back to article Radiohead(ache): BBC wants dead duck tech in sexy new mobes

The UK government is supporting a push by broadcasters — including, notably, the BBC — to put DAB into new smartphones. Communications Minister Ed Vaizey will back the Universal Smartphone Radio Project initiative, also known as RadioDNS or Hybrid Radio, in a speech today, the Telegraph reports. Much of the initiative is …


  1. phy445

    Dead ducks

    To describe DAB as Dead Duck tech is a diservice to dead ducks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dead ducks

      Indeed. Whereas I am a fan of ducks whilst alive, dead ducks at least, can be quite tasty.

      I am not aware of badgers being classed as a delicacy, so I propose that DAB be referred to as DeAd Badger tech?

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Dead ducks

        "I am not aware of badgers being classed as a delicacy, so I propose that DAB be referred to as DeAd Badger tech?"

        What about that bloke who used to collect and eat roadkill, including badgers? He seemed to like like them, and I've not come across anybody saying that they aren't a delicacy, so that's 100% of all badger eaters who rate them as a delicacy.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Dead ducks

      "To describe DAB as Dead Duck tech is a diservice to dead ducks."

      I agree.

      The whole debate resembles the 'Dead Parrot' skit from Monty Python.

      For that one person that's not familiar with it:

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Dead ducks

        My old man got hold of an amateur English translation of an old French cookbook. One recipe is priceless:

        After skinning and eviscerating your badger, place it in a fast flowing stream for forty-eight hours to degrease it...

        Meanwhile, back in Blighty, 'badger hams' were eaten until fairly recently on the banks of the river Severn. I cannot comment on how much cider one needs to have drunk beforehand.

      2. dan1980

        Re: Dead ducks

        @Captain DaFt

        The whole debate resembles the 'Dead Parrot' skit from Monty Python.

        For that one person that's not familiar with it: Leave. Leave now.

        Fixed that, &c.

  2. Ian 55

    Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

    It doesn't stop them acquiescing in the plan to make the far larger number of FM receivers obsolete.

    1. Phil W

      Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

      Indeed, there are a great many users of analog FM receivers however the vast majority are those listening in cars.

      An uptake in mobile manufacturers including DAB in their devices may well reduce that number however as cars with built in Bluetooth music streaming and/or 3.5mm Aux in connectors is on the rise, not to mention replacement head units for older cars with Bluetooth/Aux in being substantially cheaper than those with DAB.

      Another good plan for the BBC to increase uptake of DAB would be to produce (ok contract out and re-badge) cheaper DAB units for cars.

      DAB has one inherent flaw that digital terrestrial TV didn't, the cost to consumers to upgrade.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

        DAB has one inherent flaw that digital terrestrial TV didn't, the cost to consumers to upgrade.


        Bad UI compared to Analogue Radio. (DTT has identical or better UI than Analogue TV)

        Bad Coverage for portable

        Much much poorer compression vs Analogue Audio compared to Video

        DTT does WS and HD (not on Analogue Video)

        No significant power difference on Analogue Vs Digital TV as screen backlight (or CRT or projector) is most of the power.

        Little TV usage is portable. Much Radio usage is portable.

        Radio is used with HiFi, (DAB isn't), transportable table sets, for Foreign Radio (DAB is local/National only), Mobile and Portable. DAB useless for Portable.

        DAB isn't suitable for Local or Comunity, the MUX areas are far too large, yet are full of holes.

        No gradual degradation when moving into poor reception, But DAB cuts out and can't restart till buffer active.

        Massive x20 power consumption for Headphones, Only acceptable in car or mains.

        DAB isn't an AM/FM replacement. Perhaps no Digital Radio can replace the unique properties of Analogue Radio easily.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

          Just rented a car with a DAB radio, every few minutes it would repeat a few seconds of the audio.

          I thought my mind was going until I listened to "just-a-minute". Quite a surreal experience listening to just a minute with a 2second reverb - almost made it entertaining.

          1. William Gallafent

            Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

            Some car DAB implementations are genuinely dreadful, and that's not DAB's fault!

