Digital radio FAQ

  • What is digital radio?

Digital radio transmission, using a compressed signal that will be decoded by a receiver. Australia will use the DAB+ standard, which has superior compression, better error correction, and gives better sound quality when decoded.

  • When will it launch?

Commercial radio stations will begin broadcasting in metropolitan areas from May 2009, with ABC and the SBS to follow on 6 August. While 2020 has been mooted as a possible switch-off date, no official timetable exists for shutting down the analog radio broadcast spectrum.

  • Where can I get it?

If you live in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, or Perth you should be able to receive it indoors or out. Depending on your location, you may find yourself in a black spot.

  • How much is it?

The broadcast is free-to-air. However, you will need to buy a DAB+ compliant receiver.

  • What kind of receivers are there?

This year, most DAB+ units will be standalone clock-radio style devices. Entry-level units, at about $200, will be mono. Mid-range units will incorporate iPod docks and cost $500. High end units will start at $1,000, have very high quality audio and digital outputs.

  • What can I listen to?

Your favourite commercial radio stations will simulcast in DAB+. As the system matures, secondary channels will come online, similar to ABC2 on digital TV, with additional content and programming. Austereo has announced that its Radar digital station will offer unique programming from unsigned Australian music acts.

  • What’s the screen for?

DAB+ units have a display – with a minimum of two lines of text – to show information such as the name of the song playing, a playlist of the music or shows ahead, or even traffic and weather reports. Down the track, it may also display images.

  • How good will it sound?

Broadcasters can decide this on the fly. The bitrate will be restricted when audio quality isn’t important, making room for metadata such as weather and traffic reports. Dedicated music stations will boost bitrates, giving audio quality that is equivalent to encoding music for your portable player at a ‘high’ or even ‘CD’ quality.

  • I need more information!

Follow the progress of the launch at the official website:

Further reading

Digital radio terminology: radiotext and UPnP – digital radio will see some new terms thrown our way, such as radiotext (or dynamic label segment) and UPnP – we look at what these terms mean.

Digital radio review round-up – 12 of Australia’s first – Digital radio begins broadcast in Australia on May 1… and GadgetGuy has gathered 12 of the first digital radios to go on sale.

Digital radio vs AM and FM radio – Digital radio is touted as being not only new, but demonstrably better than AM and FM radio in terms of audio quality and programming flexibility.