Radio industry sets 2015 digital switchover date

Digital Radio UK - the trade body for the digital radio industry - confirms 2015 as achievable date for analogue-to-digital switchover
Digital Radio UK - the trade body for the digital radio industry - confirms 2015 as achievable date for analogue-to-digital switchover

2015 is 'achievable' for an analogue-to-digital switchover, according to industry body Digital Radio UK, with chief exec Ford Ennals outlining the plans for the future of radio in the UK at this week's Radio Festival.

Ennals told the industry crowd at the Radio Festival this week that there had been "significant progress towards building momentum for digital radio," and added that the analogue-to-digital switchover was a "matter of when not if".

David Baker, from digital radio manufacturer Revo, told TechRadar, on hearing the news: "As a digital radio manufacturer, we welcome todays positive comments from Ford Ennals regarding the 2015 switchover target. DAB radios are already in 35% of UK homes, and the news that DAB receivers will be a standard fit in all new cars from 2013 should make a world of difference."

A 'mixed ecology' for FM/digital/internet radio

To be clear, this is not the date at which FM radio will somehow be 'switched off' or disappear, merely that the industry plans what it refers to as a 'mixed ecology' – offering radio listeners the best options across FM, DAB (and DAB+) and internet radio.

Ennals stressed that a target date of 2015 was "challenging but achievable" welcoming the strong support of Ed Vaizey, Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries, for the radio industry's vision for the future.

The Digital Radio UK exec also confimed the launch of the Digital Radio Action Plan, "a three year programme of activity designed to address the complex challenges that lie between us and switchover."

Noting how the TV switchover has been a massive success, Ennals said that the switchover to digital radio would do the same for the radio industry.

"We have set a course to double listening and expand coverage by 2013, and to switchover by the end of 2015."

In-car DAB needs work

The real work to establish DAB as the radio of choice for over half of the population needs to be done in the car industry, with Ennals announcing a new in-car digital radio fully-fitted service from Halfords, with prices from under £90.

"The lack of any significant in-car DAB listening has always been the missing link to mass DAB acceptance," said Revo's David Baker.

"One note of caution however... the DAB transmitter infrastructure needs to continue to improve. Currently, reception in many areas of the UK is just too patchy for trouble-free in-car listening, and that needs to be addressed."

Paul Gyles, Sony UK's Category Head for Essentials told TechRadar, on hearing today's Digital Radio UK news:

"Digital Radio is growing but for it to go stratospheric, consumers need products that are DAB+ ready out-of-the-box and DAB+ in-car products to hit the market as this is where the vast majority of radio listening takes place.

"Fundamental to future growth is for the car and CE industries to work together to hit the Government's Digital Britain targets by 2013."

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) confirmed at this week's event that all new cars will have digital radio fitted as standard by 2013.

Adam Hartley