Audio

Will my DAB radio work at 35,000 feet?

I am wondering if DAB radios work on a plane. I like to keep track of football commentary while I'm flying -- is a multiband radio better?

Hello my CNET chums, I am wondering if DAB radios work on a plane. I was talking to someone at work and they believe that a multiband radio might be better? I'm a keen football fan and like to keep track of commentary while I'm flying. I love to listen to the game in some way, shape or form. What do you think is best? Does the BBC have a DAB transmitter for Spain?

Stephen O'Connor

We've never tried this ourselves, but since DAB uses an airborne wave to transfer radio data, we'd expect reception to be excellent at 35,000 feet because of the lack of obstructions between you and the transmitter -- assuming you are within range. A plane, however, is a big metal tube that acts like a Faraday cage and interferes with radio signals. For good results you'll need to be outside the plane. At 35,000 feet you'll find that uncomfortable.

Assuming you can get a good signal, it is not illegal to use a radio on a plane, except during take-off and landing. You may have problems when you get outside the UK, though. UK DAB radios are designed to receive transmissions in Band III. Some European countries, including Spain and parts of Germany, also use Band III, so your DAB radio will work there -- although broadcasts will be in Spanish or German, obviously. Other parts of Germany use Band L, as does France, so radios that only receive Band III won't work there.

Your friends are right, you'd be better off with a multiband radio that can receive AM, FM and shortwave broadcasts.