            I'm looking at you, Peugeot: the factory-fit unit in a Peugeot 208 which I had as a courtesy car a few weeks ago seemed to resample the audio, and alter the sample rate from time to time. It was almost comical. Music was completely unlistenable, as a single note wobbled from one pitch to another. Speech just sounded really weird, slowing down and speeding up (and changing in pitch as it did so) completely unnaturally and very obviously. As a result of this experience it is very unlikely I'll even consider buying a Peugeot in future: an engineering company which can't even make a radio (based on 1980s technology, as the article points out) work properly in 2014 … shall I trust them to make a /car/ for me? I think not.

            I've had excellent in-car DAB in my last two cars, though, by installing an aftermarket head unit in each case. Blaupunkt first time, JVC second time. Both work really very well, and when the signal fails, then fallback to FM works fine, but that doesn't happen too often round here (South East England).

        2. paul481

          Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

          I agree. I think the problem pointed out in the press before 2007 was the unaccountable BBC labs spent many many millions of pounds from 'The Licence Fee' over many years playing around with MP2 technology, and although obsoleted by more efficient codecs before bring it to market, the BBC were faced with the decision to either admit failure and write off the taxpayers millions, or lobby the government into imposing the unfit DAB on the public by turning off the far more useful and cheap FM system. Of course, like most civil servants they choose the latter in attempt to cover-up to an assumed gullible public, much as they hoped to over massive payments to bent celebs. Fairness to taxpayers or 4.6 million conned into buying a pup ? - don't think that was in forefront of their thinking. The BBC should stick to making what they rightly earned a good reputation for: Quality Programs, sadly not in much supply in recent years due to siphoning the tax into hopeless technology ventures - more recently yet another 'duck' trying to impose the 'BBCs idea of a smart TV - as if the world market would accept a BBC designed "smart" tv. That should be left to marketplace makers.

      2. nijam

        Re: Ofcom .. concluding that it would be unfair to make the UK’s then 4.6 million receivers obsolete

        As I understand it, many vehicles would require not only the radio, but the aerial and its wiring, to be replaced. Cue installation costs in excess of, say, £500 (unless you want the cable lying loose in the passenger compartment).

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. oddie

      Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

      Not that I doubt that the UK has more than 5 million radio listeners that would tune into their mobile IP radios 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but I seem to remember from my early days of trying to understand TCP/IP that there is a 'broadcast' option as well.. that is, all computers on a network can listen in on the same transmission without needing packets addressed specifically to them?

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

        Yes, multicast

        1. AdamT

          Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

          Does multicast work over the final hop to the phone with 3G/4G/LTE/Whatever? Or is the mobile tower the final node in the multicast path and then it's individual data links to each mobile device?

        2. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

          I have, so far, in my whole life, been on one internet subnet which supported multicast from the Internet. And that was at an university.

          IP multicast doesn't work in the real life. The best you can get is carrier local multicasting where they feed in some channels into their network. Even if this is efficiently done via broadcasting in LTE it would take up considerable amounts of bandwidth. Mobile networks, even LTE, aren't designed to handle that sort of bandwidth.

          Plus there's always the expectation that you should "log" into mobile networks, which means that the carriers and therefore lots of shady institutions will have precise lists of the locations of every "radio".

          1. Vic

            Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

            IP multicast doesn't work in the real life

            It could do. But the reach of multicast is actually reducing - e.g. the shutdown of MBone.

            And all we're doing about it is to snaffle bandwidth (from TV and radio services) to enable yet more unicast traffic.

            Multicast won't work over the open Internet again - not for techincal reasons, but for marketing ones.


      2. tony2heads

        Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

        UDP Lite rather than TCP

    2. wangi

      Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.


    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Broadcast vs. Mobile network.

      Multicast isn't Broadcast!

      128kbps is crap. 256K min for Stereo.

      Also Mobile coverage is total garbage compared to FM, never mind AM.

      There is a true "broadcast mode" both for 3G and 4G. But 10 channels at 256Kbps each leaves very little for Mobile Data, apart from the crap power consumption (digital vs FM) and coverage apart from inherent disadvantage of 800/900/1800/2100/2500 bands vs 100MHz band.

