Broadcasting Mode Switching Rankling Listeners
Norway is going forward with plans to replace its national FM broadcasting network with digital-mode outlets by the end of 2017 — the first nation to do so across the board. Norway’s Ministry of Culture first proposed the switch more than 5 years ago. The first official switchover to digital audio broadcasting is set for January 11 (at 11:11:11 AM) in Nordland, and the change will take place state by state. Norway already offers 25 national digital channels and only five on analog FM. Local radio stations outside of major cities in Norway will continue to broadcast on FM.
A typical DAB signal occupies approximately 1.5 MHz of spectrum wide and is comprised of 1500 individual carriers. The signal then can be subdivided into multiple digital program streams. DAB employs a Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (COFDM) modulation scheme, a form of spread spectrum. Transmitted data are shared among the individual carriers to minimize selective fading due to multipath effects.
The plan is not without risk or rancor. The shift has caused a furor among radio listeners in Norway, who don’t feel they will have the time — or money — to keep atop the technological wave and may miss important information once the shift takes place. The situation is somewhat akin to the situation when digital television broadcasting became the standard in the US. Millions of homes and vehicles in Norway are not yet equipped to receive digital broadcasts without a converter, which can cost upward of $200. Surveys show that a wide majority of Norwegians oppose the shift, which proponents contend will mean better signal propagation and the option for multiple programming streams for each channel.
A last-ditch effort to stall Norway’s switch to digital failed in Parliament. Switzerland, Denmark, and the UK are also said to be considering a switch to digital broadcasting from conventional FM.
In French Polynesia, meanwhile, some radio listeners are reported unhappy that medium-wave AM broadcasting is giving way to FM. According to a Radio New Zealand report, Radio Polynesie Premiere switched to an all-FM service on December 1, leaving pockets of inhabitants in valleys and on remote atolls without any local radio service.
The broadcaster added five FM transmitters to its network of 48 to improve its reach, but in an area the size of Europe, the signal fails to reach all communities. As in Norway, listeners have expressed concerns that they may miss vital public safety alerts. — Thanks to Southgate Amateur Radio News;Radio Today, and Electronics-Notes