital transition. He said that "62% of cars now come fitted with digital radio."

That's made up of 42% with DAB as standard and 20% as a requested extra - and by 2014, it is believed that this number will be 100% for new cars.

But most of us have old cars...

Do not fear. Despite Vaizey not coming up with a date for the switchover, Halfords is already on board to help convert analogue radios to digital ones and in 2014 Kwik-Fit will also offer this service.

If you are a Ford customer you will be pleased to note that all of its Transit vans will come with DAB as of 2014 and there is also a digital radio conversion program in place.

The CEO of Halfords Matt Davies explained that "equipping 30 million cars on the road already with a digital radio is a prime focus of us going forward."

He also said that: "In car audio, the right technology is digital technology. We can see a day very soon when all radios sold from Halfords stores will be digital."

Pretty much everyone is backing digital radio, then?

Despite that elusive switchover date, everyone at the conference said that "phase two" was very welcome. But it was also clear that if the government actually set a date, then that would have been welcomed with a massive hug and a glass of fizz.

Date hater Ed Vaizey assured everyone that "the future of radio in this country is digital."

He went on to say that: "We can't go backwards. We in the UK are at the forefront in digital radio – our new measures will cement this lead and herald a new digital age. But, crucially, a new digital age when the listener is ready."

But, isn't digital radio expensive?

The price for DAB radios has dropped significantly in recent years and it will continue to drop. This is because the technology within the radios is changing.

Anthony Sethill, CEO of Frontier Silicon, has just come off the back of a multimillion pound development of a new chipset that reduces DAB costs, reduces power consumption and can be fitted into mobile devices making them DAB friendly.

Frontier Silicon's chips have been in Pure radios since 2002 – Pure is one of the biggest providers of DAB radios in the UK – and since then a whopping 90% has come off the cost of creating the chips.

Now that the cost is so similar to an FM radio that Sethill believes that retailers should to stop selling FM radios as keeping them in the market could be "doing a disservice" to users.

D Love

How much love is there for D Love?

And finally, what are those D Love adverts on about?

Ah, yes. There is currently a big campaign to get everyone on to digital radios, with D Love as the star. Not everyone is impressed.

Radio DJ Simon Mayo took to the stage to say how much he loved digital and that his movie programme is the most time-shifted programme for the BBC (over 2 million downloads). But he also said that D Love was "patronising" and he "couldn't understand how that tells me how the services work."

Lucky TechRadar is here to help, Simon.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.