      It's possible to triple the FM spectrum and many radios can handle the extra bands. Several countries are adding FM spectrum below 88MHz.

      DAB is pointless. Broadcast modes on Mobile Networks is even greater lunacy!

  4. Philip Storry

    Maybe not quite as pointless as it seems...

    I already listen to digital radio, via the BBC iPlayer app or the TuneIn Radio app and any number of IP steams - DAB is dead as far as I'm concerned.

    That having been said, I like the abstraction idea. If this could be put into an OS, it would be pretty cool. Having a "Radio" app that aggregates all possible sources would be nice.

    It looks like it would be fairly cheap for Google/Apple to do as well, and it allows the vendors/networks to make money by pre-packaging stations - so should be popular there. And customers find it easier to listen to radio. Everyone wins, it seems.

    (Well, except for Apple and their customers maybe, as Apple are a bit touchy about such customisations.)

    On that basis, I wish 'em luck.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Maybe not quite as pointless as it seems...

      Nope, it's not going to happen.

      It costs vast amounts of money to develop a chip set for anything these days. Samsung et al would take a look at the BBC's proposal, then:

      * work out how many $billion it'll cost to do a spin of their chipset just for the UK,

      * work out the likely returns on their investment from the market (60million people at most),

      * work out the market detriment in the rest of the world (more expensive silicon, pointless power consumption where DAB isn't supported, etc).

      Then they'll tell the BBC to bugger off.

      Not even Apple did an iPhone for a specific country (I'm thinking of the CDMA2000 variant iPhones for the USA) until a long time after they had established the market. No one is going to do bespoke hardware of such high cost for a market as piddly as the UK especially when the tech is not exactly very popular in the UK anyway.

  5. frank ly Silver badge

    Swings and something else

    "Since the transmission began as IP, and a smartphone already has a high bandwidth IP path, why not just miss out the bit in the middle? "

    If they tried that now, there would be many independent data streams, to individual mobiles, many carrying identical data. To reduce that, there would need to be special, additional, mobile data broadcast channels to be supported by the mobile operator and by each mobile phone. Maybe that could be the 'new DAB'?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Swings and something else

      Multicast would help.

      Brandon was experimenting with this at the BBC in the 1990s:

      And operators are experimenting with multicast now:

      Really, there's no reason broadcasts have to travel over the transport/backhaul part of an operator's network at all.

  6. James 51 Silver badge

    Nokia produced a DAB enabled earbud set. Wouldn't that be a better route to go down?

    1. Havin_it

      You talkin' like a self-contained DAB set, just built into the earbuds?

      As a veteran of headphones-that-aren't-device-powered (Bluetooth in my case), my only question is: How big's the battery for that, and where do you stick it? Pendant? Collar? Neckbrace?

      Enquiring minds want to know ;)

      1. James 51 Silver badge

  7. Tom Chiverton 1

    "Since the transmission began as IP, and a smartphone already has a high bandwidth IP path, why not just miss out the bit in the middle?"

    Cost. Most people don't have enough bandwidth in their bundle to stream radio.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Cost? I pay £15 a month for unlimited data, unlimited texts and 900 minutes of calls. Switch contract.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        @Tom 38 (no title on your post)

        £15 a month is a lot of money for many people: They can't afford it.

        £15 a month is a lot of money for many other people: They have better things to spend £180 a year on.

        £15 a month is a lot of money for many people: They live in "dead spots" and get sod all signal.

        1. M Mouse

          £15 a month is a lot of money for many people

          understood, but how much do you think these phones with DAB in would be? Definitely in excess of £15... and if we're talking about the internet-enabled smartphones, then would they be willing / able to consider one costing £150 or even £100 if they cannot afford £15 a month ?

          The ability to pay £15 a month becomes pretty academic if they would not be able to afford a suitable phone in the first place!

        2. Tom 38 Silver badge

          £15 might be the world on a stick to some people, I don't get what that has to do with mobile phone tariffs. This is about how can we have decent radio on modern mobiles, not how do we enable poor people to listen to the radio.

