Small-scale DAB hailed a success by Ofcom

Ofcom has concluded that the small-scale DAB trial has successfully achieved all three of its aims.

The regulator says the trials could pave the way for hundreds of local digital radio stations, reporting that the technology worked well, and the stations co-ordinated effectively with the multiplex licensees.

Ofcom has been testing small-scale DAB since June 2015, with 70 local stations broadcasting on trial licences around the UK.

Today’s report was published for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, who made funding available for the project.

Ofcom says “We have also identified space in the airwaves that could support a UK-wide roll out of the technology, using spectrum bands previously occupied by business radio. Re-using these bands could pave the way for hundreds more stations to join the digital radio revolution.”

The trials also suggest there is significant demand from smaller radio stations to use DAB.

Neil Stock, Ofcom’s Director of Broadcast Licensing, said: “This technology could open up a new, local dimension in digital radio. We’re confident that a UK wide roll-out of these stations would be technically possible and commercially viable.

“Our trials have enabled groups of community and local commercial radio stations to work together, enabling new stations to serve local communities right across the UK.”

The Government will now consider the findings of the report, and Ofcom is ready to work with it on any necessary steps to enable small-scale DAB stations to be licensed permanently. Overseas, stations using the technology are now on air in Switzerland and France. Other regulators in Europe have approached Ofcom to express their interest in using the same approach, which suggests that small-scale DAB could be deployed in many other countries.

Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK adds: ‘Digital Radio UK welcomes the Ofcom report on the small-scale DAB trials. It’s great news that the trials have been so successful and enabled many new local commercial and community stations to launch on DAB. With over 100 digital services now on air in the 10 trial areas we have seen an explosion of innovation and creativity with new radio voices and new formats being given a chance. We look forward to the future expansion of small-scale DAB which will be good for listeners and the radio sector.’

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