Radio’s digital future: DAB+ saving lives

14.08.2023 by Will Jackson

DAB+ offers enhanced emergency warnings with precise targeting providing a reliable solution in crisis situations. Future radios will even wake from stand-by to alert people at night.


DAB+ is already loved by listeners for bringing them more of their favourite radio stations in digital quality. Now there’s another compelling reason – a new emergency warning function being developed in Germany could help save lives.

Its robust transmission and broad “high tower, high power” reach means DAB+ can remain available in crisis situations, even if the cellular network infrastructure fails, such as due to flooding or the loss of DSL switches.

In Germany, which has one of the most developed emergency systems, alerts issued via DAB+ already supplement the familiar warning channels, such as cellular broadcast, warning apps, sirens, loudspeaker announcements, and analogue radio. There are regular tests of the system, with the next Bundesweiter Warntag / National Warning Day taking place on 14 September.

The digital radio emergency warnings will be more precise and up-to-date with DAB+ data services than verbal analogue radio warning messages. Warning messages will be able to target big and smaller regions, cities and parts of cities. Future radios will be able to wake from stand-by, alerting people at night, with chip manufacturers involved in developing this process.

Chart showing the time-line of an Alert Announcement

Graphic: System Operation: Time-line of an Alert Announcement

Following recent major natural disasters, such as those in the Ahr Valley and parts of Upper Bavaria in 2021, as well as the tense international situation and the impact of climate change, the members of Digitalradio Deutschland are now developing international standards for emergency warnings.

The organisation – which includes ARD, Deutschlandradio, commercial radio broadcasters, equipment manufacturers and network operators - has compiled a summary of its work in this area, including a system concept and potential uses.

The document also sets out the next steps towards international rollout. These include working with stakeholders such as WorldDAB on global standards, alongside developing, testing, and implementing a DAB+ warning system in Germany to market readiness. The target is to have marketable devices available in early 2025.

Graphic showing DAB+ emergency warnings timings in Germany

Graphic: DAB+ for emergency warnings: Timings in Germany

There's much more about DAB+ emergency warnings on the WorldDAB website, including the system concept summary. Carsten Zorger of Digitalradio Büro Deutschland, and the project consultant Andreas Gorsak gave a presentation on the emergency warnings system at the recent ABU / ASBU / WorldDAB Technical Workshop - watch the video here.

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