The Government has announced that it plans to double the local digital transmitter network  to bring digital radio to 91% of the population.

It will be jointly funded by the BBC, commercial multiplex operators and the Government, with work starting next month, for completion at the end of 2016.

The announcement was made at the Drive to Digital: NOW conference, being held today. This was to underline the need for new cars to be equipped digital-enabled technology.

“We welcome the UK expansion of digital radio – it’s great news for listeners as it means that millions more listeners and thousands more miles of roads will be able to receive DAB loud and clear,” said Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK.

“The expansion of local DAB radio will get underway as the expansion of BBC national DAB coverage completes, with 162 new national digital transmitters being built to bring the coverage of BBC national stations on DAB to 97 per cent. 80 of these new national transmitters are now in place with a further 82 to be built by the end of 2015.”

It means that the planned switchover could be met next year.

Ofcom will be awarding a new national commercial network (D2) in the first half of 2015. At the moment there are two rival bids, with Sound Digital, proposing new stations including UTV Media’s talkRADIO, talkBUSINESS, and Virgin Radio, as well as Kisstory and British Muslim Radio. The second is Listen2Digital with stations including Fun Kids, the Wireless from Age UK, GEM, Panjab and Chris Country.

There will also be a trial of small-scale digital radio stations, which will run across 10 areas of the UK this summer. This will be to encourage local commercial and community radio stations.