This week, Norway will become the first place in the world to switch off its FM radio network.
In a controversial decision — 66% respondents opposed in a recent opinion poll — the tiny Scandinavian country will transition from the analogue platform it's used for more than 60 years to Digital Audio Broadcasting. By the year's end, all FM transmission will have ended in Norway.
DAB, as it's called, offers better sound quality. And the country's mountain ranges and fjords have left some areas stranded without FM coverage. DAB is also cheaper; FM costs eight times as much as digital, the government's argued. In a country, of just five million, it's prohibitive to fund both. The savings could be spent on better programming, according to the Minister of Culture.
The main backlash relates to consumer cost. DAB requires a special receiver, making obsolete an estimated 7.9 million radio sets. And, currently, only a fifth of all private cars are equipped with DAB systems. An adaptor costs approximately $175 USD.
Nevertheless, other countries are looking to follow Norway's lead. Switzerland has targeted the year 2020 to complete its transition away from FM broadcast.
Canada has already experimented with DAB. In the late '90s and early 2000s, a consortium of public and private broadcasters went digital, but couldn't gain traction. It was a failure. Another digital radio technology, however, has appeared. Fourteen Canadian stations are testing out HD radio, which is described as a better, clearer way of delivering an AM signal.
In the U.S., there are already more than 4,000 stations broadcasting in HD and the tech's own specialized receiver is becoming common in new cars across North America.
Though digital may be the future, the CRTC says relatively few broadcasters have adopted the technology. Canada isn't yet ready to do away with the dial.