Location Norway Norway

Norway is first country to turn off FM radio and go digital-only

Norway will be the first country to start turning off FM radio. Over the course of 2017, the FM radio network will slowly be switched off, with listeners only able to listen to digital programmes instead.

The northern county of Nordland will cease to broadcast FM radio from tomorrow, with other regions following suit throughout the year.

Many countries have toyed with the idea of parting company with FM, but a combination of ageing equipment and geography mean Norway is particularly keen to replace its analogue FM system with digital audio broadcasting (DAB).

“Norway has many mountains and valleys that the robust nature of DAB can help with,” says Stephen Lax at the University of Leeds, UK. This terrain can distort FM signals. “Additionally, its FM radio infrastructure was coming to the end of its life, so they would’ve needed to either replace it or fully commit to DAB anyway.”

Digital signals are also more efficient. “DAB can run at lower power levels so the infrastructure electricity bills are lower. Also the sound quality is better,” says Lax.

Packing in the stations

By dropping the FM system, the Norwegian government believes it will save 200 million Norwegian krone (£19 million) a year. The move will also allow it to expand the number of radio stations on offer, as DAB has greater capacity than FM. Norway currently has five national FM radio stations. With DAB, it will be able to have around 40.

Although the switch is expected to save money, it is likely to end up costing the general public in the short term. Digital Radio Norway estimates that 7.9 million radio sets will be affected, and that only 20 per cent of car radios in Norway can pick up DAB. Although DAB radios are not much more expensive than FM radios, converting a car radio can cost around 1500 krone (£140). As a result, around two-thirds of people oppose the switch and just 16 per cent support it, according to a poll by Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

No other nations have yet announced official dates to turn off their own FM networks, but Switzerland is expected to be next, says Lax. “In many countries, it’ll still be a long time before digital radios are popular enough for a switch not to antagonise a lot of people.”

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2117569-norway-is-first-country-to-turn-off-fm-radio-and-go-digital-only/

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