IBC2023: DAB+ A firm foundation for radio

18.09.2023 by Will Jackson

Over 43,000 people attended IBC2023, and the WorldDAB Project Office team were among them, meeting the member companies exhibiting across the vast RAI Amsterdam halls, and helping stakeholders from around the globe seeking to adopt DAB+.

Alongside this, WorldDAB held a popular Sunday morning conference session exploring how DAB+ offers "a firm foundation for radio". 

Radio remains in good health, with DAB+ offering a firm foundation for its digital future. This was the view of the experts from around the world in WorldDAB’s Sunday morning conference session at the IBC Show 2023 in Amsterdam.

Hosting the session, WorldDAB Project Director Bernie O’Neill unveiled the latest data on the global growth of DAB+ from the updated WorldDAB Infographic published to coincide with the session. This shows emerging markets leading the continued growth with launches in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as new trials in Ghana. Meanwhile over 125 million DAB+ devices have now been sold to date, and almost all new cars across Europe now come with DAB+ as standard.

Bernie O'Neill, Project Director of WorldDAB (left) talks to Edita Kudlá?ová, Head of Radio at the EBU, sitting on stage at IBC2023

Bernie O'Neill, Project Director of WorldDAB (left) talks to Edita Kudlácová, Head of Radio at the EBU

Edita Kudlácová, Head of Radio at the EBU set out that radio is still the most trusted form of media, and is the primary source of information in emergency situations. “This trust has been preserved since the very beginning,” she said. Kudlácová explained how the concept of “radio” is live and evolving: “Radio for us is a combination of live radio, on-demand content, as well as everything that goes on a podcast.” 

Jonas Jacobsson, Head of Broadcast and Media Technology for Telenor stressed the economic benefits and sustainability of DAB+, saying that DAB “revitalises” radio, by offering more and better services for the listener, and ensuring that broadcasters remain relevant in the competition for listeners' attention. This is coupled with a better environmental footprint.

Andreas Gorsak, from Digitalradio Deutschland noted how the German DAB market is thriving, with a fourth layer of ensembles in eastern and northern Germany, and the launch of a second national multiplex offering 16 new DAB services. Gorsak noted there is now a stakeholder consensus for public emergency warnings over DAB+, a system tested last week in the latest German “Warntag” national warning day. WorldDAB standardisation work is in the process of creating specifications for alert warnings – this would provide a basis for public emergency announcements over DAB for worldwide use. A major technical break-through was achieved by a joint BBC-Deutschland Radio proposal for geofencing of alert warnings.

Bernie O'Neill, Project Director, WorldDAB (left) talks to Lindsey Mack from BBC Sounds sitting on stage at IBC2023

Bernie O'Neill, Project Director, WorldDAB (left) talks to the BBC's Lindsey Mack

Lindsey Mack from the BBC also highlighted the good health of radio, this time in the United Kingdom. 88% of the adult population listens every week - a figure which has remained broadly consistent in the last decade. Broadcasters in the UK are investing in content, talent, and infrastructure – including in DAB – to ensure their content is available across a wide range of platforms. "For BBC Sounds, we're trying to migrate as many people as we can to additional platforms," Mack said. "And DAB is a great gateway for people then to actually find out more about Sounds." 

Mack also emphasised how digital is a priority for the BBC. "We've got to just keep pushing more people onto DAB and BBC Sounds. DAB is really, really important to the BBC - a very important platform, and it's got the biggest digital share of all digital platforms," she added.

Ghana started DAB trials last month in Accra and Kumasi. Edmund Yirenkyi Fianko, of the National Communications Authority explained the country’s interest: the FM band is congested in major cities and there is a large number of outstanding FM licence applications with new ones received every week. DAB offered many benefits, he said, including up to 18 stations sharing the same frequency channel and transmitter; and that stations on DAB can extend their coverage beyond their current FM coverage area.

Edmund Fianko of the National Communications Agency in Ghana on stage at IBC in Amsterdam, in front of a screen showing a map of Ghana with the coverage area of DAB around Kumasi and Accra highlighted in green

Edmund Yirenkyi Fianko, of the National Communications Authority on stage at IBC2023

Fianko said now that the trial is live, the next steps include marketing. "All the stations that are participating have been asked to promote DAB on the FM station, to encourage people to take up the service. There are outdoor advertising billboards in the participating cities," he said. It's already been decided to add another city to the DAB trial. "The interest we have had in the first few weeks of the of the trial has been such that management is excited to extend the coverage of DAB, in the course of the next year," he explained.

Fianko also shared the NCA's video of highlights from the DAB+ launch on 22 August 2023.

WorldDAB members exhibiting at IBC2023 included: 2wcom Systems, Academy of Broadcasting Science (ABS) - NRTA, Arqiva, AVT, DIGIDIA, EBU, Faurecia Clarion Electronics, Fraunhofer IIS, GatesAir, Gracenote, Inovonics, IZT, LG Electronics, OIV, Paneda, Pluxbox, RFmondial, Telenor, Xperi.

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