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 FAQ #145
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What is digital radio (DAB)?
What is digital radio?

Digital is a way of transmitting sound and pictures as computerised bits of information. This takes up much less space in the airwaves (bandwidth) than the traditional (analogue) system, so there is room for more radio stations and other features.

The main benefits are:

* More radio stations: national, local and regional radio, and stations catering for all kinds of interests and groups of people; many are digital-only

* Better reception: none of the hiss, crackle, fading or station overlap that you get with AM or even FM radio

* Easy tuning by pressing a button: no need to remember frequencies, fiddle with a dial to get a good signal, or retune your car radio when on the move

* Display screen on the radio: gives you information about what you're listening to (such as song details, news headlines, email addresses); some radios now have an electronic programme guide (EPG)

* Radio on TV and online: digital radio stations also broadcast via digital TV and on the internet

How do I get digital radio?

It is often called DAB digital radio. DAB stands for digital audio broadcasting, the name of the transmission system.

You can't receive digital radio on a traditional (analogue) set. There are three ways to listen:

* DAB digital radio set: as with traditional sets, there are many kinds to choose from – portable, hand-held, hi-fi tuners, car radios, etc. Look for a DAB logo on the set. (Note: first check that you can receive DAB in your area – around 85% of the population is covered.)

* Digital TV: all digital TV platforms (digital terrestrial, satellite, cable, broadband) include at least 20 radio stations.

* Internet: with speakers or headphones plugged into your computer, you can listen to a huge variety of stations from the UK and all over the world.

From the end of 2015 the UK will all be converted to Digital and any analogue equipment will be obsolete.

Information provided by the BBC

BigJohnD wrote ...

This switch over to digital is being challenged on various levels, even though it is generally agreed that there are more platforms than needed.

One of the biggest issues is that the UK does not subscribe to the same DAB encoding as the rest of Europe.

So scrapping your FM radio and buying a DAB radio which conforms to the current UK DAB spec means buying another obsolete radio.

The reason DAB radio is not an option in just about all UK spec cars is that the manufacturers are not prepared to put in a UK-only spec - a radio that won't work in the rest of Europe where they use what is usually known as DAB+, using the AAC encoding, as in an iPod. It's higher quality than the current encoding used in the UK.

DAB+ is more efficient, consequently uses less bandwith and is more attractive commercially.

If you are thinking of moving to DAB, buy one that is either dual format ( DAB and DAB+) or one can easily be upgraded (and don't take the salesman word for that!)
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FAQ Posted by Dave_Retired.
Info Created: 28 June 2009
Last Updated: 29 January 2014