Digital Radio Going National
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Work on the roll-out of a digital radio network for national metropolitan centres including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth is underway, says Commercial Radio Australia.

The roll out will also encompass the key population centres of Canberra, Hobart, Darwin, Newcastle, Geelong and Wollongong.

“We remain on track with the rollout of metropolitan digital radio networks in two to three years time and remain extremely optimistic about the potential of digital radio”, said Commercial Radio Australia CEO, Joan Warner.

The National roll out will be the biggest change in radio broadcasting since FM in the 1970s. Its main advantages over analogue transmission are far superior sound quality and reception and provision of additional services.

Eleven digital radio stations have been trialing (and will continue to trial) in a large part of Sydney since December 2003, including WS-FM, Nova 969, 2GB, 2UE, 2DayFM, 2KY, 2SM, ABC Classic FM, ABC dig internet radio and SBS.

Coverage reports on the roll out aim to achieve at least 95 percent population coverage for digital radio in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, as well as the key population centres of Canberra, Hobart, Darwin, Newcastle, Geelong and Wollongong. A study for the Gold Coast licence area will be completed by April 2006.

“The industry is keen to “future proof” the technology platform and at the request of Federal Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, has taken a lead role in investigating Advanced Audio Coding (AAC/AAC+), a new compression technology for use with Eureka 147 that will allow more efficient use of public spectrum.  If adopted, the new standards would enable the industry to broadcast more and better quality services, such as multilayering and images, using less bandwidth,” continued Joan Warner.

Early adopters of digital radio receivers will be disappointed to learn current models will not comply with the AAC standards.

“The growing popularity of mp3 players, radio pod casts and digital music downloads to personal computers and mobile phones shows that listeners are ready to embrace change in the way they experience entertainment.  We’re at the start of this new era, and digital radio will position radio as a key player in the future media environment,” she said.