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NATO, Norway at Loggerheads Over Digital Radio

CC0 / / Microphone
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After becoming the first country to switch off FM broadcasts in favor of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), Norway has found itself on a collision course with NATO over the frequencies it uses.

The Norwegian supreme commander's spokesman Per-Thomas Bøe confirmed that civilian DAB radio, which both civilians and military use, may be overridden by NATO, the daily newspaper Bergens Tidende reported.

When Norway prepared its much-touted switch to DAB, NATO asserted that the 225-240 MHz frequency range was "its own." Amid increasing military tensions in Europe, major drills and large data flows, NATO is ready to use its preferential right, which may lead to a direct conflict between military and civilian communication, such as national broadcaster NRK.

"If DAB is silenced over all or parts of the country, we have a gigantic problem," Per Morten Hoff, a former leader of interest group IKT Norge and a high-profile critic of DAB, told the daily newspaper Aftenposten. "We have no alternative since FM was shut down." Hoff also stressed that Norwegian authorities may find it difficult to air information to citizens over radio if NATO takes control over the frequency in a crisis situation.

According to Norway's cyber defense spokesman Knut Grandhagen, the biggest challenge would be the regional and the local frequencies.

In Norway, the armed forces and civilian radio share the same DAB frequency range. This may have major consequences both in war and during major exercises, such as the upcoming NATO drill Trident Juncture that will gather 40,000 soldiers from 29 countries.

READ MORE: Digital Divide: Norway Becomes World's First Country to Switch Off FM Radio

Previously, thousands of ordinary Norwegian citizens voiced their frustration over the forced transition to DAB radio, as they had to buy new receivers when the FM broadcasts were shut down. Apart from transition costs, users also complain that DAB radios don't always operate as well as their old FM counterparts.

By contrast, Sweden chose to drop DAB amid warnings from the Swedish Defense and the National Audit Office that it may damage Sweden's defense capability and weaken preparedness, as authorities may have difficulty alerting people in times of crisis, particularly in the countryside. Furthermore, the Swedish Armed Forces specifically noted that the use of certain frequencies would be in violation of NATO's needs.

"Communication between, for example, Jas Gripen and fighter aircraft from NATO countries across Swedish territory will be exposed to disturbances," Per Nordlöf of the Defense Force headquarters told the magazine Ny Teknik.

Norway, on the other hand, preferred DAB and dismantled most of the FM network.

READ MORE: Norway to Host Largest NATO War Games in Years

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