Small Scale DAB Roll-out Progress

Unfortunately, time is not always on my side, so digital radio reports tend to focus on larger radio stories. It is not the intention to cover the small-scale DAB roll out in any great detail, but I would like to summarise progress to date.

After lengthy trial periods, and Ofcom eventually issuing permanent licenses, some of the small-scale DAB multiplexes are entering service. Most stations have opted to use DAB+, with mixed sound quality provided.

In the North East, the Tynemouth and South Shields multiplex had the honour of being the first to launch. A mix of local and space filler (small nationally aimed stations using small-scale DAB to expand coverage) services are broadcast. 18 stations in total are broadcast, all using 32 kbps DAB+, giving both poor audio quality and a lot of wasted bandwidth.

Newcastle and Gateshead has also launched, quietly at the start of July (2022). Some stations are yet to join, but all 4 community stations on FM in the area will be broadcast. Again DAB+ is in use, but at 48 kbps for all stations, better audio quality is on offer. All but one of the stations currently broadcast on the Newcastle and Gateshead multiplex originate from within the North East.

The multiplex for Salisbury was the second of the completely new multiplexes to launch. Largely using DAB+, 4 stations on this multiplex are using the incredible low bit rate of 24 kbps, giving poor to appalling sound quality. They will be named and shamed as AspenWaite Radio, Boom Light, and the Salisbury versions of Hot Radio and Hot Gold. Two versions of Greatest Hits Radio are broadcast, but carrying near identical programming, with one in 32 kbps DAB+ and the other in 80 kbps mono normal DAB. Like the Tynemouth and South Shields multiplex, a large number of space filler services are broadcast, and poor audio quality and poor utilisation of bandwidth available are the order of the day.

Lastly, I understand the Edinburgh multiplex has soft-launched over the past couple of days, but I don’t have further details to share at the time of writing. The Birmingham trial multiplex has successfully converted into the Birmingham North multiplex, and the Cambridge trial multiplex has also made the conversion to permanent multiplex. Inverclyde won’t now launch, as the license has been revoked.