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What is DAB/DAB+?

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• Autor: Editorial staff

The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting of radio (and television, but that's another story) is becoming well known, albeit in relatively slow steps. In our article, we have summarized the basic information on how to change the signal type of your favourite radio station, how to tune in DAB+Radio, what you need to do to do this, and we will also answer the question of whether you need to rush if you are still using a classic FM radio. We will also reveal when - and if at all or under what conditions - the analogue radio broadcasting in the Czech Republic will be definitively switched off.

What Is DAB Radio

What is DAB/DAB+ and what does it bring to users? - CONTENTS

  1. What Is DAB?
  2. The Difference Between DAB and DAB+
  3. Advantages and Disadvantages of DAB/DAB+ Radio
  4. Even a DAB/DAB+ Tuner Won't Help the Old Radio
  5. How to Tune Into DAB/DAB+ Radio
  6. Are We In for a Mass Switching to DAB/DAB+
  7. DAB On Mobile Phones

What Is DAB?

The abbreviation DAB or Digital Audio Broadcasting stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting. Just as analogue television was replaced by its digital successor in 2011, radio broadcasting is also beginning to undergo digitalisation.

DAB, or Digital Audio Broadcasting, is now becoming the absolute standard, although the classic FM signal still works and can be used. You may be asking why we are switching to a digital signal in the first place. The answer is quite simple. The main reason for this is the fact that the frequencies on which it is possible to broadcast are overwhelmed. It is therefore not possible to continue to expand the programme offer.

The Difference Between DAB and DAB+

DAB was the first step in the digitalisation of radio broadcasting. It is now quite common to have a higher version of DAB+, which is supported by both operators and the devices themselves. Over 90 % of Europe has access to DAB.

DAB+ differs from DAB in particular by its wider signal bandwidth, which allows the transmission of various additional data such as pictures, maps, etc. On better devices, you can even subscribe and download songs you're listening to, or vote in polls. This added feature is clearly visible, for example, in some car radios, which not only display the name of the station, but also add the artist and the title of the song currently playing.

However, both technologies work together and if you have a DAB radio, you don't necessarily need to get a new one just to receive a DAB+ signal.

DAB, mapa pokrytí
Map of DAB+ coverage in the Czech Republic, as of September 2020. With a few exceptions, you can tune into DAB radio everywhere. Source: Czech Radio

Advantages and Disadvantages of DAB/DAB+ Radio

In terms of change for the better, the biggest advantage that digital radio brings to the average listener is probably its accessibility: your favourite station can be tuned into digital broadcasting even where it was not possible before. The analogue signal was too short for some places in our country (people living near the border in the mountains could certainly tell you about it), while the digital signal can reach almost anywhere. Other advantages of DAB and DAB+ radios are as follows:

  • Much greater availability of stations
  • More programmes on offer
  • Independence from the internet connection
  • Higher sound quality without ailments such as noise, which the analog signal suffers from greatly
  • Easy to use, no complicated tuning required
  • More options in displaying additional text or image information
  • DAB radio offers good signal coverage
  • Need to buy a new device

In terms of radio stations, the main advantage that DAB radio brings is the ability to bundle individual programmes into a single data package. In other words: imagine you own a radio station. Let's say you want to give your listeners a choice, so you broadcast music on one channel and news on another at a certain time.

iFor more information on digital radio technology, see Digital Audio Broadcasting.

If you were to use conventional analogue technology, you would need to send two separate signals. Thanks to DAB, these two signals can be compressed into one and sent together, which is a great relief for the transmitters and the network itself.

DAB Radio
Radio has not disappeared from our lives. And digital in the form of DAB/DAB+ extends the possibilities even further.

Even a DAB/DAB+ Tuner Won't Help the Old Radio

So the first question is: Is my old radio capable of receiving DAB broadcasts? The answer is simple: unfortunately, it's not. If you still have an old radio from your grandmother at home or at the cottage, it will only receive FM broadcasts. It is not even possible to buy an additional device to transform the old radio receiver, as was the case with set-top boxes for analogue TVs. So you have no choice but to get new DAB radio.

i For an updated list of DAB+ stations, please visit DAB-plus.cz

How to Tune Into DAB/DAB+ Radio

The tuning of the DAB/DAB+ radio itself is completely seamless and is basically no different from a "classic" radio.

