Norway Is First Nation to Kill Traditional FM Radio

Nation begins permanent transition toward digital audio broadcasting (DAB)

Norway today began the process of switching off its FM signals as part of the country's permanent shift toward digital audio broadcasting. Credit: Berit Roald/Getty

Norway became the first country to switch off some of its FM radio signals today, in a move to replace traditional radio with digital audio broadcasting (DAB), the BBC reported. The Scandinavian country aims to use DAB exclusively by the end of 2017.

DAB may provide a higher quality and more cost-effective radio signal in Norway, which had poor FM signals partly due to its mountainous terrain. For that reason, combined with the better clarity and convenience of DAB, nearly 70 percent of Norway's population had already migrated to digital audio before the switch today. 

While the prevalence of DAB technology is growing, however, some Norwegians are concerned about the immediate costs of switching technology. The BBC reported that it my cost the equivalent of $500 to upgrade car radios to DAB-capable units. People who say they cannot afford to switch are concerned they won't have a radio signal in their cars, according to the Guardian, which reported that 2.3 million car users in Norway have no DAB sets.

"Norway is not prepared for this. There are millions of radios in homes, cottages and boats that won't work anymore and only around 25% of cars in Norway have digital radios or adapters," Svein Larsen of the Norwegian Local Radio Association told the BBC.

Nevertheless, the debate to move to DAB is spreading. The United Kingdom and Switzerland are among other major nations considering going digital. In the United Kingdom, 30 percent of the population has DAB access. When that figure reaches 50 percent, lawmakers will begin the transition from FM, which was invented in the United States by electrical engineer Edwin Armstrong in 1933, to digital.