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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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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

7:11 PM

At this time, I cannot see a mass take-up of DAB+, by listeners or Ofcom, or Government for that matter. The horse has bolted. It would take some guts now to put it to all those listeners that have bothered to go out and get a DAB radio that the not-so-cheap Digital sets that they have bought in good faith would now YET AGAIN need to be "upgraded" to something else, and that their existing set would become largely redundant (unless, perhaps, it can recieve FM, which will be used for micro-local and community stations). And all this for ABSOLUTELY NO REAL BENEFIT to the average listener, who is perfectly satisfied with the choice and quality they have on their Analog reciever..

In fact, ditch the whole idea of any "switch-over". Keep the DAB signal on if you must but "NO", BBC, it won't do to try and save money on not paying dual transmission costs. Being multi-platform is simply a price for being in business in the 21st century.

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Stan's 27 posts GB flag

8:36 PM

Thanks Briantist,

I found the following quote interesting: -

[quote]"Digital listening grew by 5.1pp last year. The share of digital listening equates to 34.3% of all radio listening. This includes a 22.5% share of listening which was attributed to listening through a DAB receiver. Television and online radio listening each accounted for a 5%
share." [/quote]

I would have thought the 'on-line' radio listening would have been higher than 5% on its own... But there you go!

Sadly the television and on-line radio listening figures are not listed separately... (52.9548,-1.1581) 

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SeeMoreDigital's 40 posts GB flag

9:13 PM

All a bit late in the day but bring it on. SloCom will take forever though so nothing will happen this year I guess :(

Meanwhile other 'modern forward thinking' countries like Denmark are completely closing down their DAB services and going DAB+ entirely, that's the way to do it, won't ever happen here of course !

The new mux will only be 30% DAB+ though apparently. There is much benefit over standard DAB ie higher sound quality with a much lower bit rate...

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Dave's 126 posts GB flag
Dave's: mapD's Freeview map terrainD's terrain plot wavesD's frequency data D's Freeview Detailed Coverage

9:44 PM

Stan: I agree that its unlikely that lots of people are going to want to upgrade again to DAB+ (your right, that horse has long bolted), but looking the report that Brianist has posted :


If you look at the numbers, the total of analogue sets sold is still much higher than DAB (page 3.54) , but figure 3.1 shows the trend of takeup. In 2007, 27% of homes had a digital radio. By 2012 that was 44%.

Figure 3.48 shows that the percentage of analogue listening has fallen from 72.7% in 2008 to 60.5% in 2013, and digital's gone from 17.8% to 32.5% in the same time period. Figure 3.49 shows that younger listeners are moving away from analogue the most, and all groups apart from 65+ are now using digital more than half the time.

Its also interesting to note that people actually seem to be OK with digital. Figure 3.12 shows why people are more likely to listen to radio than 5 years ago . 23% of people said 'Digital radio has improved the quality of radio listening', while 17% said 'There are more available stations now than in the past' (which is certainly a result of DAB/streaming, etc).

I actually dont care how people listen to radio, any more than how they watch TV. I suspect the if you've got an FM radio, you'll be using it for a while, but the thread is clear - digital is going to be the winner, whether its DAB, streaming or whatever.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Steve P

12:01 AM

If you look at the numbers, the total of analogue sets sold is still much higher than DAB (page 3.54)

So how can they even contemplate closing down FM for the main stations?

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Steve P's 1,173 posts GB flag

9:46 AM

Steve P: Is anyone actually going to close down FM in the near future?

As Brianists pointed out last year, the key reason for fm radios having higher sales is that they tend to be much cheaper (you can buy one in Poundland) and people tend to buy what they are used to. However, once they have one digital radio, then they are likely to buy another one.
Also remember that all digital sets have FM anyway and they have rapidly dropped in price, so a little DAB radio can be had for £25 or less.

