The rise and rise of DAB+ digital radio in Australia

Staff Writer

It’s been a steady climb for DAB+ digital radios in Australia with new figures revealing usage has reached a new high.

According to Commercial Radio Australia, numbers have increased by more than 930,000 last year.

That’s helped boost average weekly audiences for digital-only radio stations to over two million.

The DAB+ update also reveals more than 4.21 million people, or 30% of the population aged 10 and over, listened to DAB+ digital radio each week in the five metro capital cities in 2018 – up from 3.62 million the previous year.

A further breakdown of the figures shows digital-only radio stations reached 1.35 million listeners each week – a 30 per cent increase of 2017.

Naturally, CRA is happy with the growth. Chief executive Joan Warner the figures would open the way for further commercialization.

“Digital radio represents one of the growth areas for commercial radio.

“More listeners are discovering the new stations and more media agencies are including DAB+ as part of their advertising buy.”

Consumers need to upgrade their AM/FM radios to DAB+ radios to tune in to the digital-only stations or listen via streaming.  The total number of DAB+ radios in Australia, including those in cars, rose to 4.73 million at the end of 2018, a 24% increase from 3.80 million at the end of 2017.

65% of all new vehicles sold in Australia were factory-fitted with DAB+ radio in 2018.

The latest data was compiled from GfK radio surveys, GfK sales reporting and new vehicle sales data provided by Glass’s Automotive Business Intelligence. Those figures show strong growth for DAB+ last year:

In a nutshell:

• Weekly listeners to DAB+ radio rose 16% to 4.21 million

• Commercial digital-only stations gained 315,000 listeners

• More than 930,000 DAB+ portable and home receivers in market totaled 2.56 million at the end of 2018, and the number of vehicles with DAB+ reacher 2.17 million

DAB+ technology offers superior sound quality and up to 30 extra commercial and public radio stations.

These include Triple M Aussie, which launched on Australia Day with an all-Australian music format, the Christmas pop-up station Elf Radio, as well as Coles Radio, Triple M Classic Rock, The 80s iHeartRadio, NTS News Talk Sport, Koffee, Easy Hits, Kinderling Kids Radio and KIX Country Music.

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18 Feb 2019 - 3:51 pm

“DAB+ technology offers superior sound quality”.
Not always true in my experience.

19 Feb 2019 - 1:58 pm

I find this very hard to believe, unless you inflate the results by including things like people shopping at Coles listening to Coles Radio. Places like the Gold Coast and Logan still haven’t got digital radio.

20 Feb 2019 - 2:21 am

And it’s interesting how we never here anything from CRA or Communications Minister about long (ago) promised expansion of DAB to regional markets. DAB figures unbelievable – DAB Dead and Buried?

20 Feb 2019 - 2:49 pm

Surely streaming has superseded DAB?
How many Australians stream live radio in a week? How many Australians stream any type of music in a week?
That’s where the gold is CRA…now go find it.

Samuel Marchant
28 Mar 2019 - 1:07 am

It is genuinely interesting, in having kicked around in the background of radio as nobody since the first AM two way i bought and a spectrum scanner in the mid 1980’s i largely have no objection to DAB and SDR systems coming to existence since recently listening to news only channels.
Only last week i found that the market (retail) finally has 3 good model of DAB available at least
1. An AM/FM/DAB with external antenna and bluetooth wireless (around 200),
2. a world band SW ssb/FM/AM/DAB radio (around 200)
3. A very cheap priced ‘mono” large portable shelf sized good reception (around 25 bucks) from a major cheap department store franchise
The last i have been listening to and using.
It has long been known that if the signal is there then UHF frequencies deliver some form of information in the signal with it.
However, both VHF and UHF have their problems but it is no surprise DAB because of the building of file segments of binary for temporary operation unlike the only moment the actual information is present is the moment the carrier has it and gone forever if it is missed !
However, the antenna remains the most subtle link in the chain.
It seems the sun is going down on FM stereo stations, but they have never had a proper omni-directional antenna.
But it does not mean you do not need a good one for DAB in the rain too.

22 Aug 2019 - 9:59 am

“DAB+ technology offers superior sound quality”.
Not always true in my experience.

Agreed. As an example, ABC and SBS have 19 streams on their Darwin, Canberra and Hobart transmitters. So bandwidth is 80kbps maximum for the music channels such as Classic, triple j and Country etc, with mainly voice services at 64kbps and lower. A long way from “CD quality” even with all the smart processing involved.

David Schwarz
2 May 2020 - 3:10 pm

Why doesn’t the Federal government scrap the am band and move all stations to FM and also have repeaters for the DAB+ as it dies out in sink hole areas including dence country areas such as Healesville in Victoria as Healesville is named in DAB+post code areas. Could they incorporate the DAB+ signal with the mobile phone towers for better coverage instead of relying on the Dandenongs as this is where the television towers are.

12 Mar 2021 - 3:20 pm

While the sound quality between AM and DAB+ has convinced me to give up listening on the AM band, I’m not convinced to give up listening on the FM band just yet. While the reception is crisp and clear enough, music played on the digital platform is flat, it doesn’t have the richness, depth, and dynamic range that a clear and strong FM station is. It’s adequate, but not exceptional. Where I live, the stations with the highest kbps rate are commercial talk-back stations, not music stations – that surprises me. Maybe the licencing model needs updating.


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