We drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel in both directions to check what stations are being received: on the Italian website of TMB, the company that operates the tunnel, the list is not available, while on the French version it was removed a few months ago. There are 12 frequencies, two of which are reserved for info traffic channels (Autoroute Info and RAI Isoradio) and ten for public and private broadcasters in the two countries. France prevails, with three public networks (France Inter, France Musique, and the regional France Bleu Savoie) and three from the main commercial networks (Europe 1, FunRadio, NRJ). The Italians, on the other hand, number four: one public network (RAI Radio2), two private networks (Radio 105 and RMC – Radio Monte Carlo), and the Piedmont regional station GRP (Giornale Radio Piemonte).
Here is the list sorted by frequency of the stations that can be received by driving through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Compared to what was indicated on the website, which divided them equally (5 and 5 between the two nations) there are now six French radio stations. There is no longer a trace of Rai Radio1 on 89.3. 88.7 RMC – Radio Monte Carlo (Italia) 89.6 NRJ 91.0 France Inter 91.9 RAI Radio2 94.7 France Musique 99.0 105 100.0 Fun Radio 103.3 Isoradio Rai 103.6 France Bleu Savoie 104.4 Europe 1 107.7 Autoroute Info
Every six minutes an emergency message
On the Italy side approach route and inside the tunnel, one can listen to RAI’s commercial-free public service channel Isoradio 103.3, with traffic information and live links to CCISS Viaggiare Informati and Autostrade per l’Italia’s Multimedia Center. On the French side and inside the tunnel, traffic news is broadcast by Infotrafic 107.7. During transit, drivers are asked to stay tuned to FM frequencies because a reminder message in three languages (Italian, French, and English) about compliance with the main traffic rules in the tunnel is aired every 6 minutes on all channels. For security reasons, information about behavior in the case of an event or emergency is broadcast.
With the development of DAB comes the question of how to add services to an existing system. A study conducted in Italy in 2017 by the RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana Research Centre, in anticipation of the development of digital radio, highlighted the criticalities of using the structures built to broadcast the channel over Isoradio traffic. It would be necessary to intervene on the device that mixes the signals before conveying them on the slit cable: a costly and complex operation. It was therefore suggested, in order to drastically reduce costs, to use the radio wave system by re-transmitting the signal from an antenna placed at one end of the tunnel, or, in longer tunnels, at both ends.
A leading country…
Italy, due to its orography, is the second largest country in the world in terms of the number and length of tunnels, second only to China and followed by Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and France. And it can count on world-leading companies in tunnelling, underground construction and transmission systems with a high level of integration such as those used in the Frejus (12.8 km) and Mont Blanc (11.6 km) international motorway tunnels. More than 30 channels are available in these tunnels for the services of Italy and France: fire brigade, border police, Carabinieri, Gendarmerie, medical emergency vehicles and FM broadcasting with RDS. The systems are managed by a control centre that can interrupt radio programmes to broadcast emergency messages.
…but Switzerland also has its leadership
Switzerland is well advanced on DAB. Network expansion has been going on since 2014: the country had given itself a ten-year horizon for the switchover to digital radio, which will take place at the end of 2024 when the analogue FM transmitters will be switched off. Currently, SSR network coverage for indoor reception is 98%, while for outdoor reception and car radios it even exceeds 99%. Today, therefore, Switzerland boasts the best DAB+ coverage in the world, with some 193 tunnels longer than 300 metres being illuminated by the signal already in 2018 with an investment of around CHF 30 million. The areas not covered are mainly located in peripheral regions, a problem that will be solved in the coming years. (Writteb by Fabrizio Carnevalini)