Small-scale DAB

Smaller broadcasters need to be available on the DAB+ platform as the audience migration to digital continues apace. These services can be broadcast using the distribution concept often referred to as 'small-scale' DAB. 

Governments and regulators in many countries have recognised the importance of including local and community services within the DAB+ landscape, to maintain parity with the mixed ecology serviced by analogue platforms. Spectrum is being allocated to meet this requirement. 

The concept, based on Software Defined Radio (SDR), simplifies the transmission infrastructure by emulating all network elements (source encoding / multiplexing / modulation) in a software stack which can be run on commodity computing hardware - a concept more recently adopted for the architecture of future mobile networks. Significant savings in distribution costs are realised by leveraging IP / Internet streams for both DAB+ source encoding and for transmitter feeds. 

Almost all small-scale DAB network operators today utilise the open source DAB+ platform from Opendigitalradio. SDR's open source code and approach provide an agile starting point for further development of innovations in a rapidly changing world.

The platform is now considered mature enough for deployment in larger-scale networks. For example, it is leveraged to provide national layer(s) in Switzerland. The source code is maintained by digris AG, a Swiss company providing DAB+ network operations in a growing number of European countries.

The small-scale DAB approach is in use in many countries, including Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. In the United Kingdom, media regulator Ofcom is currently licensing up to around 200 small-scale multiplexes. By December 2023, nearly 50 were on air, carrying over 500 services between them. Read the Ofcom press release, and find out more about the Ofcom licensing process

There is also further information about the operation of small-scale DAB on the LocalDAB website.