End of the Wireless

in technology •  last year

Today Norway has begun switching off FM radio. They are the first country in the world to begin the move to fully digital instead of FM radio. The UK, Switzerland and Denmark will watch the move and the public reaction in Norway as they are considering similar moves. The old "Wireless" may become a thing of the past. You will need a digital radio or the internet to receive most radio stations.
Source https://www.ft.com/


The move is unpopular in Norway with two thirds opposing it, according to an opinion poll published in the Dagbladed newspaper. The timeline of the move is what is proving most controversial with it being rolled out across the country over the year.

Digital Radio

There are generally issues with FM radio, particular in a country such as Norway which is characterised by landscapes of Fjords. Interference of reception proves it costly to run an FM infrastructure in such a country. There are two alternatives

  • AM radio which is poorer quality and has limited reception, and which FM actually replaced in the 30s
  • Digital Radio which provides better reception but critics in Norway are worried about the lack of digital receivers particularly in older cars

History of Radio

Guglielmo Marconi in the late 1800s is credited as the inventor of radio but FM radio didn't appear until the 1930s when Major Edwin Armstrong devised a new way of transmitting radio signals.

Radio waves are simply a way of transmitting energy from a transmitter to a receiver.
A station broadcasts a signal over the airwaves and your radio receiver catches the signal and decodes it.


Radio waves are part of a larger group of waves (or ways of sending energy through space) classified all together as electromagnetic radiation. This radiation is in the air all around us and it is what makes sending a signal from one place to another possible.

Electromagnetic Radiation

Radios and radio communication have played a vital role since their invention in the late 1800s by Marconi. Radio waves that power radio communication are one end of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. The radio wave is invisible but is characterised by its length, its frequency, its intensity and whether its analog or digital. Our radios catch the signal sent from the radio station and decode the message.

Image Source http://www.cybercollege.com

Radio Waves

Radio waves used for communication range in size from 1 millimeter (0.04 inches) to more than 100 kilometers (62 miles). The following picture shows the difference between AM, FM and TV wavelengths.

Image Source http://science.hq.nasa.gov


If the air becomes overcrowded with waves then there can be interference.
You may have noticed your radio flickering when you turned on the microwave. Microwaves are close in size to radio waves on the electromagnetic spectrum. Your radio flickers because the air has become overcrowded with radio waves.
Overcrowding interference is what distinguishes the use of different frequencies and types of broadcast.
Tip: If you live in an apartment and get a lot of interference on the WIFI make sure your WIFI uses the 5GHz band which is less common and has less interference than the older 2.4GHz band


Just think of all the uses for radio communication; Radio Stations, TV stations, Mobile Phones, Walkie Talkies, Ships, Trucks, Cops, Emergency Services...

For this reason limits were put on who uses the airwaves. In most countries the air is licensed by the government with limits put on who can use certain wavelengths and for what. Interference causes you problems in your kitchen but it would cause huge issues for broadcasters if other stations were broadcasting on the same frequency or even on a frequency that was close to their one.

Analogue Waves

Analogue waves differ from Digital waves in that each wave carries one piece of information all of which needs to reach the receiver. There can be different intensities and the data is not encoded.

AM and SW Waves

These travel along the ground and are reflected (technically refracted) by the ionosphere. But the are very low intensity so generally only travel short distances and are not as clear as FM rays.

Image Source: http://www.cybercollege.com/

FM and TV Waves

These waves go in a straight line and don't bend around the earth as AM ground waves do. Thus, they can quickly disappear into space. This is the problem in Norway. Due to the landscape which is full of Fjords and valleys a lot of repeater stations are needed so that FM radio is available everywhere.

Image Source: http://www.cybercollege.com/

Digital Waves

These are signals sent our like AM and FM but with much longer wavelengths and the data is sent in packets which then need to be decoded by the digital radio receiver. Unlike Analogue Waves each packet in a Digital Wave may be sent multiple times so there can be some loss in data or interference without any loss in quality.

