In 2015, Ofcom licensed and co-ordinated a trial with a new approach to DAB radio broadcasting which we are calling small-scale DAB.
Ten trial licences were awarded (PDF, 58.5 KB) to parties in different areas who wanted to operate a small-scale DAB multiplex. The trial multiplexes cover a relatively small geographical area compared to local and national DAB multiplexes. The small-scale DAB trials keep costs low by making use of relatively inexpensive transmission equipment and the freely available ‘open-source’ software. See the results of the trials.
Ofcom has proposed to further extend the licences of the ten trial small-scale DAB multiplexes. The trials, which started in 2015, have proved to be successful. There are currently around 150 community and small commercial radio services broadcasting digitally on the ten trial multiplexes. By further extending the trials, these radio services will continue to be available to listeners. Ofcom will also be able to continue gathering useful information from the trials, to help inform the development of a framework to enable small-scale DAB multiplexes and services to be licensed throughout the UK under a new licensing regime, on a non-trial basis.
All the current trial small-scale DAB multiplex licences will eventually be replaced by competitively awarded licences under the new licensing framework. We expect that interested parties will have the opportunity to apply for a small-scale DAB multiplex licence in 2019, depending on the timeframe of the new legislation. At that stage, all interested parties, including the current trial licensees and those not taking part in the trial, will be invited to apply and demonstrate how they think they meet the statutory criteria for this new framework.
Ofcom proposes to extend the trial licences until 31 March 2020, but with the option to terminate the licences at an earlier date in the event that a non-trial licence in the same area has been awarded and the service is ready to launch. During this period, no new trial licences will be awarded.
Ofcom has started the licence variation process with the individual trial multiplex licensees. Their current licences will expire between 30 April and 29 August 2018 if they are not extended. There is no new funding from Government or Ofcom to support trial licensees with ongoing running costs.
If you have any questions, please contact smallscaleDAB@ofcom.org.uk.