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Italy’s South Tyrol Begins FM Switch off

The Northern Italian province is moving to digital only radio broadcasting

BOLZANO, Italy — Since 1997, South Tyrol’s public service broadcaster, RAS [Radiotelevisione Azienda Speciale in Italian or Rundfunk-Anstalt Südtirol in German], has been a digital radio pioneer.

The organization, which today airs 22 radio programs in DAB+ and just activated two new digital transmitters at the Melago and La Valle sites, announced that its DAB+ network coverage has reached 99.5 percent of the South Tyrolean population.

South Tyrol is a mountainous area close to the Austrian border. It extends just over an area of 7,400 square kilometers, a mere 2.4 percent of the Italian territory, but due to the region’s challenging topography, RAS needed to operate 212 transmitters in order to ensure the reach of its three FM programs, Ö1, ORF Radio Tirol and Ö3, over the entire region.

The switch to DAB+ means RAS can now cover 99.5 percent of the population with 22 digital radio programs and only 84 transmitters. “For us, DAB+ is 19 times more efficient than FM,” said Georg Plattner, RAS general manager. “And operating costs per program decrease by 95 percent as compared to FM.”

According to RAS, most families in South Tyrol own at least one digital radio receiver. So the company decided it was time to begin its FM switch-off process. On Dec. 5RAS switched off its first 19 FM transmitters for its flagship programs at six broadcasting sites. At the end of 2018, it will shut down 22 additional FM systems.

In addition, the broadcaster said it would stop investments in what it described as “obsolete FM technology.” But, in order to preserve the regular operation of its FM transmission networks, RAS needs to update or replace a number of FM transmission systems, many of which have been in use for more than 30 years. To solve the issue, the company has thus decided to re-use the FM equipment that it is phasing out as a source of spare parts for the systems that are still in operation.

“We are committed to the development of digital technology, which is capable of increasing both the offering and the quality, while allowing us to save energy and operating costs,” said Arno Kompatscher, president of the South Tyrolean Council.

The complete list of the FM transmitters switched off in December along with those scheduled to be turned off next year is available here.