PARIS — DAB+ deployment in France is taking steps that are making it, slowly but surely, the platform of choice for radio across the country.
Following initial launches in Paris, Nice and Marseille in 2014, and significant milestones achieved in 2018 (including launches in Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg areas), France is gearing up to launch DAB+ in Nantes and Rouen in the second part of 2019, while all eyes are already turning to 2020.
Looking back at the first half of 2019, one could mistakenly think that very little has happened on the DAB+ front, particularly when compared with 2018 , or to what 2020 has in store. “Au contraire.”
On July 4 July, Nantes, a city that has always been at the forefront of DAB+ (home to a very active commercial and community radio network, and one of the first cities in France to trial the technology), will officially launch DAB+, with 41 radio stations going on air via DAB+.
A combination of new programs, which could not broadcast in FM, and of simulcast, some radios extending their broadcast coverage thanks to DAB+, will be available to listeners in the region, the most eager of which jumped on the digital bandwagon during the early testing phases. The official launch of DAB+ in Rouen, to the northwest of Paris, will follow suit right after the summer break.
Many other metropolitan areas are also preparing for the arrival of DAB+ in 2020 — in July 2018, the French regulator CSA launched 15 calls for applications  (28 multiplexes in total) targeted at some of the most densely populated areas across the country.
Each multiplex in France can carry 13 programs. All 28 allotments have been awarded and are full, meaning an additional 364 DAB+ programs will go live on DAB+ throughout France in 2020. Regional, community and public service radios are now preparing the infrastructure.
They will start in 2020 along with the coverage of Bordeaux, Toulouse and surrounding cities (again, a clean sweep, with each of the six planned multiplex being full – 78 programs). The success of the application has a side effect: this will ease the economical equation for the radios that are part of the journey.
This summer of 2019, the pace will not abate, as more stations will have the opportunity to acquire DAB+ licences, with 15 calls for applications due to be opened. The idea is to propose DAB+ to a continuously larger proportion of the French population by 2021.
Last but not least, 18 national commercial radios, along with six programs of the public service , are getting together to lay the groundwork for the two national multiplexes that will ultimately cover the highways and main road networks in France.
The 24 stations were authorized by the regulator on 24 April 2019. Two multiplex operators (one for each multiplex of 12 radios) were proposed back to the regulator for authorization before the 24 June deadline. The same editors are also contemplating a coordinated communication strategy for the end user.
This picture would not be complete if we were not covering the equipment manufacturers’ readiness. While most of EU member states are in the process of transposing article 113 of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) by December 2020, French law  is already one step ahead. Since late December 2018, more than 20% of the French population  is covered by a digital terrestrial radio broadcast, which triggered the French receiver law, requiring — by mid 2020 at the latest – all new receivers (standalone or in a new car), to be equipped with DAB+. Distributors, manufacturers and the wider industry are now planning for this important transition in France, which accounts for over 5 million new receiver sales each year.
2019 is not just another year for DAB+ in France — as demonstrated by the launch of DAB+ in Nantes, it is a pivotal period for broadcasters to deploy DAB+, and offer more choice to continuously wider pool of listeners.
For the receiver manufacturer and car industries, it is a transition period that will allow to plan the production of receivers in 2020 and beyond and make the most of the opportunities offered by DAB+.
For the industry at large, collaboration will be the keyword to prepare and synchronize a much needed communication campaigns that will help educate the only person that matters — the listener.
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