Digital Radio on air in Sydney

Commercial radio stations in Sydney have finally switched on digital radio after some unexpected delays slowed down the launch of the final Australian capital city to go digital. The newly installed channel 9B service on the main transmission tower was experiencing some technical problems with drop outs in the first few days of transmission, which now appear to be fixed.

2GB, 2CH, 2UE, 2DAY, TRIPLE M, 2KY, WS-FM, MIX 106.5, 2SM, NOVA, VEGA, Radar, Pink Radio, Koffee and NovaNation have now began broadcasting DAB+ digital radio signals, joining stations in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane to complete the five state metropolitan switch-on. There are now 44 digital radio services on air in Australia.

Radios that had previously been tuned to the Sydney test transmissions will have to be rescanned to find the newly switched-on frequencies. A command function in the station menu on most radios should allow DAB+ sets to find the new stations. As more stations are added in any city radios will again need to rescan to find them.

CRA’s Joan Warner, who is currently speaking about digital radio at a conference in Singapore, says the switch-on of permanent DAB+ services in Sydney illustrates how a highly competitive industry has come together to create one of the most spectrum efficient and sophisticated digital radio networks in the world.

In the first few weeks of the DAB+ digital radio broadcasts in Sydney, stations will be broadcasting at lower power while technical aspects of the broadcasts are finalised; then broadcasts will go into variable power mode while any interference is identified, assessed and remediated, as required by the Australian Media and Communication Authority.

Up until now no interference issues have been identified in other Australia cities switched on over the past month, but Sydney will take a very cautious approach to interference testing.

Because of the poor weather conditions over the past month, lower power in the first couple of weeks is required to finalise some aspects of the infrastructure build. In addition, as Sydney is densely populated with many high rise buildings the variable power stage of the Interference Management Scheme (IMS) may continue a little longer than in other states so that any issues can be addressed.

CRA Chairman Michael Anderson is privileged to chair the industry organisation during such an exciting phase: “Australia has a vibrant and resilient radio industry that is the envy of many countries around the world and digital radio will enable the industry to continue to innovate.”

The commercial radio industry and the ABC and SBS will celebrate the metropolitan digital radio switch on with a five state capital simultaneous outside broadcast on 6 August 2009.

The five state metropolitan switch on completes the first step in bringing free to air digital radio to all Australians, but this is only five of the 105 commercial radio licences on air in this country. The radio industry is now calling on the Federal Government to allocate VHF Band III spectrum to regional broadcasters so all listeners throughout Australia can receive digital services.

“The industry is committed to ensuring all Australians are able to access the enhanced form of free to air radio and we’ve commenced talks with ACMA and the Federal Government to plan the rollout of digital radio throughout the rest of Australia,” says Warner.

DAB+ digital radios are available in all shapes and sizes including MP3 style devices, hi fi, portable players, clock radios, car adaptors and PC radios. Prices vary depending on their features. Entry level radios start from around A$150 and a radio with all the digital capabilities start at around A$299.

Manufacturers producing DAB+ digital radios include; Pure, Roberts, Bush, Revo, Grundig, iRiver, Sangean, Yamaha and Teac with other manufactures expected to introduce further products throughout 2009. They are available at retailers including; Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, The Good Guys, Clive Peeters, Retravision, Myer, David Jones, and specialist retailers.

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