Article | Last updated: 19/08/2019 | Ministry of Culture
National analogue FM radio networks in Norway was switched off in 2017. Are you wondering what the change means for you? Here you will find answers to your questions about the digital radio switchover.
All the major players in the Norwegian radio industry support digitisation. Radio faces tough competition from new digital services, and innovation is therefore required. The switch from FM to DAB means:
DAB provides a static-free listening experience and supports additional services such as text and image streaming directly to devices. Emergency preparedness will be improved because the network is less vulnerable, and important emergency messages can be broadcast on all channels simultaneously.
The old FM networks only have space for a few channels. DAB gives listeners access to a broader selection of channels from commercial broadcasters and NRK. More channels means more competition to create the best possible radio content, benefiting listeners. Moreover, various local DAB networks already exist, and more are being planned.
Norway, with its high mountains and deep fjords, has found it difficult to broadcast radio signals to all parts of the country via FM networks. DAB technology can utilise weaker signals than the FM system, and can exploit signal reflections from the terrain. As a result, DAB networks require far fewer transmitters than FM networks, and can support many more channels.
Why not DAB and FM?
Money for more and better radio content
Around 200 local radio stations will be allowed to continue FM broadcasts for five years after the national FM switch-off. However, continued operation of national FM networks alongside DAB would be very expensive. DAB programmes are now accessible across the country, and DAB offers coverage equivalent to or better than FM.
The additional cost of retaining both DAB and FM in the period 2017–2019 has been calculated at approximately NOK 180 million annually at 2015 prices. Costs will increase significantly after 2019, as the FM networks require upgrading. According to calculations prepared in 2011, necessary maintenance of the FM networks in the period to 2031 could be as expensive as building a national DAB network with space for many more channels and better emergency-response capacity.
The development of the commercial DAB network is being funded by commercial radio channels, while NRK is financing its own DAB network. The savings made by shutting down the FM networks can be used to improve the new DAB networks and create more and better radio content.
The switch-off criteria are met
Radio digitisation was approved by the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) in May 2011. The decision to shut down the national FM network is the final step in a lengthy digitisation process. The switch-off date was set based on five criteria, all of which are now met. The criteria were:
- The coverage of NRK’s digital radio services must correspond to that of the channel NRK P1 on FM.
- The commercial network must cover at least 90 per cent of the population.
- Digital radio must represent added value for listeners.
- Affordable and technically satisfactory solutions must be available for radio reception in cars.
- At least half of all listeners must listen to a digital radio station daily.
Since the decision to shut down the FM networks was made, radio broadcasters have launched new channels to encourage adoption of digital radio and made large investments on the assumption that Norwegian politicians will observe the above criteria. Listeners have responded by purchasing large numbers of digital radios and using the expanded services on offer.
The national FM switch-off started in Nordland County on 11 January 2017 and concluded with the counties of Troms and Finnmark on 13 December.
Why not simply internet radio?
DAB offers higher quality and better accessibility
Digitisation provides numerous opportunities for the radio medium, but broadcasting remains the backbone that safeguards radio’s distinctive characteristics. DAB broadcasting will ensure that radio remains easily accessible everywhere. Unlike in the case of internet radio, quality and accessibility will not depend on the number of listeners. Further, radio has an important emergency response function, and DAB offers major advantages over FM and internet transmissions in this regard.
DAB is free and stable
The DAB network will also ensure that radio remains free for users. Although internet radio can work well at home, reliance on mobile broadband can quickly become expensive when on the move. Moreover, internet radio currently offers far poorer stability and capacity than DAB. Accordingly, the existence of a free, national DAB alternative to radio via mobile broadband will be of benefit to listeners.
What about DAB in cars and road network coverage?
All cars can receive DAB
Most new cars come equipped with a DAB+ radio as standard. All cars can be upgraded to DAB+ by means of an adapter. Several types of adapter are available. It is also possible to replace the entire car radio. All DAB radios can receive local FM stations.
It is important that the antenna is correctly installed to ensure good radio reception. More information on installing DAB in cars is available here (in Norwegian): http://radio.no/userguide/i-bilen/.
DAB provides better road network coverage than FM
The new DAB networks will provide better coverage than FM across the national road network. Priority has been given to DAB road coverage in the development of the new radio network, and adjustments are constantly being made to improve coverage. All road tunnels that currently offer FM coverage are to offer DAB by the time the FM network is switched off.
Local DAB coverage can be checked here (in Norwegian): http://radio.no/dekning/.
Do old FM radios have to be thrown away?
Old radios can be upgraded or recycled. Many FM radios will remain functional after the switch to DAB, but will require an adapter to receive DAB signals.
Is Norway going the DAB route alone?
Norway is the first country to switch off its national FM networks, but is not alone in adopting the DAB format. Countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Ireland are all at various stages of the switchover process. Norway is taking the lead primarily because its deep fjords, high mountains and dispersed settlement pattern make it far more expensive to operate FM networks in Norway than in many other countries.
What is the difference between DAB and DAB+?
An upgraded version of DAB technology called DAB+ was launched in 2007. DAB+ offers space for more channels and additional services such as text and image streaming in connection with radio transmissions. Radios which use the old DAB technology will be unable to receive radio transmissions coded in DAB+.
Are you wondering about anything else? Additional questions and answers, a coverage map and guides are available on radio.no.
You can also contact:
The Norwegian Media Authority: www.medietilsynet.no/en/about-medietilsynet/digital-radio and at e-mail: [email protected].