In 2017, Arqiva- the company in charge of the UK’s DAB radio infrastructure- built almost 150 new transmitters across the country. This helped to increase DAB radio coverage from 93% to 97% of the population. In real terms, that means an extra 2.6 million of us can now tune in to digital and enjoy the wider range of choice this brings. But just how reliable is that DAB radio coverage? In this post, we’ll be exploring which areas have the best- and worst- signal.
Can I get DAB radio coverage in my area?
First things first, let’s take a look at which parts of the UK have zero DAB radio coverage whatsoever. As you might expect, the fewer people live in an area, the less likely it is that transmitters will be built there. Unfortunately, this covers the vast majority of Wales and Scotland. Outside of the Central Belt, only Aberdeen and Inverness have much of a signal north of the border. The situation in Wales is similar; Swansea and Cardiff can pick up digital reasonably well, but DAB radio coverage drops off as you head further north. There are a couple of exceptions, though. Pembrokeshire has a couple of transmitters to the north. Coupled with the signal down in Swansea, these provide reasonable coverage throughout the region. Bangor and Anglesey, meanwhile, have a transmitter each. The north coast of Wales along to Cheshire therefore has a steady signal, too.
So, those are the worst regions for DAB radio coverage. But which areas perform the best? It’s not just about how many transmitters there are, but it also depends on the type of transmitter. Some are high-powered, while others relay the signal from elsewhere, making them significantly weaker. Naturally, the more main transmitters in an area, the better. But relays make a big difference when it comes to even coverage across a region.
Which regions have the best DAB radio coverage?
Surprisingly, East Anglia comes out on top for the best overall coverage. You might think that a region with so many open fields wouldn’t be ideal for getting a decent signal, but the lack of hills certainly helps. What’s more, there’s a healthy mix of primary and relay transmitters spread out evenly across the region. This means there aren’t many blackspots to speak of. The north Norfolk coast isn’t particularly well-covered. However, virtually everywhere else in East Anglia can easily pick up a strong signal.
The area around Leeds and Greater Manchester also enjoys uniform DAB radio coverage. That’s because there is a large circle of primary transmitters there, with Halifax roughly in the centre. Why so many in a relatively small area? It’s really down to the surrounding regions, with the Peak District to the south and the Yorkshire Dales to the north. By building a powerful infrastructure in the centre, these outlying areas have a fairly decent signal- while also providing one of the UK’s most built-up areas with the coverage it deserves.
Other things to consider
Of course, DAB radio coverage isn’t the only thing which can affect signal quality. It’s also dependent on a whole host of other factors. These include aerial position, the presence of tall buildings that can block the signal, and the thickness of the walls in your home. If you live somewhere with supposedly good coverage but still have trouble tuning in, then be sure to check out our handy guide to fixing DAB signal problems.
One final thing to note is that Arquiva have mainly focused their efforts on the places where most people live. However, this means that motorways and the like have suffered as a result. The signal shouldn’t cut out during inner-city journeys, but you might find that DAB radio coverage is patchy at best on lengthy road trips.
To find your nearest transmitter, check out this handy interactive guide from the BBC.