Digital radio services are expanding across Australia with trials in Canberra and Darwin to be made permanent and digital radio to be added to Hobart and the Gold Coast over the next two to three years.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority, in consultation with the Digital Radio Planning Committee, has prepared a package of planning papers for the future development of DAB+ digital radio across Australia.
‘The commercial radio industry has indicated there are a significant number of regional licensees that have expressed interest in offering digital radio services in the next three to five years,’ said acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean. ‘The ABC has also announced its intention to commence new services in Darwin and Hobart.’
The ACMA is facilitating the digital radio rollout by preparing digital radio channel plans for Canberra, Darwin, Hobart and the Gold Coast. These plans will make frequencies available to broadcasters wishing to provide ongoing digital radio services in those areas. Details of the timing of commencement of digital radio in these markets will be determined by the broadcasters.
The Government asked the ACMA to facilitate the rollout of digital radio in regional areas where licensees make the commercial decision that they wish to offer the service. This is why the ACMA is relying on industry for advice about which markets have planning priority.
‘Agreeing to the planning principles and settling the initial rollout markets represents a significant milestone in the work of the committee. It’s a credit to the members who have worked collaboratively to resolve complex technical, policy and regulatory issues around the planning of regional digital radio services,’ Richard Bean added.
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Media release 47/2016 - 21 December 2016
Digital radio services, using DAB+ technology in VHF Band III spectrum, have been running on a permanent basis in the metropolitan areas of Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney since July 2009. DAB+ digital radio uses ‘multiplex’ transmitters. Unlike analog broadcasting, where each broadcaster has its own transmitter, in DAB+ digital, individual broadcasters aggregate or multiplex their content onto one or more multiplex transmitters, using digital compression technology.
Digital radio services are licensed, planned and operated under the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992. Amongst other things, the legislation sets the statutory basis for spectrum planning for digital radio, the allocation of digital radio multiplex transmitter licences and the access regime for multiplex transmitter capacity.
The Digital Radio Planning Committee
Following the release of the Digital Radio Report in July 2015 by the Department of Communications, the ACMA was asked by the Minister to establish a joint government-industry committee chaired by the ACMA that would, among other tasks, plan for the transition of the Canberra and Darwin trial digital radio services to permanent services as a matter of priority.
The Digital Radio Planning Committee for Regional Australia (the committee) was formed in September 2015 and is comprised of industry representatives from peak bodies Commercial Radio Australia and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Special Broadcasting Service, the Department, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the ACMA.
The committee was also tasked with planning the rollout of digital radio in regional areas beyond Canberra and Darwin where industry indicates it is economically feasible to do so.
Commercial radio broadcasters, through their peak body CRA, have nominated ‘early mover’ markets where it may be economically feasible to rollout digital radio services within the next five years. Hobart, Gold Coast and the regularisation of the Canberra and Darwin trial services have been proposed as first-movers.