Norway’s ministry of culture declared last week that FM radio will soon be no more in the country. Starting in 2017, all existing FM stations, which transmit an analog signal, will be shut off for good, to be replaced by digital radio. The news was first reported by Radio.no.
While other countries are pushing digital audio broadcasting (DAB) in lieu of FM radio, Norway is the first country to get rid of the technology entirely. DAB is already growing in popularity around the world—and in Europe especially—so it’s likely only a matter of time before more countries start following suit.
“Radio digitisation will open the door to a far greater range of radio channels, benefiting listeners across the country,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Listeners will have access to more diverse and pluralistic radio content, and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality.”
Beyond broadcasting a superior quality of sound, digital radio is also cheaper to transmit than FM, which no doubt factored into Norway’s decision to switch permanently. According to its culture ministry, the costs of transmitting DAB radio are eight times less than the costs of FM. That means its national radio channels could save 200 million krone ($25 million) a year.
DAB already offers Norwegians 22 radio channels to FM’s five, and has the capacity to provide a lot more. The major downside is that people who don’t currently have DAB-equipped radios will have to buy new equipment. But such is the reality of changing technology—we’ve been adapting to the future of TV screens, for instance, for years already.
In the US, where old-fashioned radio is still popular, DAB has yet to make an imprint. The number of Americans listening to AM or FM radio has shrunk only marginally over the last decade. As of 2013, 91% of Americans over the age of 12 still listened to old-fashioned radio at least once a week.
While the rise of internet-enabled cars (where most radio listening takes place), satellite radio, and internet radio services like Pandora has cut into America’s AM and FM penetration, it seems they won’t kill the country’s traditional radio habit entirely any time soon.
As outdated as FM (and AM) might seem, many people still rely on it, especially in rural areas of the US where internet connection might not always be reliable. As long as people there are still commuting to and from work in their cars, radio will have its place. But, if Norway’s move is any indication, there is a future without FM transmission in the offing.