Digital radio in the UK

More stations, hiss and crackle free sound and ease of use

Digital radio offers a greater choice of stations, hiss and crackle free sound and ease of use benefits

Digital radio offers a greater choice of stations, hiss and crackle free sound and ease of use benefits

Digital radio offers a greater choice of stations, hiss and crackle free sound and ease of use benefits.

Over 45% of new cars now come with digital radio as standard (March 2014) with some of the big manufacturers including BMW, Audi, Land Rover and Jaguar now offering digital as standard right across their range.

Several other manufacturers including Volkwagen and Vauxhall announced that digital radio would be standard across the range by the end of 2013.

The proportion of new cars with DAB as standard registered in a month rose to 45.5% in March 2014, up 41% from March 2013.

‘D Love’ the UK’s digital radio evangelist

‘D Love’ the UK’s digital radio evangelist

Conversion for digital

Every car on the road can be converted to receive digital radio, and the range of digital radio adapters is increasing.

A simple in-vehicle adapter can be bought from £50 and it is possible to fit some digital radios yourself. You would need a good understanding of a vehicle’s electronics system to do this so it's best to ask a professional.

Besides an in-vehicle adapter it's likely that you will need a new antenna too - there are several antenna types available.

To find out how to get digital radio in your car visit or ask your car dealer, or an independent specialist such as Halfords.

Digital radio coverage

Rolling out DAB digital radio coverage, including on-the-road coverage, is a Government and UK broadcast industry priority. Current coverage (by population) is:

  • 94.5% for national BBC stations. The BBC has announced its commitment to build out national DAB coverage up to 97% by a target date of the end of 2015 and has committed to provide good in-vehicle coverage for motorways and major roads
  • 85% for national commercial stations. All the national commercial stations have been launched across Northern Ireland for the first time this summer
  • 70% local DAB coverage. Local digital services will be launched in 8 new areas in 2013

Government, BBC and commercial broadcasters have signed an in-principle agreement to fund the build-out of local DAB to FM equivalence.  Around 200 new transmitters will more than double the number serving local DAB and bring more than 4000 miles of road into DAB coverage.


The benefits of digital radio include:

  • More choice - extra sport, speech and music stations (Check which stations can be received at your address)
  • Digital stations include BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 4 Extra, Heart and Capital
  • Digital quality sound – hiss and crackle free
  • Easy tuning – station names listed by name and alphabetically
  • Digital features - track and artist information, access to internet radio, pause, rewind and record

Digital Radio Switchover

The UK radio industry is committed to a digital future for radio and is working towards a Digital Radio Switchover.

Before a date can be set for Digital Radio Switchover, two criteria must be met:

  1. 50% of listening must be to digital platforms (we are currently at 36.8%)
  2. Digital coverage for national services must be comparable to FM, and local DAB must reach 90% of the population and major roads

Government have committed to making an in-principle decision on a radio switchover towards the end of 2013.

Not ready to set a switchover date yet

At a conference in London on 16 December 2013 Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, confirmed Government's vision of a digital future for radio but said that we are not ready for a radio switchover and that consumer listening and DAB coverage criteria would need to be met in order for switchover dates to be set.

At the same event there was confirmation of Government and broadcaster investment in new local DAB transmitters,as well as the announcement of a second national commercial multiplex in 2014 which will allow for new national stations on DAB. These investments are expected to help towards meeting the switchover coverage and listening criteria.

Latest news

You can find out the latest on what’s happening in the digital radio world from Digital Radio UK, the not for profit group working with Government, broadcasters, manufacturers and retailers to accelerate digital listening.

(updated 10 April 2014)