  • The DAB/DAB+ radio is usually equipped with a standard antenna, which you can comfortably use for normal listening.
  • RDS radios are equipped with a display because they can receive additional information, e.g. Pictures.
  • DAB+ antennas improve signal quality and range. They can be useful where the signal is worse. The advantage is that they can also be used to receive DVB-T2 TV signals.
i Transition to DVB-T2: DVB-T standard is a thing of the past

Are We In for a Mass Switching to DAB/DAB+

Although the advantages of DAB+ (i.e. digital broadcasting) are obvious and beneficial for users and operators, the complete switchover to DAB and the abandonment of the outdated and insufficient FM is facing the reluctance of some private operators to abandon existing frequencies and switch to digital broadcasting. The deadline for the transition in the Czech Republic, for example, has been postponed twice already.

The current deadline is 2025. Until then, both broadcasting technologies will operate in parallel. However, even then, nothing is certain. The aforementioned private radio operators still hope that they will not have to switch off analogue broadcasting. However, as far as DAB+ radio stations are concerned, this is now the case for practically all full-range radio operators, both public (the complete Czech Broadcast, which has a significantly wider offer in digital broadcasting than in FM reception) and the vast majority of private ones. In addition, the public broadcaster Czech Radio will soon start to switch off AM broadcasts of some stations, so by 31 December 2021 the AM broadcasts of the popular CR1 Radiožurnál, CR2 (Dvojka) and CR Plus will disappear from the air. The trend is thus clearly towards a move away from analogue broadcasting.

The truth remains, however, that it may very well happen that FM broadcasting will be definitely switched off only in the case of Czech Radio. At least that is what the current strategy of the Ministry of Culture says. Other stations will be able to broadcast simultaneously in FM/AM and digitally in DAB/DAB+. It depends on whether the government manages to present a clear plan for the transition to DAB+ by 10 October 2022. If not, radio stations will be allowed to extend their so-called "time limits". transformation licence for analogue broadcasting. The final decision will most likely be up to the individual stations as to what alternatives they will offer their listeners.

i Internet Radios
It is important to highlight one crucial difference. DAB/DAB+ radio does not equal internet radio. DAB/DAB+ uses the classical method of signal broadcasting through a network of transmitters, similar to DVBT (for TV signal). In contrast, Internet radio broadcasts only on the Internet. It does not need any dedicated frequencies and frequencies, however, an internet connection is a prerequisite.

On the other hand, there are countries in Europe that have already switched off analogue broadcasting. Norway was the first to do so in 2017. Drivers who regularly travel abroad and want to receive a DAB+ signal in their car will be interested to know that it certainly hasn't stayed there and won't in the future. That's why it's certainly not a bad idea to invest in a new car radio already. DAB+ car radios are quite common nowadays and most models support this type of signal. Owners of new cars need not worry as all new cars are already equipped with a DAB+ receiver as standard equipment.

DAB On Mobile Phones

Mobile phones are our daily companions, and it is therefore quite appropriate that they have become a means of listening to the radio. And this has been the case since the beginning, when even the oldest phones were able to receive FM signals using an antenna, which was a cable from the connected headphones.

Digitisation and the connection of telephones to the internet has added the ability to choose from a wide range of internet radios. But these, as we wrote in the box above, need an internet connection. And if you're not exactly on WiFi, they consume data. Obviously, there is thus the possibility of receiving DAB, resp. DAB+ signal. However, this is still a problem for the manufacturers, or rather their reluctance, although Samsung, for example, realised that this way of listening to the radio has lower battery requirements.

DAB Radio on Phone
Phone manufacturers don't think much of DAB/DAB+ radio listeners, there is basically zero support.

The problem is that a DAB Tuner, a device that is able to receive and decode the signal is not added to mobile phones. One of the few phones available that supports DAB/DAB+ was the LG Stylus 2. Since then, no sign of any other efforts for DAB for phones made and digital radio listeners therefore still have to resort to internet streams, which most radio stations support.

i You might also be interested in

Digital radio (DAB, resp. DAB+) is definitely a technological step that brings a number of benefits. Whether it's an easier search for your favorite station or a higher quality signal. There is no need to worry about the transition, a large portion of Europe is already covered by an improved version of the signal, the so-called DAB+, which also allows the transmission of additional information. To receive DAB/DAB+ signals, only one thing is needed - a radio receiver that can handle it. And that's pretty much all of them these days.

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