Radio Waves: Switzerland to End Analog Radio, AM For Every Vehicle Act, AM v Safety, and Electromechanical Radio Transmitters

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul and Dennis Dura for the following tips:


Switzerland to end 2024 with an analog FM broadcast-killing bang (The Register)

Time to upgrade that receiver if you’re one of the few Swiss that still don’t have one able to receive DAB+ signals

Swiss radio listeners will soon have to toss out their old sets, as the country plans to end analog FM broadcasting on December 31, 2024, in favor of a total conversion to digital.

The move has been a long time coming in Switzerland, which has largely already transitioned to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB+, an evolution of standard DAB that was designed to address early issues). More than 99 percent of the country have access to a DAB+-compatible receiver and fewer than 10 percent of radio signals in the country still being broadcasted in analog FM, according to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. [Continue reading…]

AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act to Receive Minor Technical Update (Radio World)

There will be no substantive changes to the legislation

A bill in the House of Representatives that would mandate AM capability in new vehicles is about to be revised, according to a person familiar with the developments.

New information indicates that one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), plans to introduce an amendment to the bill (H.R. 8449). Changes would only include minor technical updates.

The planned amendment to the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act comes on the heels of last week’s last-minute cancellation of a planned vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which could have advanced the legislation to the full House for a vote. [Continue reading…]

Would AM Mandate Force Carmakers to Scrap Safety Features?

Opponents play up the possibility that carmakers would have to choose

If Congress requires AM radio in new cars, vehicle manufacturers might have to drop safety features instead.

That’s the message from opponents of the proposed law in Congress. A guest commentary published by Automotive News restates the key points that opponents have been making since the legislation was introduced; but their blunt emphasis on a possible tradeoff with important safety features seems notable.

“To accommodate analog AM radio as a primary design requirement, certain carmakers may need to scrap advanced safety features, with engineers having to prioritize outdated technology over current or future safety innovations,” they wrote. [Continue reading…]

Did you know that 100 years ago there were electromechanical radio transmitters?

Many thanks to Paul who shared a link to this Mastodon thread discussing the technology behind the SAQ/Grimeton broadcast station: https://mastodon.social/@tubetime/110970146022678448

Here’s is a video (we’ve posted in the past) that gives even more detail about the design and operation:


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13 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Switzerland to End Analog Radio, AM For Every Vehicle Act, AM v Safety, and Electromechanical Radio Transmitters

  1. Missouri Listener

    I don’t usually read online forums. I am not one for all the mean-spirited responses.

    But here are a few thoughts on AM Radio.

    AM Radio in the cars.

    AM radio needs to be in every automobile and home. There is nothing like it for distance and rural traveling/listening—many point to using Smartphones or Cellular towers to broadcast streaming Radio to the Automobiles as an alternative.

    Living in a Semi-Rural area, I can tell you that Cellular signals do not always cover areas that are indicated on Cell Phone Provider maps. (Nor does FM Radio) I have used Both ATT and T-mobile Towers.

    Coverage maps are more ideal or a wish. Also, the one thing no one talks about is that Cellular coverage as an alternative to AM Radio is expensive. Not having an unlimited plan, listening online gets costly while traveling.

    I have lived and worked in Germany recently, and they are going through the same digital transition. They have booted AM radio off the air. That leaves a crowded FM Band and often the same Public Radio stations. One can tune up and down the Crowded FM band and hear the same program with no variation and limited other listening options.

    AM offers an ability to listen to stations in remote areas. Also, AM serves many Minority Ethnic groups that would lose their stations. Music, News, Local Broadcasting, etc, are all on AM. There is a lot of cultural discovery in listening to AM.

    It is supposed by some in larger cities that everyone has access to the Internet. That’s not true. Even with Starlink, the internet is out of reach, financially for many rural people. Then, there is the age discrimination factor. Many older people and some younger people just don’t like tech. An old-fashioned flip phone is enough for them.

    I am a computer geek. I love Computers, building computers, and working with Software. But, many older adults find it intimidating and difficult. IF AM is removed, everyone will be forced to FM or HD/DAB radio, which is not going too well here in the USA. Also, not everyone can afford an Internet radio. I have had a few of them few of them.

    Having lived in Europe and experienced the demise of AM radio, I can tell you it will be a big mistake.

    Finally, there are security issues. AM provides Nationwide security broadcasts. Not everyone has a cellphone with emergency alerts. I understand that some AM powerhouses have direct lines to the US Government for use in an Emergency.
    Also AM radio’s ability to hear from distant locations is a great help in a crisis.

    I am impressed with the advancement of electric Cars and the tech involved. Any company that can invent such advanced technology can overcome the difficulties of that AM radio might have in an all-electric vehicle.

    I have used XM Satellite radio at home and in have it in my car. It is pretty good. When a local station is not available, I am forced to choice a generic station that broadcasts to the whole USA. So Much for local coverage.

    It would seem to be another example of the Government knowing what is best for people. That is, FM Radio, HD radio, and Internet Radio are better. But, if AM is removed from cars, AM’s 4500 local radio stations will eventually close.

    We will be left with a small selection of Government Radio stations and a handful of Commercial Stations.

    A healthy Democracy and critical thinking means hearing all sides of an issue. AM provides that extra voice, along with FM and DB/HD radio and internet radio. The technology is here to enable continued use of AM.

