Solaris Mobile is to launch a digital radio service in Italy, following an agreement with the Italian media publishing group Class Editori.

It represents the first commercial contract for the Dublin-based mobile communications networks operator, jointly owned by SES Astra and Eutelsat Communications.

The initial rollout will begin in October 2011 with the deployment of a hybrid satellite and terrestrial network in Milan. Solaris is partnering with major Italian network operators for the provision of the terrestrial transmission network.

Assuming the initial stage is successful, the hybrid network will then be extended across the country during 2012.

Steve Maine, CEO, Solaris Mobile said the agreement was an innovative step forward in the migration from analogue to digital radio. “This contract is our first and marks the debut of the delivery of services using our network infrastructure within the EU. Our hybrid satellite and terrestrial network provides a cost effective and rapidly deployable platform for digital radio broadcasters offering more channels for local, national and regional coverage.”

Italian radio listeners already have the largest number of stations anywhere in Europe. It is planned that the digital network will not only provide continuity of reception across the country, but also introduce sophisticated media services such as programme information and traffic related data.