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Norway is set to become the first country in the world to end FM radio broadcasts. Other countries are closely watching Norway’s transition from FM to a form of digital broadcasts known as DAB+ which while risky in the short-term could lead to new business opportunities in the telecommunications sphere.

 In an interview Tore Lunestad, a chief engineer with the Norwegian Communications Authority believes the program has been successful.

“Better than expected. There are still some challenges with DAB+ car-receivers. Installation of DAB-adapters/ receivers and antenna solution is important for good reception” he said in a written statement. Based on feedback from listeners a lot of new energy efficient transmitter were installed to ensure reception even in tunnels.

The government projects the country will save $25 million with the switch.

“This has openned new business models and mobiles free radio and cars is where this will take the longest time,” said Asle Boyum, a manager with Huawei Technologies in Norway, ” DAB+ broadcasts use a different frequency than FM broadcasts, and the signal doesn’t travel as far but, the digitalization itself compensates that. Some telecommunications companies are advertising that their mobile phones now come with free radio reception as a result.”

[alert type=blue ]Author: Joseph Hammond is a senior reporter with the American Media Institute. He was the former correspondent for Radio Free Europe.[/alert]

Norway has worked to ensure that the new system means expanded coverage. While under the current system only one station reaches 99.5% of the country. Under digital broadcasts, 15 channels will reach that level of penetration.

While in the short-term the move could prove risky. Some 2 million Norwegian cars are not equipped to receive digital radio broadcasts which raise a safety concern for Norwegian motorists.

“I have relatives who live in more rural areas with older cars,” Byorn Drevland a resident of Tromso, spoke for many with his disagreement with the new policy, “ I am sure they will make the switch but, the switch will mean a lot of people this year will drive down icy roads without knowing the road conditions ahead.”

Tromso is Norway’s largest town above the Arctic Circle.Norway’s implementation of the switch to digital radio will take place in stages over the course of the year. The Tromsoarea will be one of the last regions to implement the switch. While today the town attracts tourists at one time it was a major base for Arctic hunting and exploration expeditions.

Norway is merely the first country to mandate the switch but, experts say other countries are likely to make the switch soon.

Switzerland is planning to make a similar move to digital broadcasts by 2020. Other countries including Denmark and the United Kingdom are considering a similar upgrade to their radio broadcasts. India is also investigating a switch.

Elsewhere the popularity of FM radio makes such a shift unlikely shortly. In the United States for example according  to a 2013 study from the PEW Research Center; 91% of Americans over the age of 12 still listened to radio broadcasts at least once a week.

“You don’t buy a new radio every day, and the new broadcasts will be technically better than FM broadcasts,” explains Jarle Aarbakke, the Mayor of Tromso, “though to be honest here in Northern Norway people want the same things 4G telecommunications and cashless transactions….this shift is one small step in that direction.”