Sweden's Teracom: Cellular Networks not Realistic Alternative to OTA Broadcasts

November 28, 2013

Stockholm - Nov 27, 2013 - Swedish Broadcast network operator Teracom engaged the Swedish consulting and research company A-focus to analyze a hypothetical scenario in which the analog FM network in Sweden is shut down in 2022 and subsequently not replaced with a digital terrestrial network (with DAB+ or a compatible technology) but rather by using the cellular networks to broadcast digital radio. The assignment was to analyze the consequences for public service and commercial radio, although not local radio. Another requirement was to analyze the situation from a technology-neutral perspective without changing the basic requirements on coverage, accessibility and quality.

The report results were presented on Oct. 24 at a breakfast seminar hosted by Teracom. A-focus' findings were as follows:

■ An enormous capacity would be required to stream today's radio services in a mobile broadband network. When converted, today's radio listening represents a larger amount of data than all the in- and outgoing data in all four mobile operators' networks, in 2012.

■ Given current price levels, it would cost around 860 million EUR per year to broadcast radio via the mobile operator's cellular networks, as opposed to 10-20 million EUR per year for equivalent capacity in the terrestrial network. This extra cost must thus be paid by the broadcasters or directly by the consumers. Today, neither broadcasters nor consumers are close to being able to take on this expense. Even if the price for capacity in the mobile broadband networks should fall, the price reduction would need to be around 96 percent.

■ According to sample measurements by the National Regulatory Authority in Sweden, the cellular networks coverage areas is not up to 99.8 percent of all households, which is the coverage requirement stipulated by the Parliament for the public service broadcaster, Sveriges Radio. Also, approximately 1.2 million Swedes live in complete alienation today when it comes to using the Internet. They have more or less never been on the Internet, and only half of the Swedes with smartphones have used their phones to go on-line. For a cellular network scenario to completely substitute terrestrial broadcasted radio, the Radio listeners would need to subscribe, register and pay regular invoices for a service that previously has been free.

"Some people believe it is possible to replace broadcast radio with radio via cellular networks. Surely, they have not done the math. I have done the math and the conclusion is clear - it is not a realistic alternative," said Göran Hedström, senior consultant at A-Focus and primary author of the report.