Switzerland plans commercial launch of HD Radio

Excerpts from press release published by European HD Radio Alliance on 16 October

The third HD Radio Day took place on 15 October 2009 at the Continental Park Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland. Various speakers presented recent developments and achievements of HD Radio. Many presentations focused on the upcoming operational start-up of HD Radio in Europe. Speakers from Clear Channel (Len Konecny) and Cox Radio (Steve Fluker) shared their experiences with HD Radio in the US where the technology was introduced a number of years ago.

[Passage omitted: test vehicles, receiver presentations]

The Swiss regulator OFCOM chose a pragmatic approach, as OFCOM’s head of department Marcel Regnotto explained in his welcoming speech. Switzerland is planning to introduce a dual system for digital radio broadcasting, by having the public service broadcaster and new private stations (targeting at a complete linguistic region) transmit their programmes on DAB+ [digital audio broadcasting-plus], while the existing - exclusively local or regional - FM stations digitize their programmes using their FM frequency. The latter’s new programme licences already include the right to digitally simulcast the original programme on FM, under so-called Secondary Service Terms. A regulation allowing additional programmes and data services will shortly be adopted by the Swiss government.

In the coming weeks, a task force of four to seven leading Swiss private stations will start the concrete planning of the operational implementation of HD Radio in Switzerland. Their objective is to launch the first commercial HD services on the air on 1 September, 2010. The definite go/no go-decision will be made in April 2010, based on the results of the current planning activities.

Generally, the digitization of radio broadcasting Europe resembles rather a stuck evolution than a revolution. Especially for private broadcasters there is no sure formula that would offer a solution for digitization which can actually be refinanced from the market. The representative of the leading German radio association VPRT, Sebastian Artymiak, stated that Germany is still far away from a digitization of radio broadcasting, as DAB+ (favoured by the public service broadcasters) is not an appropriate solution for the majority of private stations.

At the time being, HD Radio represents by far the most inexpensive option for the digitization of radio broadcasting (besides IP radio, which however cannot replace a digital terrestrial distribution for licensed radio broadcasters). At one go, local and regional stations for the first time get the possibility to broadcast additional complementary programmes in their licensed area. These benefits were made very clear during the HD Radio event