The other thing to look out for is streaming via tablets etc. it's a small part of the market at present, but the demographic is younger - it's a growing trend. Whichever way you slice it, at some point analogue will only be a small part of the market. However, that fm radio bought 30 years ago will still be fine for some years yet.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

6:48 PM

MikeB: I think the only thing that's certain about the future of radio is that it will be multi-platform. DAB/DAB+/whatever, wifi, streaming, and the trusty old Analogue all have their pros and cons, and all will have a part to play in the future of radio. Ed Vaizey himself said that "FM will always be available for local radio. FM will continue to be the appropriate midium for the scale at which these smaller stations operate" and "It is the Government's intention that DAB can work in tandem with FM, just like FM has with MW for decades." Yes, millions of listeners currently tune into MW to listen to their favourite programmes. There is no reason to think they will not be tuning into their favourite local station on FM, being as all DAB sets can also recieve FM.

Of course, even smaller local stations may at some distant point in the future adopt some digital format but even then they will more than likely simulcast on FM as well. So no, my precious old 4 band reciever Sony CF 270 L will not be facing retirement yet, if ever.

By the way, speaking on MW - I don't know what switchover they are contemplating when MW alone currently accounts for more listening hours that DAB.

My own view is that it is the duty of Radio to broadcast on whatever mediums their listeners consume in significant numbers (even if only, say, a quarter consume radio via Analogue) and that being multi-platform is the price for being in business in the 21st century.

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Stan's 27 posts GB flag

7:00 PM

The same mistakes are being made with DAB as they were with DVB-T TV...

The ability for consumers to buy an FM 'only' radio should have been phased out over a set period of years.

Manufacturers should have been encouraged (through legislation) to only make and sell products with joint DAB and FM tuners after a set date. So over the 'set period of years' more people would have ended up having a DAB capable device whether they knew they wanted it or not! (52.9548,-1.1581) 

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SeeMoreDigital's 40 posts GB flag

7:25 PM

By the way, it's not just FM. You've got MW and LW as well. The BBC were trumpeting the eventual end of BBC Radio 4 on 198khz long-wave because of valve expense apparently-only about 10 left in the whole world and no longer manufactured anywhere, blablabla. How can this be the case when some parts of the world rely on LW for their broadcasts, like I rely on 198khz to listen to The World Tonight. Well anyway, they are now spending a fortune (no doubt!) on refurbishing the mast at Droitwitch, and quite rightly, too. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted that the BBC is making great effort to keep this much-loved and valued service alive.

Yes, Sweden switched off it's LW in 1991. The difference is that only TWO HUNDRED people were then tuning in, where here in the UK that figure is currently more like NINETY THOUSAND (not counting expats on the continent lol).

Precicely why proponents of digital are so desperate to switch off Analogue for the main stations, though, is beyond me. WHY CAN'T WE HAVE HAVE BOTH DAB AND ANALOGUE?!?! I mean, is digital is so much better, the public wouldn't need to be bullied into discarding their perfectly good, reliable (in some cases, vintage) Analogue Radios. But of course, nobody is worried about the jolly old listener, are they??? They just want to cut costs on not paying dual transmission costs.

Can't be, as was the case with TV, to flog off the bandwidth. FM and especially MW are technologically simply not suitable for any other modern data transmission, and even if they had been, there is LAW in place to prevent these spectrums being used for any other purpose than Radio Broadcasting.

Radio is currently in great shape. Let's keep it that way, and prevent all Analogue, which has served us well, from going the way of Short-Wave and becoming a desolate waste land of pirate operators, a handful of left-behind stations and religious fundamentalists.

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Stan's 27 posts GB flag

7:35 PM

Stan: The problem is, surely, that 90,000 people is a very small number, given that there are 63,230,000 people in the United Kingdom.

As the cost of transmission is fixed, the cost-per-listener-hour goes up and up as the number of users diminish.

Sadly, the BBC can't really be expected to provide a "special service" for the 0.14% of the population who for some reason can't use DAB or DVB-T or DVB-S or DVB-C or IP or even FM to listen to ONE radio service.

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Briantist's 38,910 posts GB flag
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