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DAB Reception Isnít Easy! There are some limitations!
Thu 29 Nov 2012

In the UK there is growing pressure for a switchover to digital (DAB) radio to replace the current FM analogue services. One example of this is the increasing provision of DAB-capable car radios. However, be warned that having a DAB-capable car radio may not enable you to receive DAB stations in Europe. Nor may your portable DAB radio be able to receive DAB stations in Europe. This note explains why.

First, the technical bit:

• there are two standards for digital radio transmissions – DAB and the more recent DAB+.
• Digital radio can be transmitted in either of two different frequency bands - Band III and L Band.
• Traffic reports (like RDS on FM) over digital radio are broadcast using a standard called TPEG.
• Most digital radios currently sold in the UK support only DAB on Band III. Eventually new models should support both DAB and DAB+ through use of industry-standard components, but this will not happen for some time.
• Second, the geographical roll-out bit:
• The UK is committed in principle to switching over to digital radio (and shutting down the FM analogue network) in the next few years. The UK supports only the DAB standard on Band III. It has no intention of moving to support DAB+ as it sees no advantage in so doing.
• Very few other countries in Europe have made any commitment to roll-out of digital radio to replace FM, so digital radio services will be patchy for some years.
• European countries are implementing only the DAB+ standard variously on Band III and/or L-Band.
• A few countries have started implementing traffic reports using TPEG over digital radio but coverage is currently mostly in the pilot stages.

So what does this mean for you?

• Make sure that your new car radio (or DAB car radio adapter) is Dual-band (Band III, L-Band), is DAB & DAB+ compliant, and supports TPEG (the digital traffic reporting system). If it doesn’t it may well not receive digital radio stations in Europe.
• Make sure your new car radio also supports FM with RDS as much of Europe will still have patchy digital radio coverage and very little TPEG coverage for some years.
• If you already have a portable digital radio purchased in the UK it is unlikely to work in Europe.
• If you buy a new digital radio make sure it supports both DAB and DAB+ and is Dual-band if you expect to use it in Europe. For example, most PURE portable DAB radios currently sold in the UK support only DAB and Band III.

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