Australians are tuning in to digital radio at a surprising rate, new data suggests. According to the inaugural Digital Radio Industry Report, published today by trade association Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), 449,000 Australians are listening to digital radio in an average week.

And in the six months since the rollout of the DAB+ platform, more than 104,000 receivers have been shipped, easily outpacing the industry's full-year forecast of 50,000 units.

The report collates data supplied by official radio industry audience measurement survey company the Nielsen Company, consumer electronics market research company GfK, and market research company the Hoop Group.

CRA CEO Joan Warner explains that the market information has "exceeded the industry's initial expectations." She adds, "permanent high power digital radio services have only been on air for a short time and we are very pleased with these initial results."

The report found that digital radio listeners each spent an average of eight hours and 16 minutes on the DAB+ platform. Online radio services attracted a slightly bigger weekly audience at 504,000, but its listeners spent less time plugged in, for a weekly average of five hours and 31 minutes.

CRA has invested some $55 million Australian ($50 million) into the infrastructure and marketing of its ambitious DAB+ rollout.

Following a handful of technical setbacks, commercial DAB+ digital radio services launched in Australia's five metropolitan capital cities through May and June 2009. Public broadcasters came on board in July.

Of the 65-plus stations that currently air via the digital technology across the five main cities, broadcasters have launched up to 16 new DAB+ only services in those markets.

"There are areas for further work like the introduction of digital radio into all cars as standard and the roll-out of digital radio to regional areas so all Australians can access this great medium," comments Warner. "The industry will work hard to ensure these next steps come to fruition."

Digital radio may have enjoyed a steady start, but it still has a long way to go. Roughly 11.5 million Australians - close to half the population - currently listen to radio on the analog platform, according to the CRA. And they tune in for a weekly average of close to 20 hours.