Does DAB Radio Work in Spain?

By 2017, DAB radio was available in 38 countries, amounting to 2,100 services and 420 million people able to receive them. However, British visitors to Spain and expats living there will want to know what’s available for them.

DAB Stations Available in Spain

Spain was something of a DAB pioneer, beginning broadcasts in 1998 that covered Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. By June 2011, coverage extended to around 52% of the population through 23 transmitters. After that, coverage dropped to 20% through 18 services due to the proposed migration to DAB+ and eventually a possible switch off of the analogue service.

All this has apparently been done with little or no market research. Had it been carried out, it would have found that people were generally happy with the FM service and were not prepared to spend money on new DAB radios. The result is that digital radio has been broadcast by few radio stations to a relatively small audience and traditional stations continue to rule.

There are still some digital broadcasters, especially in the Madrid and Barcelona areas. Additionally, since Spain has a large UK expat population, there are a number of English-language FM stations (see a list here), some of which have UK news from the BBC World Service.

Receiving UK stations on a DAB radio is not possible in Spain due to the distance being too great for the strength of the signal. It is also unlikely that a UK-sourced DAB radio will work since it is, reportedly, pre-set to different frequencies to those used in Spain. However, it may be worth re-tuning the set and finding out which, if any, stations are available.

Alternative Ways to Access UK Radio

If you can’t find the digital stations you want using a DAB radio, the answer may be to access them over the internet. This can be done either by buying a dedicated internet radio or accessing services via a PC, tablet device or a mobile phone, which will give you access to thousands of stations around the world.

There are also a number of radio apps available for mobile devices that provide access to thousands of stations, to specific ones or to certain ‘brands’ (such as the BBC for World Service, national and local stations). Most of these are free with advertisements or have premium versions that have no advertisements and additional features for a monthly fee. Some programmes, such as live sports events, may be blocked due to rights issues but most will be available.

One potential problem with listening to internet radio on your phone is it uses around 55 MB of data an hour (see more info on data usage here). If you don’t have a service plan with unlimited data usage, that can result in additional monthly charges. The problem is reduced somewhat since the EU blocked roaming charges but nevertheless still exists. You will require a reasonably fast broadband service for internet radio to work properly and this may not be available in some remote areas.

If internet radio isn’t feasible, you may be able to access radio stations in addition to television, through a Freeview or NowTV box. Cable and satellite suppliers may also have radio stations available, though you might need a large satellite dish to pick up those from the UK.

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