Is DAB dying?

04 Jan 2011


Once heralded as the future of radio, DAB was built up to be a must have for all households and a technological nail in the coffin of FM radio.

The technology was so good and it promised so much, so why are industry insiders now speculating that DAB might be dying out?

DAB (digital audio broadcasting) offers more stations than FM in digital quality sound. It automatically finds available stations and lists them, perfect for the generation too lazy to turn a dial. Stations can also feed listeners text information about songs, competitions and reasons why they should stay tuned.

It was all so perfect. The British public lapped up digital television when it rolled in, what could be more appealing than upgrading the old wireless?

Well, errr, FM actually. It is now unlikely that DAB radio will have enough listeners to take over from FM by the time of the planned Digital Switchover in 2015. So it looks like FM has won the battle, for now.

The BBC has invested heavily in DAB radio. Auntie would have been disappointed when its own research found most licence fee payers didn’t see it as an essential service. One person asked what the point of DAB is now internet radio has come along.

Internet radio offers thousands of stations from around the world to listeners, all with perfect sound quality. The only real catch is that you need an internet connection, but these days that is not much of a problem for the web-happy public.

Some like to listen to the radio before hitting the hay

DAB has struggled to overcome FM in the most important of modern day battlegrounds for the radio – in cars. Few cars have a DAB radio, stopping a massive share of the listenership from enjoying shows.

But with such major backers as the BBC and major commercial radio stations like Absolute, surely the future can’t all be bad for DAB? After all, abandoning the medium would render 10 million DAB radios useless.

The wave of support to save BBC 6 Music, which doesn’t feature on the FM airwaves, showed how popular a DAB station can be.

The BBC is busy expanding the coverage of DAB – 60 new transmitters are planned for this year, bringing music in digital quality to 92% of the population. If you live in Sunderland, East Devon or Saffron Walden, then hold onto your hats, DAB is coming to you soon.

Impressive DAB features like digital quality sound and easy flicking between stations have now been added to. If you love Chris Moyles’ unmistakeable banter on Radio 1 in the morning but can’t quite bring yourself to wake up in time, use the record button on your DAB radio to enjoy breakfast radio while eating your dinner.

Electronic programme guides on some DAB radios are also great for browsing through what is on later and making sure you never miss your favourites.

DAB does have its flaws and internet radio is very exciting, but if you want to enjoy local and national stations in digital quality sound or your wireless broadband doesn’t quite stretch to the garden shed, then DAB could still be for you.

Do you have a DAB radio or have you stuck to listening to FM? Is DAB the format of the future or will it be surpassed by internet radios? Have your say below…