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More digital radio stations. Ofcom - finally - proposes DAB+

You can almost hear the sound of "beep, beep, vehicle reversing". After many years of dismissing DAB+ as a UK broadcasting standard, Ofcom have announced that the time of DAB+ is approaching.

More listing choice: This could double the number of digital radio stations.  Photograph: Shutterstock
More listing choice: This could double the number of digital radio stations. Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

From the new consultation document, Broadcast Digital Radio Technical Codes and Guidance Consultation on updates and amendments

The proposal is to allow the use of the High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding in addition to the MPEG-1 Audio Layer II that is used to encode the sound into the DAB broadcast. It does not change the fundamental levels, which remains Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing.

Ofcom says, in Section 2 Introduction of alternative audio encoding: DAB+

2.4 Use of HE-AAC encoded services within a DAB multiplex has been termed DAB+. The benefits of DAB+ are that it enables audio services to be broadcast at a higher sound quality for a given bitrate than MP2 or to fit additional services into a multiplex at a lower bitrate than MP2 but with equivalent quality. This provides the opportunity to carry many more services and/or better audio quality for services operating in the same spectral occupancy.

2.5 In our 2007 consultation The Future of Radio we said that adoption of DAB+ could be desirable if this was the future direction of DAB across the world. DAB+ is now being adopted in many countries across Europe as well as Australia and other parts of the world.

2.7 It is likely that a complet change to DAB+ in the UK would be a longer term transition that would take into account the installed base of DAB-only receivers in the UK and the current relatively low level of penetration of sets that are compatible with DAB+. It is however likely to be beneficial to include the DAB+ standard into the Digital Code and to permit its limited deployment now and therefore enable the future wider adoption of the technology in the UK.

2.10 Inclusion of DAB+ in the Digital Radio Technical Code does not provide consent for services on existing multiplexes to switch to DAB+. Ofcom would however consider requests for services to switch to DAB+ from operators of existing multiplexes, taking into account the reasons for the request and the potential impact upon listeners that such a change would entail.

I am going to make a guess that this is going to please all the readers of UK Free TV!



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Comments
Thursday, 1 May 2014
Ian
sentiment_satisfiedGold

6:55 PM

Your not going to get a great sound from a £40 radio


Really, you should listen to my 10 year old Sashio that cost £12.99 new It sounds fantastic

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Ian's 497 posts GB
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MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

9:02 PM

Steve P: 'When do you expect the wheel to fall out of use?' - Good point, although one or two societies never discovered the wheel - the Inca's, for instance.

However, I was refering to more modern technology (although there was one nomadic Siberian tribe which only discovered cermaics apparently in the medieval period, and then forgot about it after about a century) - do you still use an eight-track cassette player? A reel to reel tape deck? A 'radiogram'? Laserdiscs? Betamax? Windup gramaphones? Wax cylinders? In fact how often to you use your VHS recorder, if you still have one? Things change, and although many technologies do carry on, others fall by the roadside.

If you want to listen to FM, thats going to fine for some time to come, although there is a clear shift to digital listening in some form. I have only one DAB radio in the house, the other four are analogue, so I'm not wishing a digital switchover next week. I'm just observing the trend.

Stan: The Evoke 1 is a nice set, and the wood really does help with the tone. Its not cheap, but you pay for audio quality. As for DAB, etc, its up to you to use it or not, but I dont think its much less reliable than anything else, and although you might not wish to listen to those extra stations, evidently many people do. Of course, if you listen to them, you might like them. Radio 6 Music is rather good.

Brianist has already explore the idea of emergency broadcasting, but I am trying to think of such an emergency which wiped out all broadcasting but FM radio.

'People might well buy a DAB radio, but will still switch it to FM if that's where their favourite station is' - but their favourite station might just be on DAB, not FM, and even if it is on FM and DAB, they could listen to it on either. Personally, once its on DAB, I just leave it. Did anyone really switch between analogue and digital TV?