          If you are spending less than 50p a day on your mobile, you have a really basic deal, probably PAYG, or an extremely limited contract. If you are on such a deal, why would you expect to be able to consume as much of a limited resource as you like? How would that be fair to other users of the resource?

      2. Vic

        I pay £15 a month for unlimited data

        How do you rate the chances of that tarriff staying the same if people start using it to stream radio?


        1. M Mouse

          I'll see if BBC R3 streams at 192 kbps (it's the only DAB service I know that's over 128 kBps, so there's a chance of similar on the TuneIn App. Unfortunately that £15 One Plan tariff was only available from July 2013 to January 2014 (and went up by £5 afterwards).

          Before anyone makes any negative comments, that's still a reduction from the fee being charged up to June 2013 (£25) - perhaps because in the summer of 2013, Three scrapped any 'commission for sales' deals - it was round about the time they introduced the PAYG 3-2-1 plan (3p/min, 2p/text 1p/MB).

          (That marketing decision, to just offer lower prices to end users, and no commission payment, was probably part of the reason for the collapse of Phones4U, and if the other networks followed suit, many small and large mobile sales firms would go to the wall, too. Of course, looking at prices for up-market phones now, the non commission aspect makes it look like they're grabbing more profit from those with the very latest phones, while still offering value for money for SIM only and cheaper phones.)

          In case anyone is unfamiliar with commission payments to dealers and web sites, it's common enough for sums of between £10 and £200 to be paid out in return for new customers. TopCashBack and Quidco pass it on to the customer entering the contract, others have different ways of handling it.

          I was lucky enough to get £100+ cashback in early 2013 when I took out a SIM only 'Full Monty' contract at £16 (reduced from £31). Service went from OK to nil and T-Mobile allowed me to leave with 6 months remaining on my contract following them switching 3 towers from T-Mob to EE 4G and giving me poor/no 3G service. Lucky for me they paid out the fairly hefty commission as it meant my 6 months was a 'break even' experiment, rather than what some might have called a 'rip-off'.

        2. M Mouse

          BBC R3 on DAB is (AFAIK) the only one offering 192 kbps, so I'll try out the TuneIn 'radio' App and measure the data used for a day, week, month (or do the best I can, it will depend on any factors that may cause problems (Openreach work, etc, etc), because without some idea of the 'load' on the network, it's a little awkward to say.

          Also, for clarity, the £15 One Plan was only available from July 2013 and went up to £20 in about February 2014 (but was £25 prior to July last year, perhaps lowered at the same time as they withdrew use of commission payments for bringing in new customers (payable to shops like Phones4U and online websites). GifGaff charges £18 / month, but I don't use that one.


      Those ugly data caps and whatnot.

      I don't stream anything from my mobile device over an actual mobile network. The restrictions are just too draconian. If my phone could pick up something like conventional radio, that would not be such a bad thing. People like to call it a dinosaur but it (broadcast) is still a much better solution to the problem. Individual streams just don't scale.

    3. M Mouse

      some mobile networks are better value than others

      If 'most people' don't have enough data allowance (vs bandwidth, quite a different thing! for explanation of bandwidth {why you might have problems watching 50 video streams on your mobile} see Wki: ) then they could switch network. No good having 4G with 500 MB allowance for a month. Just checked the stats from my phone... Monday: 3299.66 MB, Tuesday (quiet day): 989.78 MB. 675 and 700+ for Saturday and Sunday.

      My sister has a 13 quid a month contract with unlimited data (with a phone too) and streams 4 channels of CCTV video (from the art gallery) to her phone, and is used up to 24x7 (so she'd be able to give a description if the alarm rang and she was alerted). Think she regularly pulls 2 GB a day.

      I have unlimited data, plus tethering for my computers, 2000 voice minutes to landlines and mobiles, 5000 texts and 5000 minutes to other users of the same network. Works fine. Regularly stream radio, webcams, CCTV. Often using 50-60 GB a month. Oh, and the network (for both contracts) ? Three.

      1. M Mouse

        Re: some mobile networks are better value than others

        Wow, three downvotes, but anyone able to explain their reason(s)? No, too much to expect :)

  8. Mage Silver badge

    UK out on a Limb with Germany ...

