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Does digital radio (DAB) work well indoors?

Do you listen to DAB radio broadcasts?

Maybe you prefer to stick to FM, or even “good old” AM if it’s voice-only programming that you’re interested in.

I recall a friend who was a news announcer on an AM radio station; he always stopped talking when he walked under a bridge …

Today we have a huge range of radio stations available to us. Even satellite TV broadcasters and Freeview TV tuners carry a few dozen radio channels so there isn’t always the need to have separate devices for your viewing and listening needs.

These days quite a lot of programming is consumed on-line, through laptop speakers or smart phone headsets. It isn’t always “live” either; a lot of programs are watched or listened to on a catch-up service.

The (romantic, nostalgic?) concept of listening to the radio doesn’t necessarily mean huddling around an electronic box of tricks these days.

Well, it may be that way in the consumer space; I am more interested in the commercial sector.

More on this subject shortly ……

Will DAB radio ever “catch on?”

Well, contrary to the opinion of a number of journalistic naysayers, the world of radio broadcasting is slowly but surely moving to a situation where FM stations are being replaced by DAB radio.

In January 2017, Norway made the bold move of switching over completely to DAB digital radio – the first country in the world to do so. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there was a good deal of backlash around this; an estimated two million cars still had FM radios in them, and presumably countless more exist in homes and offices.

I don’t know why we always have to be first, it isn’t always a good idea is it?

In the UK, the Government has yet to decide on a date to switch over from FM to digital radio completely. Before that can happen, the coverage of national digital radio has to match that of FM; in other words at least 90% of the local population has to have access to digital radio signals.

Again, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of arguments against this inexorable roll out. There are millions of FM radios out there that (arguably) give better sound quality than DAB.

That’s subjective – not for debate here.

And in such rugged terrain, what happens when your reliable FM signal disappears and you don’t have line-of-sight to the nearest DAB transmitter?

There are similarities to the situation when UK TV signals “went digital” during 2007 to 2012. A lot of the population just couldn’t receive a digital TV signal when previously their analogue roof antenna did a perfect job for them. Some had no choice other than to buy a satellite TV service when they didn’t really want it, or weren’t really able to afford it.

Does DAB radio work indoors?

Not all the time, no.

In common with other radio services (cellular, GPS, Iridium) it isn’t always possible for a signal to penetrate a building’s structure, meaning that you have to go outside to make a phone call, get a GPS fix or use your satphone.

Or listen to your DAB radio.

So, in keeping with the FalTech way of providing indoor signals for GPS and Iridium, we can also provide DAB repeater kits that enable the use of DAB radio equipment indoors.  Now these aren’t really intended for use in the home, they are aimed at commercial users.

This applies to a situation where you have a good signal outdoors but it all but disappears when you go inside the building.

For example:

  • Two storeys below ground in a retail store electronics department – how do you demonstrate the latest DAB radio receiver if you are effectively in an underground Faraday cage?
  • If you are in an electronics workshop and need to test DAB receivers, do you need to remove the equipment to the car park to get a signal? Probably.
  • In a car showroom, how do you demonstrate the capabilities of the built-in DAB radio when surrounded by acres of steel-reinforced concrete and tinted glass? You can’t – the car needs to be moved outside.

DAB repeaters are regulator-approved and relatively easy to install.

If you would like more information on our DAB repeater kits, please take a look at this page and send any questions you may have via one of the many contact forms dotted around the site.

Or give us a call at the number below.

Phil Whitting
FalTech GPS
01326 336 444