New DAB+ licences for German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino

On 19 December 2017 OFCOM awarded two DAB+ licences to SwissMediaCast AG (SMC), one for digital broadcasting of radio programme services in German-speaking Switzerland and one for the Ticino. OFCOM extended another SMC licence with access rights for existing FM programme services. This lays down the foundations for a successful migration from FM to DAB+ broadcasting.

On 25 October 2017 the Federal Council decided that from 2020 onwards DAB+, not FM, will be the main broadcasting vector for radio programme services. In order to continue to guarantee transmissions from the existing FM broadcasters, the Federal Council also adopted regulations ensuring guaranteed access to digital platforms. On this basis, OFCOM obliged SMC to broadcast all of German-speaking Switzerland's licensed FM stations via its existing D 03 DAB+ platform from 2020 onwards. The platform is regionally split into the four sub-areas of Bern-Freiburg, northern Switzerland, eastern Switzerland and Upper Valais.

At the same time, OFCOM gave SMC the right to operate an additional DAB+ platform in German-speaking Switzerland. This licensing decision is based on the clarification of interest which OFCOM conducted in 2016. SMC's requirement notification was the only one to meet the criteria defined by DETEC for the award of further DAB+ frequencies. By means of the so-called D 05 platform, SMC is creating capacity for additional radio stations which have not been able to be considered to date or which were broadcasting only on a regional basis. At the same time the new licence means a lesser burden on the D 03 platform, which is subject to access rights.

Many radio stations in German-speaking Switzerland would also like to be able to be received in the Ticino, i.e. along the main transport axes from the Gotthard and San Bernardino to Chiasso. OFCOM is acceding to these wishes with a DAB+ licence for the Ticino. In an initial phase, SMC intends to cover the main transport routes. However, depending on economic success, further expansion phases are envisaged.

SMC has been broadcasting radio programme services on DAB+ networks for approximately ten years. Since the first licence, awarded in 2007, will be expiring, OFCOM has extended it for ten more years.

Since several parties registered their interest within the framework of the clarification of requirements for an additional DAB+ frequency in French-speaking Switzerland, a corresponding radio licence cannot be awarded by OFCOM. Instead, DETEC has commissioned the Communications Commission (ComCom) to carry out a corresponding tender procedure, which will take place in 2018.

DAB+ platforms in Switzerland

A maximum of 18 radio stations can broadcast simultaneously via DAB+ platforms. At present the following transmitter networks are in service or are planned:

  • SSR-SRG: The SSR-SRG operates a DAB+ network in each language region for its own programme services. The SSR-SRG platforms in the Ticino and the Grisons also accommodate those private radio stations licensed for these regions.
  • SMC: In German-speaking Switzerland, SMC operates two networks, one for the language region and one which is split into four sub-networks: Berne-Freiburg, northern Switzerland, eastern Switzerland and Upper Valais. Two further regional language networks are planned and have been licensed: one each for German-speaking Switzerland and one for the Ticino. SMC is a consortium of most of the FM stations in German-speaking Switzerland; the SSR-SRG, Swisscom and Ringier are also members.
  • Digris: Digris AG has a licence for the operation of DAB+ platforms in larger conurbations. Approximately a dozen of these DAB+ islands are already in operation in almost all the larger cities: more will follow. Non-profit radio stations and web radio stations broadcast via the low-cost Digris networks. Most of Digris AG is owned by UNIKOM. All non-profit radio stations are represented within the UNIKOM association.
  • Romandie Média: Romandie Média SA (RM SA) operates an extensive network in French-speaking Switzerland, from Sierre as far as the Jura, which carries all western Switzerland's FM radio stations. Most of RM SA is owned by the individual private FM radio stations plus the SSR-SRG and Swisscom.

Specialist staff
Last modification 19.12.2017

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