Almost half a million UK homes now own a digital radio after the item became a 'must-have' Christmas gift.

According to the Digital Radio Development Bureau, some 133,000 DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio sets were sold over December, with kitchen portable radios proving the biggest sellers.

For the whole of 2003, around 300,000 DAB sets were purchased, some 222% more than the previous year. On the back of such strong sales, the total number of British households owning a set jumped to 435,000 at the end of December.

The DRDB figures, compiled by GfK, tally with reports from retailers. Electronics retail giant Dixons even found that DAB sets outsold their analogue counterparts for the first time.

Digital radio is fast establishing itself in the nation's consciousness. The DRDB found that awareness of DAB surged by 30% in the last three months of 2003 after several digital broadcasters launched ad campaigns to promote the medium. Awareness now stands at 43% of Britons (some 25m people).

Further rapid growth in the sector is expected for 2004. The DRDB believes more than a million homes will own a DAB radio by the end of the year.

The sector's expansion will likely be spurred by the launch of Sony's first digital radio sets. The Japanese giant has good reason to do so -- the average cost of a DAB radio is about £100 ($184; €146), meaning the market was worth a total of £30 million across 2003.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff