Will Arqiva be bidding for “Digital Two”?

With the announcement of a second national commercial radio DAB multiplex expected on Monday, we caught up with Arqiva, the owner of the first and only MUX, to gauge their interest.

We’ve heard speculation that radio groups and non-radio organisations will be bidding for the chance to control the overdue digital platform, although one company already has the network to expand upon. But would an Arqiva-owned D2 be allowed in this monopoly-aware industry?

See our questions below, and answers from Arqiva’s Director of Digital Radio & Terrestrial Broadcast Development Paul Eaton.

Would you welcome a second national multiplex?

“Arqiva is hugely supportive of the industry-wide transition to digital, which is making great progress this year. We have already led the way in improving coverage over the past year and with a positive decision on the Digital Radio Switchover at the end of this year, we would welcome an additional national commercial multiplex. Of course there are several challenges that still need to be addressed; including understanding what form the new multiplex should take to best meet the demands for capacity. From our viewpoint, there is significant demand for capacity on a lower-cost, smaller national commercial network that would complement the more extensive coverage provided by Digital One, forming a stepping-stone for digital-only stations. Research consistently shows an increase in people listening to digital radio and we must continue to meet and build upon this demand.”

Would Arqiva be interested in bidding for it?

“Following a positive announcement by Government on the switchover in December, and clarification by Ofcom on the right form for D2, we expect there will be several credible parties interested in bidding. It’s too early to say whether Arqiva would be one of them, but we are interested in the outcomes of these discussions. We are currently in the process of preparing to launch Arqiva’s next local multiplex in Derbyshire.”

Technology wise, do you think it should stick with DAB or would this be a great time to introduce DAB+?

“DAB+ is an interesting development for D2, however given that there are few compatible receivers in the market it may be more appropriate for adoption across the country at a later date. We see it as a natural evolution for DAB that does not require a black or white decision at this stage because current Ofcom licences allow for flexible use of up to 30% of multiplex capacity for data including DAB+ transmissions. Our transmission networks are engineered to allow DAB and DAB+ to co-exist, and for a future transition to be achieved when the conditions are right.”

What should a second MUX bring?

“As we look ahead to the future of digital radio and positive clarification from Government on this, then the role a second national multiplex will play is crucial. Digital radio could lead to more stations and more choice and as a result additional capacity is needed. Consumer demand does not grow organically and needs to be encouraged by making DAB a more attractive proposition and as such expanding its coverage.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 at 12:32 pm by RadioToday UK

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