EU vehicle digital radio legislation

Photo by Philipp Katzenberger

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mangosman, who shares the following:

The European Union as asking its member states to legislate the following, which Germany has just done today.

EU Vehicle Directive

This directive requires all new car radios sold in the European Union to be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio, in addition to any FM or AM functionality which manufacturers may want to include. The code also grants EU member states the power to introduce rules requiring consumer radios to include digital capability.

Following its adoption by the European Council, the directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and came into force on Dec 20 last year. For the automotive industry, the key section of the European Electronic Communications Code is Article 113, XI:

“Any car radio receiver integrated in a new vehicle of category M which is made available on the market for sale or rent in the Union from … [two years after the date of entry into force of this Directive] shall comprise a receiver capable of receiving and reproducing at least radio services provided via digital terrestrial radio broadcasting. Receivers which are in accordance with harmonized standards the references of which have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union or with parts thereof shall be considered to comply with that requirement covered by those standards or parts thereof.”

The policy commences 21st December 2020 and applies to any vehicle with 4 or more wheels. It does not apply to amateur radio equipment. The radio must be able to display the broadcasters’ name.

Note the way the type of receiver is phrased is digital terrestrial radio, it does not specify what type. It obviously applies to DAB+ because there are many DAB+ transmitters in Europe, but could also apply to DRM. With the advent of Software defined receivers, it is easy to have both standards. This would then open they way for high frequency (short wave) DRM in most vehicle radios. Remember that there are now 1.5 million factory installed DRM car radios in India which has been achieved in 18 months.

This decision will open the way for all new radios to include DAB+/DRM in all markets except the USA/Mexico.

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9 thoughts on “EU vehicle digital radio legislation

  1. mike s

    True that Band III is reserved in North America so DAB+ could not be implemented using the same spectrum as in the rest of the world. IIRC though, Canada did trials of DAB+ in the L band but abandoned it due to the cost/availability of consumer receiving equipment and the adoption of IBOC in the neighboring US. How there are HD-Radio stations in Canada, particularly those that border the US….

    I agree that audio quality on the IBOC multicast streams is pretty poor … but I presume choices about encoding quality in DAB+ are dynamic depending on how the ensemble is apportioned. As an American who recently visited Europe with two pocket DAB+ receivers in my carry-on, I experienced DAB+ programs with varying bit rates ranging from 48 KHz (absolutely unlistenable), 72 KHz (awful but tolerable, similar overall to FM IBOC from memory), and 96 KHz (acceptable).

  2. Pekka J. Poutiainen

    Nowadays, all the FM radios with a RDS include traffic decoder ! So, no need to be any digital receiver for car !

    1. Mangosman

      Then you don’t want all the extra program choices? DAB+ & DRM are much more efficient users of the spectrum allowing many more programs in the same signal bandwidth. For example DRM in the same band can transmit 6 programs in the same 200 kHz of an analog FM signal.

      RDS has a low bit rate of 1.1875 kbit/s which limits the amount of text to be transmitted where as in DAB+/DRM is what data rate the broadcaster wishes to allocate in the overall budget of data rate. For example it cannot carry Journaline which is a multipage indexed text system, it cannot carry pictures (including coloured maps) such as slideshow and its TPEG traffic data is severely restricted which can be used to re-route automotive traffic around accidents etc.
      It cannot wake the receiver announce emergency warnings and include maps of the disaster and detailed instructions on what to do.

      The only things that RDS and digital radio systems have in common is the ability to display station name, single line text and the alternate frequency system so that the receiver can find the best signal for that program of that broadcaster.

      Lastly the RDS uses the noisiest part of the FM signal making it more likely to freeze or to show errors than for a DAB+/DRM data broadcast.

  3. RonF

    “Remember that there are now 1.5 million factory installed DRM car radios in India which has been achieved in 18 months.”

    Just to add a bit of context: that sounds like a lot, but represents less than 1% of vehicles currently registered in India. Or less than 5% of vehicles sold in the same period.

      1. Mangosman

        It is hardly a free market approach when a single company owns the transmission standard and charges licence fees to broadcasters and receiver manufacturers for its use.
        If it were a free market approach why is it that the FCC and the NAB will not allow the best digital radio systems to be used and instead force a single proprietary system to be used.

        The ACMA = FCC in Australia tested HD radio when it was first released and rejected it on interference grounds. For television we tested DVB-T and ATSC used in the USA side by side. DVB-T can reject reflected signals which are common in cities where as ATSC cannot. The end result is that ATSC is only used in USA, Canada Mexico and South Korea. DVB-T ant the newer DVB-T2 along with the Japanese ISDB are used everywhere else!

        In Australia Commercial Broadcasting Australia, the Australian version of the National Association of Broadcasters USA formed a company so all the commercial broadcasters share in the cost of installation and running costs of a DAB+ transmitter or a pair of transmitters in each major city.

        Vested interests in the USA prevents them getting the best radio and TV. The best example is all but Apple cell phones can receive FM radio without the use of wireless broadband on the phone. In USA markets this ability has been switched off due to the power of the Telcos. Apple would not enable it because radio is in competition with iTunes!

    1. Mangosman

      IBOC or In band on channel has the trade name Hybrid Digital Radio or HD radio for short.
      For broadcasters to use it they have to pay licence fees to xperi and so do the radio manufacturers.
      The DAB+/DRM broadcasters and manufacturers have no licence fees.

      IBOC relies on using the adjacent channels used by other broadcasters to carry the digital signals. This has the effect of interference so the power of the digital signal has to be reduced to around 100th of the FM signal. This interference also affects the analog signal of the same broadcaster. This makes the digital coverage area much smaller than the analog coverage area. As a result the receivers on HD1 will gradually change to analog as the signal becomes worse. DAB+/DRM are pure digital systems and the power limitation is to transmitters on the same channel. Adjacent channels are not used.
      The sound quality of HD2 – HD4 is much worse than DAB+/DRM due to very low data rates.
      The picture quality has a lower resolution in HD radio limiting its use to logos and “album covers” whereas DAB+/DRM the resolution is half VGA in both directions.
      I also note that there has never been a side by side comparison for HD radio and DRM in any band.
      The National Association of Broadcasters of the USA and the Federal Communications Commission should be asked why.
      DAB+ is not suitable in the Americas because television uses VHF high band (channels 6 – 13) for ATSC digital TV) which is the band that DAB+ uses. However DRM+ is capable of being transmitted in the virtually deserted VHF low band (TV channels 2 – 6) and existing broadcasts can continue as they are until analog/HD radio switch off day. There is enough DRM+ channels to give all existing AM and FM broadcasters a transmission channel each.
      The digital signal processing for DAB+ and DRM is very similar so the day of the DAB+/DRM radio is already here. It could take over from the AM/FM radio.
      If this were to occur we could have radios which will work from 153 kHz – 230 MHz (Low frequency, medium frequency (“AM”), high frequency (SW), VHF) so the broadcaster could decide the size of the coverage area required and then select the frequency and power required to cover that area which could be from a village to a continent.


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