19 Sep 2013

Digital radio - a bit more info from an expert

I recently published 'An open letter to all car manufacturers about digital radio', bemoaning the fact digital radio is not available in most new cars as standard.  Ben Armstrong of Connects2 got in touch afterwards and asked if he could explain a little more about digital radio.  So I said yes.  Here it is.


Since 2010, when the government launched their Digital Radio Action Plan, and started playing with the idea of pulling the plug on analogue, DAB has been an industry buzzword and a key focal point for car audio companies across the UK. There’s no doubt that one day, traditional radio will pass the torch to its digital counterpart, but it’s all reliant on meeting criteria rooted in demand and popularity. With August’s RAJAR figures pointing to over 50% of UK adults listening to radio through digital means, the process is well underway, but it’s likely to be a while before the finite death of analogue. Though, some of you heard the bell tolling in advance and have jumped on board early for the ride. The ride in question is a superb one, if only a work in progress. The simple fact is that when DAB is a requirement rather than a luxury, it will be a superior service to analogue, with more coverage and a wider variety of stations. At present, people are perhaps right to meet digital radio with scepticism: it’s not perfect, and it’s still in its relative infancy.

That’s right, DAB is still a baby, or perhaps, a moody teenager. It’s been around for a while now but only since 2010 has it been shown a concrete vision of its future. It’s just starting to receive enough funding to flourish, maybe starting its part-time job working at Boots, and is now educated enough to make a real success of itself. With that said, it’s aware that there’s still a few years to go before it can leave home, get a DAB wife, settle down and have little DAB children. With Digital Radio, as it is with our moody teenager, it’s the belief that’s the hard part, rather than the ability. Undisputedly, DAB has the potential to be a revolutionary, necessary broadcasting platform which none of us could ever see ourselves living without. In our increasingly ‘social’ world, DAB is better positioned to satisfy our eclectic tastes with vastly increased station quantity, whilst qualms of sound quality are, whether for better or worse, unimportant to the masses; most people are more than happy with their music files compressed to the depth of a Milkybar on the A6. For the audiophiles, though, we can presume there will be an option for enhanced quality – though it may take some time to get here. If there’s money to be made by full HQ stereo sound, then you can bet your bottom dollar that it’ll be available when DAB takes off.

With that said, there are already many of you out there who consider DAB to be essential to your driving experience, and it’s true that those with the technology reap the benefits – especially since analogue is still alive and well. The question to ask yourself pre-switchover is: why not have the best of both worlds? The answer: why wouldn’t you? In 2013, more and more cars are being manufactured with DAB as standard (Although, not as many as we would like) and there are a wealth of options through which to upgrade your existing radio and enjoy the digital network. To illustrate, my company Connects2 – for whom I do digital marketing – have launched the AutoDAB Lite this month after an increase in demand for an affordable, accessible digital radio solution. After all, the more of us that embrace digital radio, the more pressure it puts on the people making the decisions to dust off their wallets, and to improve a service that’s 100% worth the investment in the long term. Finally, digital has got its foot in the door, and finds itself nestled next to analogue in an ideal partnership that no car owner should go without. With a network that’s getting bigger every day and the technology to make DAB affordable and universal, there’s not many financial or practical reasons why you wouldn’t want to upgrade.

So, for now, our moody teenager – let’s call him Geoff – is still a little wayward. He’s hard working but still spends Wednesday evenings in the park drinking cheap vodka. Soon he’ll quit his job at Boots to take a huge financial gamble in an attempt to change the world. The rest, really, is up to us.

Ben Armstrong,
Digital Marketing,
Connects2 Ltd
Contact us at www.connects2.co.uk, or through Facebook and Twitter (@Connects2)
We blog at www.connects2blog.wordpress.com