It is generally accepted that the future of broadcast radio lies in the possible replacement of AM and FM analogue broadcasts with digital services. There is a wide range of technologies to service this change and for much of the world the most visible of these is Digital Audio Broadcasting or DAB. This VHF service is slowly growing in popularity to the point that in some countries the process of turning off FM or AM has already happened or is underway. It is therefore a surprise to hear news from a country going in another direction the Irish operator RTÉ is about to shut down its national DAB multiplex.
The reason is economic efficiency, the acceptance of DAB in the republic by listeners is low (Northern Ireland has British multiplexes instead) and that the operator is the only one that maintains a national multiplex. Our Irish friends tell us that, as in other parts of the world, rural coverage can be uneven and with RTÉ alone and without commercial outlets, it is easy to see why the DAB kit is not attractive.
In case anyone is tempted to predict the demise of digital broadcasting from this news, this is not the real story. This is just abandoning DAB. Many Irish people listen to radio through digital media, as elsewhere, it’s just an indication that they decide not to do it through DAB. Irish DVB TV multiplexes carry the same stations and more, and meanwhile the relentless rise in online listening through smart speakers and mobile phones has eaten DAB’s lunch. But that raises the question of other places: when your cell phone delivers a radio station or streaming service you want and is always in your pocket, why do you want a radio?
For more information on DAB, including some of its shortcomings, a few years ago we looked at the system in depth.
thanks [Laura] for the title image.