Image Sournce http://cdn4.explainthatstuff.com/

See the difference between Digital and Analogue

Put a digital radio and an ordinary analogue radio next to one another and tune them both into the same station. You'll find the sound from the digital radio lags noticeably behind the sound from the analogue radio because of the time it takes to reassemble the digital signal.

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There would be an outcry if FM were dropped in the UK. I expect a large percentage of people still use analogue radios in their cars at least. We do have a couple of DAB radios at home. You say FM took over from AM in the 30s, but I can remember the UK national Radio 1 moving to FM and I'm not that old.


FM was invented in the 30s as an improvement on AM radio. AM is still around and has uses but its use is limited and its not as good quality as FM. FMs problem is that it got a limited spectrum and cannot handle many stations. There can be lots of interference.
There was a working group in the UK which recommended a move to Digital but the timescale has not been set and is much longer than what has happened in Norway. According to the FT article the UK Switzerland and Denmark are watching to see how the transition in Norway goes I assume to inform how to plan a transition in the UK.

It's on the way out its just a matter of when! :)


We still have some AM stations that are mostly news and sport I think. Music obviously benefited from the move to FM. We have loads of stations on DAB, but I'd argue that quality is more important than quantity. I know they just want to sell the bandwidth, but many will not get many listeners. I'm not rushing to get a digital radio in the car as I mostly listen to podcasts these days


There is really an outcry here in Norway as well. Most people have accepted the fact that the FM radio would be gone, and most people bought a DAB or DAB+ radio it seems, but the problem is that most channels have stopped broadcasting on regular DAB as well, so every needs to upgrade to a DAB+ to get the most common radio stations now.

It is actually pretty funny to see all the debate going on in the media these days. There are multiple articles on the matter on most national newspaper today ;)


When you turn off one piece of kit and suddenly you realise something else was attached.

Well much like analogue television, we should let go of the past and embrace newer and better technologies.


I completely agree. I still used to listen to matches on FM. It still had it's uses


Exactly! It does, but only because we hang on to it. We can port the same content to a digital format and use modern technology to make it just as accessible, and perhaps even increase quality. I think getting good digital radio-like sports content is something that people would like a lot. I know I would.


Totally! We need to live in the future, not in the past ^^

I think there's many cars still using FM, most actually. This would mean people would have to upgrade their car radio or start listening to CD's, if their current radio is equipped for that. And what about work places? There's enough around that just use a cheap FM radio to listen to some tunes in the background.
I can definitely understand this decision being badly received.


CDs or streaming radio :)


I agree that streaming is nice when driving, but remember that we have a lot of bad weather here in Norway. If I am to cross one of the large mountain ranges in winter, I for sure want to listen to the radio on the way there to make sure it is still open for driving etc.


Speaking as a Norwegian who is currently experiencing these issues; the car radios are a big problem. The government simply urges people to buy adapters, which are not all that expensive, so I think that is what most people are doing.

THis is awesome man! Cool stuff!


Learning new things is the best!


You might be interested in some of the sites I came across when I was researching this post. Check out http://www.cybercollege.com/

Beautifully researched, presented, and illustrated article. Not just a bit of news, but an education in a short and interesting capsule. Thank you very much! Following you now... 😄😇😄



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Here in the U.S., both FM and AM are common (AM is usually stuff like talk radio and sports). While TV stations all moved to digital several years ago, I haven't hear anything about analog FM and AM going away even though satellite and HD radio are available.


I agree with @justtryme90 and am all for embracing new technology :) Where I am from AM is not used at all and everything is broadcast on FM. It will be a big change for some countries and not so big a change for others I think.

Great article! Steem Radio is 24/7 Live! online so no problem for us :)

Great post. The very issue is that DAB is using mp2, while DAB+ is using AAC as a codec. This means, when you say "we now go for DAB" , you are creating the issue of having a proper receiver.


Your right you now get all compatibility issues and even copyright issues if certain codecs are used. What annoys me about digital is when your at a match listening to it on the radio, there is a delay with digital and that's even if it works in a crowded stadium. :(

What is about health issues ? A new technology broadcasting digital signals along the other artificial frequencies could have a negative side effect on our heath. I think that should be considered ! But nobody speaks about.