    Close DAB and put far better FM into Phones. DAB tuner chip consumes about x20 more power than an FM tuner chip. Good luck trying to listen for more than 2 hours!

    Oh ... The Phones HAVE FM!

    Well then, extend the FM Spectrum, like other countries are doing.

    DAB or DAB+ at real FM coverage and real HiFi simply doesn't have the savings of DTT. Audio simply doesn't compress as well as video.

    DAB coverage for Portable / Mobile needs more spectrum and x6 as many masts (mostly low power) as current DAB.

    DAB has too big a coverage per station (but with too many holes) due to SFNs. DAB is only an advantage to pan National Broadcasters wanting to squeeze out locals.

    The BBC should not be promoting the failed DAB system. It's also a ploy to claim every mobile phone sale that has DAB built in as a DAB listener.

    Built in DTT in phones (even if just for the Radio channels) makes more sense than DAB.

    1. M Mouse

      Re: UK out on a Limb with Germany ...

      I suspect there'd be problems with having a DTT rx for radio in a mobile, because unless Voda/ O2 abandon the 900 MHz band, there may be high power (to the rx) bursts from your phone each time it starts to get a text, or when 'chatting' with cell towers (assuming you are listening to radio while on the move, whether on foot, cycle, or in a vehicle.

  9. WildW

    DAB in a mobile doesn't make too much sense, especially given the old standard and the patchy coverage. Mobiles have everything in them to receive internet radio stations in whatever flavour of codec you like. If you're going to make a nice API for digital radio, make it for internet radio streams that already exist.

    It ought to be far easier to come up with a deal on extra download allowance for internet radio with the mobile networks than to convince the phone manufacturers to put DAB hardware in.

  10. Paul Kinsler

    draining the battery

    Hmm...on the face of it, it would seem to be less computation to convert digital radio to sound, since a radio-listening device hasn't got to do any networking stuff - either computation (or firing off wifi signals for that matter). So a well designed dab receiver - at first look - would seem to need to do less work (and hence require less power) to operate than an IP receiver.

    Can anyone familiar with the technical details clarify?


    Lastly, one minor DAB advantage is that the tinfoil hat brigade can listen to it w/o requiring tor-like contortions when avoiding letting anyone know their listening preferences :)

  11. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    WFMU is way ahead of the game here

    They have apps for their radio outside their boradcast area. Archives of shows, too. And it all scrobbles to They've already been my favourite radio station for the last few years, and I now so rarely listen to the BBC that aside from The Archers I wouldn't miss it if it shut down.

  12. wiggers

    File under...

    "What were they thinking?"

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: File under...

      "What were they thinking?"

      They were picking a winner, that's what they were thinking. Sadly whenever public servants pick winners, it is usually a surefire guarantee of long, expensive and protracted failure.

  13. breakfast

    The thing about everything over IP is that it anticipates that you have strong IP connectivity at all times, which cannot be assumed among us yokels. Everything Everywhere does not include phone signal in my phone. They should probably rebrand to "some things in some places" if they care about accuracy for anybody more than six miles outside London.

    Of course, DAB isn't great for anybody on the move but I had a phone with an FM receiver which I used a lot, I will certainly keep an eye out for that as a feature next time I'm shopping for one.

    1. Havin_it

      I'd be a lot happier with a builtin FM radio that worked without demanding I use wired headphones so it can use the cable as an aerial. Hell, one that'd even deign to play through my Bluetooth 'phones as well as the redundant wired pair would be a step in the right direction.


      1. paul481

        I agree wholeheartedly. It is clear there was a drive by the 'moneymen' to deceive the public into switching to this obsolete mp2 technology, and when that failed, to get the government to force the populace by killing FM service.

        It is also sad that 'do no evil' Google make a point of disabling the FM functionality built-in to the vast majority of the Radio -front-end chips, in their otherwise good-value Nexus line of smartphones. I assume their motivation is, to prevent Nexus users from listening to analog radio as it would stop the consumption of their advert revenue - prob same reasoning for their prohibition of expandable memory, forcing users to download (pay for same) music more frequently.

        The haves are always seeking ways to deprive the havenots.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019