Like the picture or television before it, terrestrial radio has gone digital. The deployment of DAB + (Digital Audio Broadcasting) technology, already completed in several European countries, will accelerate this summer with the launch of 25 national stations. As a result, more programs, a simplified search for the station and the end of crackling. Decoding begins today as the first edition of Radio Festival.
Seven years after its official launch in June 2014, digital radio is poised to take it to the next level. On July 15, 2021, the transmitters will be in place to cover the Paris-Lyon-Marseille axis and selected 25 stations (1) to occupy the national frequencies will open their microphones. Meanwhile, regional and local deployments continue. Today, 30% of the population is covered by digital terrestrial radio and 40% by the end of 2023 (see box). It was time. France is too late. In Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, coverage is almost complete. Norway has already switched off the FM signal, and Switzerland has identified it in 2023.
DAB + in all terminals
Our European neighbors already listen to the radio in large numbers at DAB + (digital audio broadcasting, the “+” indicates the evolution of the standard). This technology is broadcast as TNT was for television. It’s still a terrestrial signal, but the transmission is digital and is no longer analog (like FM). Note that you already know digital radio: when you listen to the radio from the station’s website or from a mobile app on a smartphone, the signal is of course digital. But in this case, it passes through the internet, not through the air waves. This also makes listeners and stations dependent on the access provider and amounts to making the radio pay, since a subscription is required for the connection.
To listen to the radio in DAB +, all you need is a compatible radio. Since December 2020, all jobs must be marketed. There are models ranging from 30 to 350 euros. Some also allow you to listen to the stations broadcast on the Internet over a wi-fi connection. They are still all FM compatible. Since the start of the year, all new cars must leave the factories with a DAB + compliant kit.
> All our tips for choosing the right DAB + Radio Station
More radios without crackling
DAB + offers many benefits to listeners. Forget the hissing or background noise when reception is poor or the weather is cloudy: in digital DAB +, the radio is less sensitive to weather hazards. The search for the station ended by name, in alphabetical order. In the car or on the train, it is no longer necessary to change frequencies when changing the area, the listening is continuous. DAB + also enables the audio stream to be enriched with additional information such as artist name, album cover, even concert dates, internet links, etc. This data is displayed on the computer screen.
Finally, the digital antenna radio opens to dozens of new stations: Schematically, 13 DAB + radios take up the same microwave space as one FM radio! On mainland France, the CSA (Supreme Audiovisual Council, see also box) has allowed 356 stations to broadcast digitally. The main radios (France Inter, France Culture, NRJ, Europe 1, Chérie FM, etc.), but also the thematic radios (Radio Pitchoun for children, Swigg hip-hop etc.), local and regional (Radio Lenga d ‘Oc in Montpellier, RCF Lorraine in Nancy …), associative, commercial, and why not temporary, for a trade fair or sporting event.
DAB + deployment schedule in France
On 2021DAB + coverage will extend to:
- Toulon (summer);
- Then to Annecy.
- Saint-Etienne (2e midyear).
On July 15, the 25 selected national DAB + frequencies will begin broadcasting on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille axis.
On 2022, The role will be:
- From Orleans;
- La Rochelle
- Then Amiens, Metz, Nancy, Reims and Troyes;
- Then Angers, Kane and Le Mans;
- Then Brest and Wren.
- Then Montpellier, Nimes and Perpignan;
- And finally Clermont-Ferrand and Limoges.
Interview with Hervé Godeshot, CSA Member
Quality control. How do we explain France lagging behind Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, where nearly 100% of the population receives digital radio?
Hervey Goodshot. 30% of France’s population is covered, and this rate will rise to 40% in 2023. We are definitely behind schedule but we are in the process of making up for it; It is difficult to compare France to countries that do not have the same population density. Digital broadcasting requires huge investments for radio equipment, and they should expect profitability, and this is normal. Deployment will accelerate from July 2021, the date chosen for the official start of DAB + metropolitan.
Quality control. DAB + allows to double the number of radio stations, but places are limited, especially in large cities. How does the Canadian Space Agency select the candidates?
HG. As for FM, the role of the Canadian Space Agency is to distribute the Hertzian radio source to ensure to listeners a varied world view while respecting the main balances between local and national stations, between public stations and thematic channels, between news and information, entertainment, etc. Thus, of the 25 stations selected to broadcast across the country, Air Zen, dedicated to luxury, will rub the shoulders of Europe 1, BFM Business or Rire et Chansons.
Quality control. Why publish DAB + when consumers can actually listen to digital radio online, via the radio website or their smartphone app?
HG. 3/4 of the French listen to the radio … from a radio. Internet listening is secondary and should remain so because it places the player between the station and the listener, who provides the connection in exchange for a paid subscription. DAB + guarantees free digital listening. The key to a sovereign radio station is to maintain a mix of broadcast modes: FM, DAB +, Internet.
Quality control. So the FM band will not disappear with DAB + mainstream?
HG. No, at least not right away. These are the uses that will decide the future of the FM band. If your listeners adopt DAB + and abandon it, it will be discontinued on its own.
Quality control. In 1921, the Eiffel Tower hosted the first tests of radio broadcasts, and in 1981, François Mitterrand freed the FM band from its monopoly on
status. 2021 is a symbolic year in radio history, so was it intentionally chosen to accelerate DAB +?
HG. Not really, but this anniversary coincides with a year of DAB + rapid publication. We will also celebrate the radio as part of a national event, the “Radio Festival”, which will take place on May 31, 2021. It will be an opportunity to talk about radio, its history, developments and the important new step it takes today through digital transformation on a larger scale.
(1) 25 national radio stations: Air Zen, BFM Business, BFM Radio, Chérie FM, Europe 1, FIP, France Culture, France Info, France Inter, France Musique, Fun Radio, Latina, Mouv ‘, M Radio, Nostalgie, NRJ, Radio Classique, Rire et Chansons, RFM, RMC, RTL, RTL 2, Skyrock, Skyrock Klassiks, and Virgin Radio. Launched for the first time on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille hub, it will eventually cover the metropolitan area, particularly all major road hubs, with high-quality digital audio and seamless listening on the go.