Commercial Radio Australia has announced that, finally, Canberra DAB+ is a reality. Commercial radio stations are now officially broadcasting radio in the digital bands. It commenced last Friday, the 19th of July. And it’s something I’ve been awaiting for, count em’, eight years.

It was in the last week of February 2011 I attended an event in Parliament House here in Canberra to celebrate the commencement of trial Canberra DAB+ digital radio services. Then Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, pressed a big red button to mark the start. Ever since, Canberra has been on a low powered trial, with the space for stations constrained. In the State capitals, such as Sydney and Melbourne, the spectrum in three of the former analogue TV stations was used for DAB+. For Canberra DAB+ only one was available.

Official Canberra DAB+

That has now changed. Canberra people, if you haven’t already, you’ll have to make your digital radio perform a scan. My digital radios wouldn’t receive anything until I did that. It seems that all the previous stations have been re-allocated.

Canberra DAB+
Channel information on the new station

In Canberra DAB+, the 18 ABC and SBS stations are on band 9C (206.352MHz) while the 10 commercial stations are on band 8D (201.072MHz). Those tech details are only for interest. Your radio should find them all regardless.

One of the good things about digital radio is that you refer to radio stations by their names – Snow Digital, Kix Country, ABC Classic – rather than call signs or radio frequencies.

Canberra DAB+
Bitrate and format information on the new station

Along with a bunch of old stations, a new one called The Edge has been added to the roster.

Commercial Radio Australia says:

The move to permanent DAB+ services in Canberra will result in improved reception, including the areas of Conder, Chisholm, Kambah and Jerrabomberra, as well as along the Federal and Barton Highways, including the township of Murrumbateman.

That’s in part because of a boost in broadcasting power. And it’s true. My home has significant hills between it and the Canberra DAB+ transmitters, which are a dozen or more kilometres to the north. I found that the JBL Tuner DAB+ portable radio worked perfectly regardless of where it was in my home or office. Another DAB+ radio, which provides a signal quality meter showed 100% quality even in my metal-insulated office.

Canberra DAB+
Error rate (0!) on the new station

Canberra DAB+ details

Now, here’s all the information you’re likely to want about what’s available on Canberra DAB+ radio:

Station Band Frequency Mono/Stereo Bitrate
2CA 8D 201.072MHz Stereo 64kbps
2CC 8D 201.072MHz Stereo P 32kbps
ABC Canberra 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 64kbps
ABC Classic 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 80kbps
ABC Country 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 80kbps
ABC Grandstand 9C 206.352MHz Mono 40kbps
ABC Jazz 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 80kbps
ABC Kids Listen 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 72kbps
ABC News 9C 206.352MHz Mono 48kbps
ABCRadioNational 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 64kbps
Buddah Radio 8D 201.072MHz Stereo 64kbps
Coles Radio 8D 201.072MHz Stereo P 32kbps
Double J 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 80kbps
Hit 104.7 8D 201.072MHz Stereo 64kbps
Kix Country 8D 201.072MHz Stereo P 48kbps
Mix 106.3 8D 201.072MHz Stereo 64kbps
My Canberra 8D 201.072MHz Stereo P 48kbps
SBS Arabic 24 9C 206.352MHz Stereo P 48kbps
SBS Chill 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 72kbps
SBS PopAsia 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 72kbps
SBS PopDesi 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 64kbps
SBS Radio 1 9C 206.352MHz Stereo P 40kbps
SBS Radio 2 9C 206.352MHz Stereo P 40kbps
SBS Radio 3 9C 206.352MHz Stereo P 48kbps
Snow Digital 8D 201.072MHz Stereo P 32kbps
The Edge 8D 201.072MHz Stereo 64kbps
triple j 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 80kbps
Unearthed 9C 206.352MHz Stereo 72kbps

(I gathered this information from the readout on a DAB+ receiver.)

Roundup

As you can see, the music stations tend to get a higher bitrate. The ABC sensibly reduces its news and sports stations to mono, which makes better use of the lower bitrates. By contrast, most of its music stations get a solid 80kbps in the AAC+ format used by DAB+.

Several stations offset their low bitrates by using “Parametric Stereo” rather than full stereo (they’re listed as “Stereo P” above). That works by mixing the two channels down to mono, but accompanying it by a low bitrate stream that guides the reconstruction of an approximation of the original stereo.

Now all we need is for digital radio to spread to the regions throughout Australia.

As always, there’s plenty of information available on the digital radio plus website.