    Reply
  2. Gerry

    Being in broadcast and public safety radio since 1973, I find this legislation appalling. I have seen all the ups and downs of the FCC in this country a every new administration has had many types of change . Some work and a lot are not worth the time. European spectrum is going in a similar direction. Hate to add a Yogi type phrase ” if it ain’t broke”

    Reply
  3. William

    I listen to AM signals from broadcast and amateur radio all the time. I am a retired technologist licensed by the FCC. As much as I hate to see it happen, I think they might as well let AM die in vehicles. Quite frankly, I dont think young engineers are trained in radio anymore and have no practical experience with it.

    To make it viable, there have to be stations one wants to listen to. That is a factor defined by marketing and economics. Then they have to offer something the internet cant provide. Internally, the radio must not have to deal with digital switching noise from power supplies and displays. The electrical system needs to be clean and filtered. The antenna must be appropriate for the car body. Electrical noise from electric systems must be stopped. Fancy vehicular displays are too noisy to use around conventional receivers.

    Now we have to deal with the external factors. If you drive in the country, your radio will be jammed by noisy power lines along the roadway. They are everywhere! Then, as you come within miles of a town, cable TV switching racket jams things further. Then we get into computerville with switching noise coming from every business and home.

    Those without practical experience in radio think jamming is just the effect of a co-channel signal being present. Of the thousands of jamming situations I was called upon to evaluate and fix, it was because of strong signals on an image frequency, a birdie, or a signal directly getting into the IF of a poorly shielded radio in most cases.

    I think its time to let mobile AM die and become a fond memory.

    Reply
    1. Ron F

      > Since DAB is PCM (pulse code modulation) …

      But it’s not. DAB uses COFDM/QAM.

      OK, so the audio bitstream fed to the modulator / decoded by the receiver is (very likely) PCM – but that’s not the same thing as the transmitted RF signal. And if you’re worried about PCM-encoded audio, you’d better sell everything you own that plays audio (because even FM and AM transmitters are likely fed with a PCM audio signal) – and maybe, just to be safe, stop listening to even vinyl records and cassette tapes produced after about the mid-1980’s (since most recordings since then were mastered digitally)…

      Reply
  4. qwertyamdx

    The article from The Register is misleading. It’s not true that a “total conversion to digital” will happen on Dec 31st, because it fact it is going to concern only the public radio stations (SRG SSR). The current licenses for private stations are going to remain valid until the end of 2026. The Swiss regulator BAKOM says they will not be extended, but they were saying the same in 2021 and the final result that the extension has been granted. Secondly, the article falsely claims that “Norway became the first country in the world to phase out analog FM radio signals” while in reality this switchoff also concerned only the stations from public broadcasters NRK while the other ones continue to broadcast in FM. There are hundreds of active FM transmitters in Norway and the industry is insisting on continuing this way. FM licenses have been already extended twice, first until 2027 and then, more recently, until 2031.

    Reply
    1. mangosman

      As usual, you have not gone to the real source.
      https://www.bakom.admin.ch/bakom/en/homepage/frequencies-and-antennas/location-of-radio-transmitters/broadcasting.html Look at the number of DAB+ transmitters and then compare it to the number of FM transmitters. No wonder they want to switch off FM. In addition their Government broadcaster claims FM reception is less than 10 % o f listening.

      https://www.worlddab.org/public_document/file/1642/2024_02_23_WorldDAB_infographic_H2_2022_r2_03_06_2024.pdf?1717430170 The population is 8,851,431 people so on average every house containing 2 people has at least one DAB+ radio.

      Just like for digital TV there comes a point that either there is a planned date of switching off analog or it becomes not viable for broadcasters. In the TV case the telcos wanted TV frequencies which pushed Governments for a planned date of switchoff so they could use those frequencies. Telcos don’t want frequencies in the VHF band and below, because the antennas will not fit in phones and the cells become too big.

      Reply
      1. qwertyamdx

        These figures (number of DAB and FM transmitters, population of Switzerland, DAB/FM market share etc) are completely unrelated to the topic of my post (switchoff dates and scopes), so perhaps you should refrain from making such bold statements regarding my research when in fact you’re not introducing anything that could possibly undermine it. The dates and scopes in my post are verified and correct.

        Reply
  5. Stan

    Regarding the article about DAB & the phase out of analog AM radio. Analog radio is always dependable. You can still hear weak broadcasts albeit with some static but it still can be heard. Digital radio can be very finicky. If conditions aren’t good enough it’s totally useless. It’s either yay or nay no in between but analog generally cuts through it all.

    Reply
    1. Dennis

      Agreed 100%. While a lot of people may prefer an all-digital signal, it’s honestly more disruptive if one is on the fringe of receiving said signal or not as it would cut completely in and out. A bit of static I can tolerate, but in an emergency situation I’d tolerate it even more.

      As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” When cellular networks go down and you’re scrambling for important updates due to a major emergency situation, you’ll miss analog radio.

      Reply
    2. mangosman

      Stan,
      All digital radio and TV systems have a digital cliff. When the signal strength is reducing there comes a point where error correction cannot cope with the large number of errors. The receiver recognises this and mutes the output otherwise loud noises will be heard.

      The pre-cursor to this is FM radio when the signal is so weak it does not drive the limiter to saturation and the hiss level becomes excessive and the receiver will generally mute replacing silence for a loud hiss.

      So for all digital radio systems provided the signal level is sufficient it is reliable. You need to compare reception over the same path between analog and digital. Depending on the amount of error correction the digital system will provide continuous noise output without noise,a when the analog signal is very noisy.

      However spectrum regulators will often give broadcasters identical coverage areas, meaning the long term average digital power is much less than the carrier + both sidebands in AM or the sidebands in FM. This saves the broadcaster a lot of money, added to this digital broadcast transmitters can add from 4 -18 programs on a single transmitter.

      Reply

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