Ofcom publishes consultation on small-scale DAB licencing

Ofcom has today published a consultation setting out its plans to license small-scale DAB. The consultation, titled Licensing small-scale DAB – How Ofcom would exercise its new powers and duties being proposed by Government, sets out Ofcom’s proposed spectrum planning and licensing process for small-scale radio multiplex licences which would enable hundreds of new local digital radio stations to start broadcasting in the UK from next year. 

Small-scale DAB is cutting-edge technology, providing local commercial, community and specialist music stations with a low-cost route to hitting the digital airwaves, and with over 40% of the UK’s radio listening now taking place on DAB, the proposals mark a major step towards expanding local DAB coverage, giving listeners an even wider choice of new digital radio stations. 

The consultation also includes proposals for the issuing of Community Digital Sound Programme (C-DSP) licences, a new type of licence designed for community radio services broadcasting on DAB.

Ofcom are seeking views from stakeholders on a range of key issues, including their approach to developing a coverage area plan for small-scale radio multiplex services; how they intend to advertise small-scale radio multiplex licences; and how they will assess applications for small-scale radio multiplex licences.

Graham Plumb, Ofcom’s Director of Spectrum Broadcasting said:

“People increasingly prefer digital radio, and by enabling smaller stations to join this digital revolution, we can broaden the choice for local listeners up and down the country.

Small-scale DAB uses advances in software and low-cost computer technology to provide a flexible and inexpensive approach to the terrestrial broadcast of digital radio services to a relatively small geographic area. In the UK, the concept was first tested by Ofcom engineer Rashid Mustapha in 2012 and subsequently the Government funded a series of trials, licensed and facilitated by Ofcom, to test the feasibility of the technology. The trials demonstrated that small-scale DAB can provide a robust and reliable means for small analogue stations to broadcast on digital, as well as for entrants wishing to launch new radio services on a digital terrestrial platform

Ofcom would like to hear from interested parties by Friday 4 October and intend to start advertising licences early in 2020.