Many people still have analogue radios, either at home or in their cars, so the prospect of not being able to use them can be somewhat alarming.
If analogue radio is switched off, a lot of older home and car radios would become obsolete.
DAB radio was introduced to provide more stations, better sound quality and additional features because of the extra information that can be transmitted.
However, DAB radios have never been fully embraced by the population due several reasons: DAB radios are more expensive, reception is still patchy in places and sound quality is not always great as a result of outdated technology and limited bandwidth.
Government Plans for an Analogue Radio Switch-Off
Despite the lack of public support for the idea, the government’s long-term goal is to turn off the analogue transmitters eventually and switch fully to digital (like in the 2012 digital television switchover).
That, however, has been based on two criteria since the 2010 Digital Radio Action Plan was published:
- Digital listening (including via the internet and television) reaches at least 50% of total listening, a target that has now been met.
- DAB coverage is comparable to that for FM. BBC DAB radio coverage is now comparable to that of FM, so this criterium has been met too.
Setting a Date for Switch Off
The government said that once the first criterion (50% of listening on digital) was met, they would review the situation with the intention of being able to set a date for the digital switchover.
However, nothing has so far been announced and it seems unlikely there’ll be much progress any time soon.
Some have argued that if the UK decides to switch off analogue radio, it should be switch to the newer DAB+ standard rather than regular DAB, which is now an outdated technology.
DAB+ uses the more modern HE-AAC coding rather than MPEG and so is capable of producing better sound quality.
Additionally, the BBC and others have expressed a wish to keep FM for some time yet and the take-up of DAB radios has, if anything, slowed recently.
Will Analogue Radio be Switched Off in the UK?
It’s very unlikely that analogue radio will be switched off in the UK before 2022 at the earliest.
Even if a date for a switch-off were announced soon, which seems unlikely, the switch off won’t happen very quickly.
According to the government, there will be at least two years between the announcement of a date and the switch off actually taking place.
So, as yet, there’s no urgent need to ditch your analogue radio and buy a DAB version.
If you’d like a future-ready DAB radio that also has an FM tuner, check out our roundup of the best options here:
If you want to upgrade your car radio to DAB without buying a new radio, check out these adapters: