A final report drafted by the UK's Digital Radio Working Group (DRWG) indicates that a phased transition from analog broadcasting to a nationwide DAB multiplex could take place as soon as 2017, providing the government subsidizes the cost of infrastructure build-out, and relaxes key regulatory burdens.
The DRWG report, drafted at the request of British telecom officials, sets out three criteria that, once met, would set the transition in motion:
At least 50 percent of all radio listening taking place via non-analog channels National DAB multiplex coverage equivalent or better to that of current analog FM Local DAB multiplex coverage equivalent to at least 90 percent that of current analog FM
The report also affirms that DAB is the most suitable replacement for public and commercial analog radio in the UK, but that the platform must be supplemented by low-power community analog FM service as well as broadband delivery. Thus, the report calls for new receivers entering the market to be multi-mode capable, including FM, DAB and other Eureka 147 family technology. Also recommended is the development of a timetable for migration from analog services on long- and medium-wave bands (AM) as well as FM in which LW and MW would be first to be reallocated for other applications, while VHF FM would follow last. Once set in motion, the entire process would play out over three years.
DAB critics were quick to point out that the report does not address the use of the now-outmoded MPEG Layer 2 codec. The newer DAB+ standard, set for launch in Australia next May, employs 128 AAC coding, which is generally ranked as far superior to MP2 operating at 96-160kb/s rates. Controversy is also likely to surround the suggestion that government directly subsidize the cost of building out multiplex networks into rural and mountainous areas, while relaxing local content and ownership rules on commercial broadcasters.
The report represents a closing phase for the government-sponsored group, organized by the regulatory authority Ofcom, and composed of representatives from the BBC, private broadcast groups, and other interested stakeholders.