back to article Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

How does the UK find its way out of the DAB disaster? First, we have to get beyond the denial stage and into acceptance. One thing is certain: the UK can't carry on the way it's been going. Digital radio's year-on-year sales growth fell off a cliff the moment the BBC stopped its "DABaganda" TV ad campaign in the run-up to …

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  1. Mark
    Stop

    You have to wonder..

    if Steve Green has a hidden agenda here? The fact is, millions of us are enjoying DAB daily, and have no problems with it, either reception, sound quality or program choice.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    ... yeah but why

    Seems to me the whole DAB thing is just for the sake of technology.

    Why is it that i need to know the name of the station on a display on the reciever, they tell you every 10 seconds anyway.

    Sound quality not greatly improved.

    Quantity of stations lower than previous.

    Coverage worse than previous.

    While we say to phorm that if their service is so good we should be able to choose to opt in, we should also apply that thinking to DAB and say if the overall experience is better than before then great but it is simply not. Therefore it is pointless.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB's problem is obvious

    Take a look, it's as obvious as day why it would never sell:

    http://images.google.com/images?hl=nl&q=dab+radio&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

    If they built it into mp3 players the same way FM is built into mp3 playerss then it would sell.

  4. KarlTh

    If it weren't for

    Virgin radio I wouldn't have bothered - they only transmit on appalling MW over most of the country.

  5. Aram
    Thumb Up

    @Mark

    I agree. We grew tired of our radio reception being determined by where we stood in the kitchen and how we waved our arms.

    We bought a Roberts RD-41 & haven't looked back. Occasionally the ariel needs a 1cm adjustment (literally) to get more reception bars, but other than that, we are really, really happy with our purchase.

  6. Tim Bradshaw Silver badge

    If DAB will never get close to 100% coverage

    ... does this mean they will not turn off FM? That would be a good thing, I think.

  7. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Graph lies

    The graph does *not* show a failing format; it shows a slowing rate of adoption - sales are continuing to grow but at a slower rate. There are a number of reasons, it could have been a technology that matured relatively rapidly and can't grow into a mass-market because the cost of receivers is noticeably higher than that for analogue sets, or it could be failing in the sense no one wants DAB at any price. But that graph proves nothing.

    I have plenty of other problems with DAB, but to claim evidence based on that graph is misleading on a scale Alistair Campbell would be proud of.

  8. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Power to the People

    That's what DAB does not deliver and the Internet does and to a limited extent what Pirate FM delivers. The success of the Internet has a great deal to do with the simlicity, cheapness and effectiveness of the protocols such as HTML and TCP/IP.

    There is no entry level for DAB. You can't get started with £400 worth of gear like you can with Internet Radio or Pirate Radio.

    You have to have lots of money and a business plan and adhere to lots of regulations. It has to make money too.

    DAB is based on an outmoded ideal of the previous century.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Same old Steve Green FUD

    So Steve Green is still spouting the same old rubbish about DAB being launched in 2002?

    Even Steve has to admit that the BBC actually started broadcasting DAB nationally in 1995, The commercial national DAB multiplex started in November 1999.

    Commercial receivers were late on the scene and expensive when launched in 1999 - but that doesn't change the fact that DAB was launched _before_ 2002

    Of course Steve likes to gloss over these issue because it doesn't fit his agenda.

    Has to be Paris - no one else would blindly believe this

  10. Matt Hamilton

    DAB radios

    As mentioned above, all the DAB radios seem to be retro styled and seem to be trying to win on style over substance. The bit I really don't understand is if DAB was meant to be so good, why sell a whole load of radios with just a single, mono, speaker? Stereo has been invented since the designs for those radios were first done way back when. I know that stereo speakers on such a small system might be a moot point, but all non-DAB units have stereo speakers.

    -Matt

  11. G Walker
    Alert

    That chart ...

    So, "The sales chart shows DAB is a failing format", does it? Maybe it shows that growth of 200% isn't sustainable- and growth of 'only' 10% or so indicates a healthy but mature market?

    DAB is good, and the beeb haven't pushed it as the only digital solution for a long time. The improvements indicated would be welcome. But I, and many others, are using DAB with reasonable satisfaction.

  12. Jim Willsher
    Stop

    Hidden agenda?

    I too think El Reg has a hidden agenda. The only time I ever hear about DAB getting slated is when I read the Register (when I can find the words amongst all the annoying animated adverts which adorn the El Reg articles these days). We have a DAB radio and get a perfect signal on it. It also carries all the stations we want - it's quality not quantity after all.

    So come on Register, why do you insist on having a regular stab at DAB whilst the rest of the country is happy with it?

  13. alex cee

    Dab has failed beacuse of greed

    Dab is a failure beacuse of the

    lack of content,

    lack of bandwith,

    lack of quality.

    The only party who can really be blaimed is offcom.

    Given a choice between an FM radio and a DAB radio, I would choose FM without a doubt. Why? Beacuse FM has more content I want to listen to (i.e pirates playing music genres that are neglegted my the majority of commercial radio stations) FM has a more robust and rerliable signal when compared with dab (this is more than likley why in car DAB hasnt taken off). FM also has better quality of audio than the bitrates being used my most DAB stations.

    If the bbc are serious about saving DAB they need to put pressure on offcom to pull their fingers out and stop using it as away of draining cash out of people........

