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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Singapore’s DAB Troubles Explained

Creative Commons photo by Augustin Rafael Reyes.

Digital radio via DAB will cease to exist in Singapore from December 1, 2011 it was reported today. That must be a major blow to those of us that promote DMB/DAB/DAB+, right?

Not at all. There is no drama here, as I will explain, although those opposing DAB will probably use this for what they think it is worth. There are several reasons why Singapore switches off DAB, a little over 10 years after their first broadcast. None of them are dramatic to DMB/DAB/DAB+ elsewhere.

1. Singapore is one of the very smallest country in the world, measuring only 693 square kilometers. That means that FM can cover the island state with a few transmitters per radio station. There is therefore not much money, in real terms, to save.

2. DAB has been a little on and off in Singapore. That means that there hasn’t been much reliability for listeners. If there is no security, fewer of them will buy receivers. The government never initiated a switch off date for FM, nor a clear policy on the matter.

3. The available bandwidth has not been used efficiently. There has been 13 radio stations on air. In addition there are over 20 data services available, although these have been available to few people due to lack of compatible devices. The high number of services has affected sound quality and it has been like wasting bandwidth.

4. There are no stations available only via DAB. The 13 stations are all simulcast with FM, something that does not give people much of an incentive to buy DAB radios.

5. Media laws in Singapore are strict. They do have freedom of speech in theory and in their constitution. But reports say differently: “Freedom of speech is abysmal at best.” Abysmal? It means “extremely or hopelessly bad or severe.” Why would the government open up for a technology that gives listeners a wider range of choice, and potentially more critical news reports, if they can limit this effectively by limiting bandwidt as they are essentially doing by staying with FM?

6. The DAB network in Singapore seems to have been built in a less than ideal manner so that coverage is not great in all areas. Such problems create insecurity among listeners and slows purchases and thus uptake of the technology. (This point has been made after feedback from readers of this blog post.)

I still believe that this is a backward decision. DMB/DAB/DAB+ gives a wide range of opportunities and I have previously listed 21 reasons why FM should be switched off.

Half a billion people in over 40 countries are covered by DMB, DAB and/or DAB+ signals. My guess is that Singapore will launch DMB/DAB/DAB+ yet again within three years, although then better planned.

FM may not be built very well either The following anonymous comments were posted to this blog post, allegedly from someone who knows Singapore. In one part of Singapore FM cannot be received for some technical reasons all of the signals are mixed up so no FM station is clear. […] This meant that a lot of people in the area went out and purchased very expensive DAB radios so they have radio. […] I think the radio company has conveniently forgotten about their problem with FM in our area.

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