'As for tablets/iphones - people might well buy them so they can listen to radio on the move - but when at home they may still listen to FM. ' Actually, its kind of the reverse. Most cars still dont have digital radios, etc, so most listening while driving is still done on FM. If you've got a decent package on your smart phone (and they start from just £40 for a pay as you go), you can stream via the net, either via 3/4G or possibly wifi, if thats possible. Most tablets/laptops are not cellular, so although tethering is possible, by and large your not going to stream from them while out and about.

However, at home, you have a larger amount of choice in your listening platform. Since most phones have at least bluetooth, and many wifi these days, as are all tablets and laptops, you can happliy wander your house streaming from the net. Have a look at the large department store in Norwich with the green logo, and look at just how many bluetooth, Airplay and wifi speakers and docks there are - its a huge market now.

Your tablet, Ipod, etc, with all your music, plus anything online such as Spotify, Iplayer, TuneIn, etc is available, and you can send it to any speaker, radio, etc you like, if you want. For something like the Sonos, you can stream from whatever you like to up to 32 Sonos speakers. If I have a dock at home, and a smartphone, do I need a radio at all? And even if I do, why would I buy one without bluetooth or DAB, so I can listen to my stations and music, rather than just whats on FM? Just because I didn't buy a DAB radio does not mean I'm listening to analogue - I'm just listening digitally.

You may wish that Sony will be to receive a signal as long as you live, and you might be right, but I would not guarantee it.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
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michael
sentiment_satisfiedGold

11:58 PM

The range of choice is indeed bewildering. Much which at first sight appears attractive turns out to be very expensive, both in terms of equipment and running costs. Wifi on an unlimited broadband subscription is the most justifiable as an add-on to wider internet use, but still requires equipment costing incomparably more than a fistful of mains and battery AM/FM radios. If using 3 or 4G on a download subscription basis, it is illuminating GCSE maths to work out what streaming radio costs. Even a lowly 48kp/s radio stream devours 48 x 60 x 60 =0.173mb/hr. So at nearly 2mb over ten hours many a monthly download-limited subscription is soon gobbled up. And many streams are a multiple of 48kb/s... When affordable 3 and 4G unlimited subscriptions flood the market, they will dovetail ideally with the expectations of the smart world. My DAB/FM/Wifi radio died recently in its youth. £100 write-off. To be fair, one or two of my analog radios only lasted a few decades, but they can be easily repaired or cheaply replaced. Digital is great (I have a BSc in digital technology), but it is not always the best solution to every challenge of progress. Even AM still has substantial merits and FM ain't broke....

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michael's 851 posts GB
Friday, 2 May 2014
S
Stan
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

7:34 PM

Mike B: "You may wish that Sony will be to receive a signal as long as you live, and you might be right, but I would not guarantee it."

Time will tell. If I had to bet either way, I should bet on some station somewhere in the UK and/or even abroad (if only on Short-Wave) broadcasting on Analogue for my lifetime (a time scale just for argument's sake, but I could just as well say until the NEXT century or further ahead), even assuming there is room for EVERY single station on DAB/DAB+ and that EVERY station will simulcast on digital. MW has, apparently, been on death row for half a century, but is still attracting new licences. In fact, I would hazard a prediction that Analogue, especially FM, will outlive DAB. Come the middle of the century I imagine people will either stream radio via computer, iphone, tablet, or listen via Analogue simply because of it's simplicity, low running costs, ready availability and reliability. DAB will simply (very slowly and gradually) be squeezed out as there will be no room nor need for it.

"Your tablet, Ipod, etc, with all your music, plus anything online such as Spotify, Iplayer, TuneIn, etc is available, and you can send it to any speaker, radio, etc you like, if you want. For something like the Sonos, you can stream from whatever you like to up to 32 Sonos speakers. If I have a dock at home, and a smartphone, do I need a radio at all?"

