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David Pidgeon 

Ofcom trials 'affordable DAB' tech for smaller radio stations

Ofcom trials 'affordable DAB' tech for smaller radio stations

With the high costs of broadcasting via DAB digital radio limiting its take-up, Ofcom has today announced trials of a new tech that could provide small radio stations across the UK with a new and affordable approach.

The idea, developed by senior Ofcom engineer Rashid Mustapha, means that small scale radio stations could start broadcasting on DAB radio for "a fraction" of current costs.

Current systems rely on expensive hardware, but Mustapha's idea will see smaller stations use freely available software and will see groups of smaller stations work together.

Known as 'small scale DAB', it is best suited for broadcasting to small geographic areas, ideal for community and local radio stations.

The UK's first experimental small scale DAB 'multiplex' using a discrete amount of the airwaves to broadcast was set up in 2012.

Mustapha was granted a test licence and installed a low power digital radio transmitter on a Brighton roof-top. The test, which used a small transmitter, freely available software code and a PC, successfully delivered a reliable, high quality digital radio broadcast. The test transmission was an audio track of squawking seagulls.

"The first test of the small scale DAB concept was from the roof of the tallest building in East Sussex," Mustapha, said.

"Despite an unexpected delay to the start of the experiment while waiting for young Peregrine falcons to fly from their nest, the technology provided very encouraging results.

"The trials being announced today are the next step in potentially helping hundreds of small stations to start broadcasting on digital radio."

Each trial will allow new digital radio services to broadcast to a local area and will help explore how groups of radio stations can work together.

The trials will also inform Ofcom's work on identifying suitable frequencies for broadcasting smaller digital stations and help understand how these services could be licensed.

Ofcom is now inviting small stations to take part in the trials, which are expected to run for nine months.

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