Digital radio in Australia uses the DAB+ standard and is available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Darwin. The national government owned networks, the ABC and SBS, and the commercial radio stations in each market provide many of their services and a few digital-only services on the digital platform. Australia uses the AAC+ codec provided with upgraded DAB+ standard.
Despite testing in Sydney and Melbourne as early as 1999, the first genuine plan for digital radio was released in October 2005, as Helen Coonan, the then Australian Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced that Australia would adopt the Eureka 147 system. The Australian Government had set a launch date for digital radio in the six state capital cities, originally 1 January 2009, but this launch date was subsequently shifted back to no later than 1 July 2009 and the list of cities starting digital radio excluded Hobart. The peak industry body, Commercial Radio Australia, began coordinating the tests as well as organising the commercial multiplexes.
The major radio networks commenced a staged roll-out of commercial DAB+ services during May 2009 with Perth launching on 4 May 2009; Melbourne on 11 May 2009; Adelaide on 20 May 2009; Brisbane on 25 May 2009; and Sydney on 30 May 2009 (later delayed to 15 June due to weather conditions and kept on low power until 30 June). The roll-out of DAB+ services by the Government-owned ABC and SBS networks was delayed until 1 July 2009 due to funding delays and management issues. Testing has been planned for other major cities, with a trial multiplex in Canberra commencing broadcasting on 14 July 2010, and a trial multiplex running in Darwin since 13 August 2010. Similar trials are being considered for Townsville and Hobart, and, as of December 2010, commercial broadcasters in regional markets have begun planning to introduce digital radio into regional population centres, possibly as soon as 2011 or 2012. However, it is expected that it will be some years before digital radio is extended to the bulk of the Australian continent. Australia's vast distances and low population density are not well suited to the propagation characteristics of DAB+ and it is therefore likely that a standard other than DAB+ will be adopted for serving areas outside the major cities (leading to customer acceptance issues with receivers that can only receive one of the likely two standards).
Community digital radio services were rolled out to capital cities in late 2010 to May 2011 and were formally launched in May 2011. The roll out of community digital radio services represents the largest ever infrastructure project conducted by the community broadcasting sector in Australia. The project was managed by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia.
The ABC and SBS operate digital radio services in all current DAB+ broadcasting markets on frequency block 9C (206.352MHz), While most services are national, the ABC provides the local ABC Local Radio station for their respective location.
Canberra is not part of the official DAB+ rollout, but is part of the technical trials on regional broadcasting happening in Canberra and Darwin. In Canberra, where due to bandwidth limitations, only a subset of ABC and SBS stations are broadcast, on frequency block 10B (211.648MHz) - along with commercial stations. The Darwin trial includes only commercial stations, and ABC and SBS are unavailable.
The local radio services are mostly a simulcast of their AM radio equivalents, however alternate programming is aired pre-empting most sports coverage (which is moved to digital-only station ABC Grandstand). This programming is also on the ABC's online streams, where sporting rights may prevent international coverage. The ABC also have a number of digital only radio stations, including ABC Jazz, Double J, ABC Country, and special events station ABC Extra, which is used to provide additional coverage for special events, otherwise not able to be covered.
Each region with access to digital radio has a number of multiplexes set aside for commercial and community radio services. In these multiplexes, two-ninths of the bandwidth are reserved for community broadcasters, while the rest is used for commercial broadcasters. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have been provided with two such multiplexes, which broadcast on frequency blocks 9A (202.928 MHz) and 9B (204.640 MHz), allowing a greater number of stations, while Adelaide and Perth currently have just one commercial/community multiplex each, both broadcasting on frequency block 9B. Canberra has only one frequency block, 10B (211.648 MHz) which is shared with ABC and SBS, and Darwin's trial multiplex also broadcasts on frequency block 10B.
Commercial services on digital radio include simulcasts of both AM and FM stations, as well as new digital-only services. While most commercial radio services in Australia are provided by a small number of companies, there are no true national commercial stations. However, since these commercial broadcasters have been given extra bandwidth on the digital platform, some new digital-only stations are available nationally, including NovaNation (DMG), Triple M Classic Rock (Austereo) and The Edge Digital (ARN).
Community Radio stations with a city wide licence have reserved spectrum, equalling 2/9s of the capacity on each commercial multiplex. The Federal Government has promised $10.1 Million in funding to help community broadcasters with the costs of beginning digital broadcasts. During late 2010 and early 2011 most of the eligible community stations in Melbourne and several in Sydney and Brisbane began test transmissions. Melbourne's community radio stations officially launched their digital services on 14 April 2011, followed by Adelaide's community radio stations on 15 April 2011, Brisbane's on 14 May 2011, and Sydney's on 24 May 2011. Services in Perth are broadcasting in digital. Community Digital Radio services were formally launched by Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on Friday 13 May 2011 in Melbourne.