As Michael has pointed out in the post above mine, it isn't always that straight forward.

"Brianist has already explore the idea of emergency broadcasting, but I am trying to think of such an emergency which wiped out all broadcasting but FM radio."

Actually, all Briantist pointed out was the methods of communication used by emergency services to communicate with eachother, not to the populace.

True. Actually, I wasn't talking so much about FM as MW. And yes, we are LUCKY we haven't had the equivalent of the hurricane Katrina or the floods in Queensland in Australia. In fact, both those disasters wiped out both FM and digital, and guess where people were getting their essential information from. That's right, the good old MW.

For example, as Michael said in an earlier post, BBC locals could and indeed should be sustained on MW to keep it alive.

You said in an earlier post that nobody is being bullied into digital.

YES THEY ARE. To say that Analogue will cease for main stations will effectively force many people (not me, not quite a few people, in fact) to go out and buy into DAB, even if, like me, they prefer Analogue. If half of listeners are still listening to it, it's MADNESS. Only when Analogue is, maybe 5%-10% should it be switched off. At the very least, I think it is not at all unreasonable to ask that if they want to make my good-quality radio largely redundant through no fault of my own then they should give me £100 compensation so I can go out and invest in a comparable quality DAB, like your Evoke-2.

This, of course, wasn't an issue with TV because a digi-box was/is obtainable for £20, and virtually all existing TV's could be converted.

Do not underestimate Analogue. It still has a few major advantages over digital which won't very easily be overcome by the latter. And it still has considerable support. TOGETHER WE ARE MANY.

I think most people who are easily convinceable about the merits of DAB have already bought into it and they take the total share of DAB listening to 25%. Digital streaming will continue to grow, Analogue may well make a come back as the main form of listening to radio at home if DAB fails to be revitalised and is squeezed out. Unlike Analogue, it costs far too much to run to keep it as a basic/standby if its problems aren't solved soon.


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Stan's 27 posts GB
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michael
7:36 PM

Ooooops. Decimal point in the wrong place. So much for my GCSE maths. Message to self : don't do mental arithmetic at midnight :-)

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michael's 3 posts GB
S
Steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

7:44 PM

<< If you've got a decent package on your smart phone (and they start from just £40 for a pay as you go), you can stream via the net, either via 3/4G or possibly wifi, if thats possible. Most tablets/laptops are not cellular, so although tethering is possible, by and large your not going to stream from them while out and about. >>

Mike B please come to Wales and try. Lucky if we get 2G. And if we can get broadband by phone.

"JUST" £40? PER MONTH ? £500pa?

10% of your pension.

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Steve P's 1,170 posts US
Saturday, 3 May 2014
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

10:47 PM

Steve P: That £40 is the cost of the handset - after that its up to you how much you want to spend! If you did want to spend that amount per month, you'd probably get a Iphone 5 for nothing and 5Gb of data. As for mobile reception in Wales - I'd hoped things had improved since I visited my Welsh relatives..!

Michael & Stan: I have no problem with FM, AM etc lasting as long as possible - if it works for people, I'm fine. I have no idea as to what will happen in the future, I'm just looking at what people are doing already.

However, I would urge everyone to look at how people (and mostly young, but by no means all) are starting to use mobile technology. A mobile phone for many people is their contact book, their way of emailing, texting, facebooking and tweeting, their camera and their radio. Its how they shop, listen to music, and perhaps how they pay bills, report their utility readings and possibly control their central heating. A lot of people dont have a landline - they just have a mobile. And where they do have a landline, its often now just for broadband, and for using their mobile in the house via wifi.

Have a look at the average teenager - even if they have an FM radio on their phone, are they likely to regularly use it? And although you and I might think its sensible to carry a small cheap FM radio around with us (which was I used to do when I commuted), I suspect that if you suggested that, they'd think you were mad.

Young people will eventually do sensible things like listen to Radio 4 , but if they've got used to listening via mobile/wifi, its unlikely they are suddenly going to buy FM radios.

