Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely DAB

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Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely DAB

Postby kal » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:42 am

Starting January 11, and continuing over the course of the year, the nation of Norway is pressing ahead with plans to close down FM transmission. The decision has angered some. In particular, there is anger over the loss of FM reception in many vehicles not equipped with DAB receivers.

Several European nations are poised to follow in Norway's footsteps.

That begs the question of why, here in North America, we are beating around the bush with HD radio. Is it a technology doomed to fail?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-radio-idUSKBN14P1TH
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Re: Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely

Postby jon » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:15 pm

Like many "new" technologies that we have seen in the last 50 years, it is often not how good the technology is that matters, but how much manufacturers are willing to pay up front to make it popular.

With HD Radio, the closest parallel is Satellite Radio, with Sirius and XM (now one company) eventually managing to get a satellite receiver into almost every car sold in the U.S. and Canada.

But that is only half of the "answer". The other half is "Compelling Content", which HD Radio, at least in Canada, does not currently offer. Slamming an AM station on an HD channel of its sister FM station is not enough.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that there are so few stations in this country running HD.

=====

As for Norway, as I understand it, the way that they have handled DAB there is more like moving the FM band to a different part of the frequency spectrum. The closest parallel in North America is the move of TV to HD, though that is a very flawed example because so few North Americans get their TV off air, with nearly everyone having cable TV or an Internet equivalent.
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Re: Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely

Postby kal » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:43 pm

Good points.

I love the satellite radio feed. I just wish my car had more presets (it has 12). My most-listened too stations, across all platforms, are: News1130, CKNW, CBU 690, Watercolors, CNN, and The Bridge.
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Re: Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely

Postby kal » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:55 am

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Re: Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely

Postby jon » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:44 pm

Here is the original Bloomberg article that the Financial Post published:

Norway Is First Nation to Switch Off FM Radio
by Kim McLaughlin
BloombergTechnology
January 11, 2017, 9:00 PM MST

  • Norway’s lonely digital-broadcasting push risks being the last
  • Emergence of web-streaming lessens consumer reliance on radio
As Norway switches off its FM radio network this week, other nations have abandoned similar plans, leaving the Scandinavian country a lonely beacon of digital-only broadcasting in a world that’s rapidly moving on to music streaming and podcasts.

The switch to digital audio broadcasting, a first for any country, will be watched closely by other European nations, which are starting to question the benefits of shutting down analog networks. Success in Norway may be the last hope for enthusiasts and electronics retailers to revive digital-radio plans that have largely ground to a halt in the rest of the world.

“Norway is a thought leader, certainly a technology leader,” Ford Ennals, chief executive officer of Digital Radio UK, said in a telephone interview. “In the U.K., we are definitely more cautious. We want it to be listener-led. We don’t want to force everyone to do this.”

Norway’s blueprint to replace FM has been in place for years, originating with its first digital broadcasts back in 1995. The technology offers better sound than analog FM, is easier to tune and more affordable for broadcasters because it uses spectrum more efficiently. But in the intervening decades, a different technology took hold: internet radio and music streaming from companies such as Spotify Ltd. and Apple Inc., and Pandora Media Inc. in the U.S.

The trend isn’t likely to reverse. New cars are routinely equipped with dashboards that connect to the internet and smartphones through services such as Android Auto and Apple Carplay. At last count, Spotify had 40 million paying users worldwide and Apple Music counted 20 million. There are dozens more services -- streaming lets consumers create their own playlists, and they can pay to avoid commercials. Traditional radio stations have also gone online.

Norway is starting by winding down FM signals in Bodo, north of the Arctic Circle, with the rest of the country to follow later in 2017. The capital, Oslo, will be hit Sept. 20, although many local radio stations will be allowed to continue broadcasting on the FM dial for the next five years.

For a sparsely-populated nation like his, keeping FM alive wasn’t an alternative, said Ole Jorgen Torvmark, chief executive officer of Digital Radio Norway. In Norway, 74 percent of the population have one or more DAB radios, he said.

“A prerequisite for investing in a new digital network and new channels was a closing of the FM net,” Torvmark said. “We wouldn’t have been here today with a new network and channels if we didn’t have a closing date.”

Not Convinced

Norwegians aren’t convinced. A recent poll showed that 66 percent of the population oppose the change.

In neighboring Sweden, DAB is seen as a technology made obsolete by the internet. DAB advocates like Modern Times Group AB and consumer-electronics retailers have been rebuffed by critics who argue that an FM shutdown would be costly, unpopular and risk deteriorating the capacity to communicate with the public in crises. After two decades of trials and discussions, Sweden scrapped FM replacement plans in June 2015. The National Audit Office said a switch would be “out of step with other societal trends.”

In Canada, regulators stopped renewing digital licenses after big cities like Toronto and Montreal carried services for a decade without much consumer enthusiasm. The picture is similar in Finland. In Switzerland, the plan is still for FM to be replaced by digital and be phased out by 2024. The U.S. uses a different standard, HD Radio, which can broadcast stations simultaneously in both digital and analog within the same channel.

There are also millions of radio sets across Europe that would have to be replaced or equipped with a converter. Governments too are mindful that consumers haven’t embraced the technology. Digital Radio UK’s Ennals believes Britain will switch, but is at least five years away.

“I don’t think the U.K. has ever wanted to be the first here and we’re very pleased we can draw on lessons from Norway,” said Ennals. “Norway being a success may embolden the government to say ‘OK, let’s get on with this.’”
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Re: Norway begins switching off FM broadcasts: goes entirely

Postby jon » Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:27 am

Some info from the heavily researched and just published 2017 World Radio TV Handbook on Norway radio.

"In 2017, all FM transmissions will be phased out for NRK, Radio Norge and P4....Almost all local FM stations have been granted an extension until 2022."

There are only a handful of AM transmitters currently operating in Norway and there are no plans to shut them down. Most of them are targeted at listeners outside Norway. They range the gamut from Long Wave to Shortwave, with a few on Medium Wave (520-1710 Broadcast Band).
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