By Chris Nicholls

SYDNEY: Despite a January on-air date, digital radio’s official launch is set for March, according to Commercial Radio Australia, and regional centres may have to wait another three years from now for the service.

Speaking to, Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) chief executive, Joan Warner, said while the on-air date would remain late December or 1 January, moving the official launch to March would maximise its impact.

“The reason we would do that [hold the official consumer launch in March] is that in January, no one’s around much. People are around, but our stars aren’t – they’re all on holidays for most of January, so there’s not point in saying ‘Let’s have big launch on 1 January’ because most people will be recovering from Christmas anyway; they wouldn’t care,” she said.

She said delays in the switch-on date, possibly due to bad weather preventing tower access or late orders, would be made public via a special digital radio website.

The website will also show which areas have coverage by postcode and a list of retail stockists.

Warner also said regional centres and smaller capitals such as Hobart would have to wait for digital radio, possibly as long as three years from now.

“We’re doing a synchronised switch-on in five capital cities, which is a pretty mammoth task, and we are organised into 106 license areas, so there’s no way we could have ever promised we’d do all 106 on the same day, or even in the same year.

“We would probably see that, depending on market demand, the next level of population centres would be the next to go, so it would probably be places like Wollongong, the Gold Coast, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart that will go in the second phase. And that could be, say, and this is just a guess, three years later,” said Warner.

The timeframe came from Warner’s experience in planning the spectra allocations, which could take at least six months, and consultation and re-running the tender process would also take time, she said.

“It might not [take three years], but we don’t want expectations to be raised,” she said.

She said CRA would keep regional listeners informed as to when the service would reach their area.

Digital listening surveys will also start next year, Warner said.