Michael, I know what you mean about doing maths late at night....I did find on the BBC website that they estimate that an hour of radio might use up to 60mb of data on 3G (TV could take up to 5 times as much data per hour) BBC iPlayer - Help - How much will it cost to use BBC iPlayer on my mobile phone over 3G networks? .

There is a really good popup at the site of the US provider Verizon Data Calculator . - at 2 hours a day audio streaming, that would be about 3.5gb per month. Thats a lot of data, but you can get some pretty good deals for less than £40 a month How much 4G data do you really need? | News | TechRadar - and frankly, for a lot people the mobile is part of everyday life.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
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michael
sentiment_satisfiedGold

11:40 PM

Steve, at 7.44pm, your maths is eerily superior to mine at midnight :-) Message to Salmond : if you want to clinch the referendum, guarantee low-cost unlimited 4G. We'll be huddling just south of Hadrian's Wall. Should Plaid C ever follow suit, I won't even have to move... MikeB, I totally agree with the rationale of your analysis and am sure that the shakers-and-movers focus on the smart-generation. Given a banker's remuneration package and a solid 3/4G signal, I would be with them! Sadly, neither applies. Confession: following the premature demise of my £100 wifi radio, I eventually shook out enough pennies from the piggy bank to acquire a HUDL tablette which I use mostly for nocturnal webradio. It is annoyingly more fiddly than a trusty analog radio, or even the RIP wifi thingy, but, when perched on the wardrobe in router-range, it reluctantly does the business. Broadcasters use their abacus to compute cost-per-listener-hour. They must be dismayed at the range of statistical outcomes available - and probably embrace the statistics best enhancing their remuneration packages... As I type I am watching the More4 documentary on 9/11 as the tower with the mast atop crumbles. May this never happen again, but it should be a reminder that our beautiful planet is vulnerable to solar and human assault. Water, food and health would be primary priorities, but resiliant communication systems would be essential to support these. Any system dependent on a multiplicity of transmitters and their power supply would be highly vulnerable. A system dependent on a few transmitters with independent back-up power would be far more likely to respond to such an eventuality. If retained now as part of the ongoing broadcasting network, emergency implementation at the press of a button (or throw of an even more reliable mechanical switch...) would be incomparably more reliable. Facit : a secure FM and AM network should be the backbone prioritising mainstream services, with all digital modes cost-dependently market-driven.

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michael's 851 posts GB
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
A
Anthony
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

9:50 AM
Accrington

The problem with DAB is that it's expensive to go on and broadcast as a medium which is why not all stations are keen. To get lots of the existing AM and FM broadcasters to go onto DAB is fraught with problems-
most would have to broadcast at very low bit rate quality mono to fit them in to the multiplexes' limited bandwidth,
where a broadcaster gets the capacity to go stereo it will be a fair to poor quality joint stereo and bitrate,
and the cost goes up and up depending on what the station wants;
poor quality bit rate mono on a multiplex is just about acceptable (for speech broadcasting), then the cost goes up for a joint stereo slot even further (joint stereo is fair but can make some instruments vocals and sounds appear odd sounding), and a full quality 20kHz per channel stereo slot on a DAB multiplex is MEGAEXPENSIVE STILL.

To get maximum stereo quality on DAB multiplexes you can only have 6 stations in high quality stereo at 192kbps, which would obviously limit how many stations you could carry at good quality.

DAB+ has more bandwidth and can more comfortably carry more stations in better quality and stereo too for those that want it-it's about time DAB+ was implemented than the half baked rubbish the BBC would have us go with.

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Anthony's 70 posts GB
P
pw69
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

7:10 PM

Sorry if this has been asked/answered before, but it's been a long 10 days at work straight and I'm shattered and there's loads of pages to read....

BUT what is the percentage/ratio of those still using DAB only radios compared to DAB+ capable radios?

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pw69's 23 posts GB
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