Why is Norway the first country in the world to switch off FM? It’s simple really.

Norges vakre fjell og fjorder blir fylt av digitale radiosignaler i 2017. Illustrasjonsbilde av Geirangerfjorden. Foto: BIL/Public Domain

Norway: So, why exactly are the Norwegians switching off and going digital? It makes a lot of sense. The land of the Midnight Sun, the land of the Nobel Peace Prize and the land of any number of interesting gastronomic delicacies was also one of the first countries to give women suffrage, to embrace the internet and now: to lay the last analogue media to rest.

Fact check: FM will not be switched off in Norway. FM will continue to live on, with hundreds of radio stations, also after 2017. However, these stations are local only and not in metropolitan areas. All the majors, including public service broadcaster NRK and all their stations, P4-gruppen and Bauer Media (these three enjoy a market share of over 95 per cent) will switch off their national, regional and local stations starting this week.

What are they up to?

Norway is often thought of, with its Scandinavian sisters Sweden and Denmark, as a fairly lovely place on Earth. It enjoys being affluent, a big oil producer, having a high standard of living – and the prices to match – and being pretty open minded.

When women were fighting for the right to vote, Norwegian politicians were among the first to grant universal suffrage. Norway built a social welfare system that they are enjoying international recognition for. Norwegians embrace technology and Norway was, together with Britain, the first two nations connected to what would later become the internet. Norwegians think of themselves as pretty traditional, but evidence shows that they are anything but. So, how about that switch over?

The first digital radiostation on DAB was NRK Klassisk. A Norwegian station. Established back in the mid-nineties it is still going strong. Norwegians have been central in developing the standard of broadcasting through everything from the EBU to World DMB (now World DAB) and now taking the next step in going all digital.

Not all Norwegians are convinced. Why change something that works?

The change makes a lot of sense to broadcasters though. DAB+ lends itself to the Norwegian topography for one. Where mountains and valleys make FM broadcasting near impossible. They made it work of course, but at a cost. DAB+ signals work differently and the signals bouncing off mountains and down valleys make reception better. Fewer transmitters, lower price and a lower use of energy.

For most Norwegians, even those in the capital and central metropolitan areas, DAB+ brings more stations and a greater selection of formats. In certain areas of Norway this is the first time they are able to receive a terrestrial signal that offer more than one – 1- radio station.

So being first makes nothing but sense really.

The switch over will happen in region by region and will eventually finish in December this year.

Prediction: Listening will take a hit on the short term. But after that Norway will see radio listening at an all time high. Research show digital listeners love radio and with more to listen to total hours should show a nice lift. Well, after the initial shock and old analogue radio’s are replaced of course.

4 Comments on "Why is Norway the first country in the world to switch off FM? It’s simple really."

  1. No DAB Please | January 9, 2017 at 00:20 | Reply

    “The change makes a lot of sense to broadcasters though. DAB+ lends itself to the Norwegian typography for one. Where mountains and valleys make FM broadcasting near impossible. ”

    Typography? Really? ;-)

    • Endre Juel Lundgren | January 9, 2017 at 04:31 | Reply

      That would be an interesting article wouldn’t it? Thank you for pointing out what we didn’t – not typo but topo of course. Thank you.

  2. Bjørn Authen | February 5, 2017 at 14:10 | Reply

    Refusing DAB!
    We believe Norway also is the first and last country attempting to kill off FM. And there is no need for DAB, apart from the industry benefitting from pushing millions of DAB receivers to public – which they do not want. Big scale madness!

  3. Bjørn Authen | February 5, 2017 at 22:45 | Reply

    Signals bouncing off mountains!
    Where did you get this from: “Where mountains and valleys make FM broadcasting near impossible. They made it work of course, but at a cost. DAB+ signals work differently and the signals bouncing off mountains and down valleys make reception better. ”
    Higher frequency means straighter waves! DAB frequencies are typically 1 m wave length, and FM 3 m. Consult someone that knows the matter. Where on earth did you pick this argument from? BOUNCING of the rockface ….. That is silly! The longer wavelength, the longer you can transmit. Long- and medium waves broadcasting from Great Britain reaching listeners In Norway during the WW2.
    DAB is also easy to knock out if someone deliberately wants to do so. Analog FM is much safer in that respect! And the sound is poor. This is why:

    The subchannel bit rate for DAB+ should not be less
    than 192 kbit/s for a stereo signal.

    A DAB+ subchannel bit rate of 192 kbit/s would be
    comparable to or better than the modern FM system.

    A DAB+ subchannel bit rate of 160 kbit/s would be
    comparable to or better than the average types of FM
    transmitters used by Swedish Radio.

    Bit rates below these could significantly degrade the
    quality of certain programme material.

    To accommodate for more critical but still typical
    items, unless encoding improves, a bit rate close to
    300 kbit/s may be necessary for perceptual trans-
    parency to be realized.

    When making decisions about broadcasting systems,
    it will be important to have well-defined criteria for
    minimum acceptable quality and whether perceptual
    transparency should be required
    Clearly, the bit rates and encoders in this study would
    have problems keeping up with the quality of other high-
    performance audio applications available to the end user.
    The available bit rates are subject to reduction due to both
    the number of competing channels that should be fitted
    as well as the ancillary data included in the bit stream. If
    broadcasting services advocate and market audio quality as
    their hallmark, interested parties need to make well-founded
    decisions on the audio coding infrastructure with respect to
    contribution, distribution, and emission.

    DAB is broadcasted in the range og 40 – 70 kbps, and for sure that gives rock bottom sound quality.

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