Eleven Sydney radio stations began broadcasting in VHF digital last night, 17 December, as part of an 18-month trial of the technology.
Daryl Williams, Federal Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, speaking at a launch for the Digital Radio Australia consortium in The Rocks, said the adoption of digital radio is believed to be the biggest change in radio since Australian stations started FM broadcasting in the 1970s.
"The challenging question is which available digital technology will be appropriate for Australia," Williams said. "Digital radio has better audio fidelity and ability to update services and information. It has high potential for subscription services and provides new ways to deliver services in the public interest."
Williams said digital radio would prove attractive to advertisers -- partly because users would be able to "rewind" messages from home to hear prices and other product details again. Opportunities would be available for diverse service providers.
Mass-market retailer Harvey Norman would assist with customer displays during the trials, Williams added.
While Europe and the US were "moving forward" to offer subscription services, Australia would be at the forefront of this revolution, he said.
"Digital radio services are in their infancy around the world. No country has yet achieved a fully successful commercial service," Williams said.
Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, said the digital radio trials here would experiment with cross-over between digital radio and commercial television channels.
"This is a first for Australia and, I believe, for the world," Warner said.
Strategic partners in the trial include infrastructure providers Telstra, RadioScape, BSA, Comsyst, RFS and TXA, receiver manufacturers Alpine Electronics, Pure Digital, Factum Electronics AB and Blaupunkt, advertising agency Universal McCann and retailer Harvey Norman.
WS-FM, Nova 969, 2GB, 2UE, 2DayFM, 2KY, 2SM, ABC Classic FM, ABC dig internet radio and SBS will broadcast in both analogue and digital in the trial, to test listener and advertiser reaction to the new technology.
Both Sydney and Melbourne trials involve the Eureka 147 technology. Eureka 147 is favoured in the UK, Europe and in parts of Asia due to its high data-carrying potential.
The Government, through the Australian Broadcasting Authority, has made spectrum available in the VHF band for the trials.