When will the UK Digital Radio Switchover Take Place?

Digital Radio Switchover - FM Radio

The FM/AM radio to DAB switchover currently has no fixed date. However, I have looked at the various public criteria and put the pieces together to find a very broad estimate as to when it could in fact happen.

First Criteria

The government said that they will only schedule a digital radio switchover once a certain criteria is met. The first of three criteria is that digital radio must reach 50% of all listening (including TV and internet listening).

Digital radio listening has slowly crept up over the years. According to RAJAR, digital radio listening sat at 37.8% in 2014, 41.9% in 2015 and currently sits at 45.5%. The current trajectory, therefore, would not see it pass before 2018.

Second Criteria

The second criteria which radio must meet before the government schedules the switchover is that national DAB coverage must match FM radio. At the moment, DAB reception is far from perfect. A traditional FM/AM radio’s sound will just go slightly fuzzy if the reception is poor. However, a poor DAB reception will result in the sound cutting out and stuttering. This can make DAB radio quite unpleasant to listen to.

However, in recent year, major efforts have been made to strengthen digital radio signal. Furthermore, those with bad digital radio reception can always turn to internet radio. Therefore, it should not be too much of a struggle for those who cannot access DAB radio.

Third CriteriaDigital Radio Switchover - Road Coverage

The third and final criteria the government set in order for a switchover to be scheduled is that local digital radio must reach 90% of the population and all major roads. According to OFCOM’s 2016 Digital Radio Report, household coverage has increased to around 90%. However, coverage on major roads sits at 76%, although this has been increasing. This means the government will only schedule the switchover once road coverage improves.

Transition time

The government has said that once they announce the switchover, at least two years will have to pass before the switchover begins. This pushes our switchover forward another two years.


Having put together these indications, I can see that 2017 is way too early for a switchover to even begin to take place. If it is estimated for digital radio listening to reach the 5o% mark in early 2018, the government will have yet to announce a the switchover, then wait two years before they can commence, bringing us to 2020. Furthermore, it is estimated to take Norway one year for their switchover to complete, so we can also add another year on to this. I would therefore estimate that the switchover will not take place before 2020. I believe it will not complete until 2021 at the earliest.