DAB, or Digital Radio, also called Radio Numerique Terrestre in France, is a modern way of transmitting radio stations through the airwaves. We will try to explain how it works here, so you can understand the advantages and also the drawbacks of this technology.
World Radio Paris is just one of almost 50 digital stations currently broadcasting in Paris. WRP is not on the historic FM band. To receive WRP, you need a new type of radio set. DAB radio tuners are now commonly found in cars, portable radios, or kitchen sets.
So how does it all work?
On FM, one frequency is assigned to one station. For instance, France Inter in Paris is on 87.8 Mhz. On DAB, the frequences are from 174 to 230 Mhz. WRP broadcasts on 202 Mhz. However, listeners do not need to know that, as radio sets only display the station’s name from a list of all available stations.
Furthermore, on DAB several stations are transmitted from the same antenna on the same frequency, which is not the case for FM. The receiver can decode the data it picks up from the airwaves and only selects one station out of the 13 being transmitted on that frequency.
Along with WRP, other not-for-profit community stations are transmitted from the same antenna at Montmartre: Radio Campus, Radio Neo, AYP, Radio Mandarin, Frequence Protestante, Radio Aligre, etc… The ensemble is called a multiplex. Currently our multiplex is not full. We have 4 or 5 available slots and hope to welcome new stations soon.
The cost of broadcasting is shared among all stations. So it’s much better and cost effective to fill the multiplex to the fullest (13 stations). In some countries, like Switzerland, up to 20 stations are crammed into one multiplex, but at the cost of reduced audio quality.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of DAB?
DAB offers excellent audio quality with no static. Pictures and texts are attached to the audio. It also allows to transmit many more stations than on FM. However, since several stations are grouped on the same frequence, they have to get together and agree on all technical and financial details, which is not easy. Also, DAB reception requires the purchase of not only one, but several new radio receivers to replace all equipment around the house.
Where can I hear DAB stations?
The UK started using DAB years ago. But Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and now three cities in France have started introducing DAB+ over the last couple of years. DAB uses the old MPEG2, whereas DAB+ uses MPEG4, a better compression, allowing more stations to be broadcast in each multiplex.
In France, besides Paris, Marseille and Nice, more cities will be added this year: Lyon, Lille and Strasbourg. In the next few years, the entire country should have access to DAB+.
You can purchase the DAB-ready LG Stylus 2 smartphone from Darty, which allows you to listen to WRP from the airwaves without draining your battery or using your 3G/4G data monthly allowance.
DAB-enabled radio sets from the home or for the car are now sold on amazon or at a retailer near you.