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All posts by Trevor Harris

Below are all of Trevor Harris's postings, with the most recent are at the bottom of the page.

The deal with Arqiva applies to both FM and DAB transmitters and so the relative costs still apply.

All my figures are estimates because even the BBC has not estimated what the costs will be for 99% coverage.

Until Ofcom completes its study we will not really know what 99% means.

The estimate of 1000 transmitters is taken from the independent report for the BBC to which I refered. A BBC manager said it would be between 400 and 600 but you cannot trust anything a BBC manager says.

DAB would have to be implemented with 430 transmitters to cost the same FM.

The latest document from the BBC is calledBBC National DAB Network Coverage
& Indicative Expansion Plans. Worth googling as it gives some coverage maps aned reveals enormous areas of the UK without ant DAB coverage.

In section 1.1 the Ofcom document says

to provide the information to allow for a well-informed decision by Government on whether to proceed with a radio switchover'

This means that the Government might abandon to switchover. As I said in my posts I do not believe that coverage is the main issue as the take up of DAB has been very small even in areas of good coverage. Even with 99% coverage the switchover will not happen and I think the Government is begining to realize this.

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Many people find these FM transmitters useless but it does depend on where you live. In my area you can get it working with the car stationary but as soon as you start to move you get interference.

In fact the car radio problem will probably be the decisive factor in the demise of DAB. At the moment only 1% of cars have a DAB radio. Only 14% of new cars are fitted with DAB radios so it is going to be along time before a significant number of cars DAB enabled.

The breaking news this morning is that Portugal has switched off it's DAB transmitters. It could not justify the costs for a very small number of listeners. With the economic crisis in europe we can expect other countries to follow suit.

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I don't think that any car manufacturer has made a firm commitment. At the Digital Radio Stakeholders Group meeting on 17 May 2011 the car manufacturers were complaining of a lack of clarity of a switch over date which is preventing them from making any commitment. Even if all new cars have a DAB radio it does not solve the problem of existing cars.

Some more breaking news Spain is reducing it's DAB coverage from 50% to 20% because of a lack of audiance. The failure of DAB in Europe is important as it will increase the cost of DAB radios because of a very small market.

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The automotive agreement on DAB radios is dependent on the switch off decision being made in 2003. The government will not make that commitment. Ford has made this announcement as a marketing ploy to "future proof their cars". In other words they are trying to gain a marketing advantage by scareing people into buying Ford so they will still be able to listen to Radio 4. The BBC and the government tried the same tactic but it did not work.

I think we all know now that the switch will not happen in the forseable future. This means that there is no incentive for the car manufacturers to switch to DAB.

Ford also points out that DAB does not support trafic alerts. For me this is a big issue as I always have the alerts switch on.

As for DAB+ yes everyone except the BBC says they are looking at it. DAB+ does reduce the burbling which is a feature of DAB by adding an extra layer of error correction. DAB+ does use a better codec but this is likely to be used to reduce bitrates rather than improve sound quality.

Having switched off more than half the DAB transmitters no one is going to invest in DAB+ in Spain.

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One thing I have not noticed being mentioned is that BBC Radio 1,2 & 4 are not even in stereo they use "joint stereo".

DAB is dead. Long live FM.

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I think you are geting this from Rajars News release which is notoriously unreliable. Even if there is a DAB radio in 38.2% of households it does not mean they listen to DAB or that they can even get a reliable DAB signal in doors. I have a digital radio which has DAB but I never listen to DAB. Internet radio is far better with real stereo, much better sound quality and a more robust signal. For car radio FM is unbeatable.

The Government and Ofcoms approach is fundementally flawed. It is based on the assumption that it is coverage which is detering people adopting DAB. Simply not true. It is a combination of poor sound quality, difficult indoor reception, and poor signal robustness. Sound quality can be fixed just reduce the number of stations and increase the bitrate back to 256kb/s. The other problems are more difficult. In fact I would say they are technically unsolvable due to self interference. But even it was technically possible the cost would be astronomic as I showed in a previous post. Who is going to pay for it. The BBC hasn't got the money, the Government is broke and the commercial stations can't afford it.

Another problem is political. There is no way the BBC is going to be able to switch off its national FM stations while millions of people are still listening.

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If you look at the BBC's document you will see

"Ofcom predictions of the coverage offered by the BBC's network radio services on FM
show that BBC Radio 2 reaches 99.1% of the UK population, and covers 95.7% of the major
road network.
The BBC does not yet have a technical plan for replicating this coverage with DAB."

In other words there is no plan for the increase to 99.1%. Because of the law of deminishing returns we do know it is going to be very expensive.

The DAB specification goes up to 256kb/s. I have heared that some radios only go up to 192 and so do not conform to the DAB standard.

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Actually Eureka-147 specifies 8-384kb/s. I know some Pure Radios specify a maximum of 192 and so do not conform to the standard. If this limit is widespread it means DAB is in a much greater mess than I thought. I guess Pure has done this to reduce power consumption. Another good reason for not buying a DAB radio.

Even if the BBC does achieve its coverage people will still not buy DAB radios.

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One thing not previously mentioned is that Ofcom public consultations are a complete waist of time and money. Ofcom have a legal obligation to to consult but there is no legal requirement for them to take any notice. In the past the best example was the 2004 survey where a massive number of people voted for higher sound quality on DAB and totaly ignored it.

The latest example is Arqiva's request to extend the coverage of its Exeter and Torbay DAB multiplex to North Devon. The reason Arqiva wanted this extention was so their Barnstable FM licence would automaticaly be renewed without it going out to tender. You can read more at Grant Goddards blog.

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BBC TWO HD, some thoughts
Monday 18 July 2011 10:40PM

I have always thought that BBC should make BBC 2 an HD channel. The current BBC HD is mishmash of programing mainly repeats. Often HD versions of programs were not simulcast. As for BBC 3 & 4 HD programs they could be switched to BBC 2 until BBC 3 & 4 HD can be launched.

The BBC needs to put much more money into HD. The news is not due to go Hd till 2013.

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