  14. Tony W

    Funked and dithered

    DAB was great when it was first produced - it solved a major problem of poor FM reception in moving vehicles. But as usual both the BBC and the government went off at half-cock. DAB was supposed to take over from FM but starting transmission was delayed, and then no-one would set a date for the switch-over. It became obvious that FM would drag on in the same way that 405 line TV transmission did (at the end there were probably more 405 line transmitters than receivers.)

    Result - manufacturers would not take the plunge, and DAB receivers were few and expensive. By the time DAB began to take off it had been overtaken by events. People wanted more and more channels, and when they were squeezed in, sound quality went down to significantly worse than FM. In the "new technology" medium, Radio 4 plays that were stereo in FM, went to mono.

    DAB is not so bad as it is painted. I have good reception for my hi-fi on a bit of wire, while FM is noisy without a proper aerial. But it's too late. Neither BBC nor government realized the pace of technical change and they funked and dithered. I don't know whether the BBC or the government was primarily to blame but the BBC should have been the driving force and they didn't have the required nerve.

  15. Risky

    Installed base

    Regardless of where some other standard might prove better, I'm not sure abotu what Mr Green is proposing to do about the radios perople have already bought. I think that statistic seemed to be missing.

    Replacing a £100 radio would be annoying, being told it would cost £ouch to have the one in the car upgraded would be rather more maddening.

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  17. Andy
    Thumb Down

    Nothing wrong with DAB

    In my experience there not much technically wrong with DAB.

    Whatever the analogue hippies say, quality IS better than FM, not quite in the same way that CD's are better than LP's, but not far off.

    Yes, bitrates could be higher and yes coverage could be better but IMO there is only one problem with DAB - lack of support from broadcasters.

    The format has never really delivered the variety it promised. Don't get me wrong - its still light years ahead of FM in that regard. i.e. it has a couple of dedicated Rock stations (ok so its old fogey rock, but still) and, until recently, a Jazz station. I have never heard any stations on FM that played anything other than the current top 40 factory produced teen fodder.

    As for the argument about it being superseeded by Internet radio, that may be true, but ONLY because internet radio really does deliver variety, any genre you can think of is catered for. Delivering radio over the internet is a really inefficient way of broadcasting and a massive waste of valuable bandwidth because separate 'copies' of the data have to be sent to every listener as opposed to DAB which just sends one copy that can be picked up simultaneously by eveyone.

  18. P Chase
    Dead Vulture

    How to Lie with Statistics

    El Reg has clearly been reading this very fine book, which I recommend to anyone. It has a section on how to mis-use graphs, to tell any story that suits your personal prejudices.

    The graph in fact shows continuing sales growth, albeit at a reducing rate of growth. That may not be a runaway success, but it's certainly not a failure either.

    Personally, I have one DAB radio, which I find OK. Reception is not a problem. Mostly, I listen to BBC R4 and various local radio, which I could equally find on FM, but I like to listen to BBC R6 and R7 every now and again, which I can only do on DAB.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Satellite

    Who cares, Satellite radio is being launched in the UK in the not too distant future. I bet anyone ten pence it will be better than DAB!

  20. G

    DAB is not quite as dead as this suggests

    The graph on page 1 may look calamitous but if so it is misleading. It records not the number of DAB radios in use, which is large and comparable in size to the UK spoken-word radio audience as a whole (indeed, the market may be saturated). It does not even record the rate of growth in the number of DAB radios (i.e. the sales level), which is positive. It records the second derivative of the relevant data. You would get a very similarly shaped picture if you drew a graph of your car's acceleration against time for a journey averaging 70mph by motorway. It would not mean your journey had failed.

    The data shows, in fact, that there was an explosive period of growth in which people found out about DAB radios and began buying them. They have continued to buy them, year on year, since then. DAB radios, like the first colour TVs to come in, aren't ephemeral commodities. They're well-made from reasonably good-quality components, they don't go wrong, they're expensive enough not to be disposable, and so people keep them. I bought mine five years ago, and it still works perfectly. There's no reason to change it, and that may be bad news for DAB manufacturers, but it doesn't mean DAB has ceased to matter to listeners or broadcasters.

    So there may indeed be evidence to show that DAB has "failed", but this graph isn't it. Total all-channels audience figures in decline would be more convincing.

    Personally, I hope DAB survives. Its relative lack of sophistication is in some respects good for the consumer. Whatever comes next will probably entail DRM, or will censor selected programmes for rights reasons, the way the BBC's podcasts of "The Now Show" idiotically edit out sketches in which music appears. Right now, my computer can record radio plays while I'm at work, a consumer right which the BBC continues to deny (though it dips its toe in the water more than most broadcasters). The last thing I'd want would be for radio to become an Internet-only phenomenon, accessible only as encrypted streams. I very much hope "broadcast" is not replaced by "webcast on demand", because broadcasting has a slightly less insane legal status. And the continuing support for DAB is the best hope of that, it seems to me.

  21. Andrew Ducker

    Still growing

    A market growing at 10-20% per year sounds pretty darn healthy to me!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Misleading graph

    As someone else pointed out, that graph was designed to mislead. Another, more honest way of portraying the data is simply to show sales by month (not rate of sales growth) - then it would be showing a month-on-month increase, with current sales the highest they've ever been.

  23. Tom Silver badge

    DAB reception here is awful

    At least with FM you can still hear the program when the signal fades. With DAB it gurgles and stops.

    If FM is turned off then I stop listening to the radio.

    And what happens when everyone sets their clocks 5 seconds slow?

  24. Evil Graham

    You have to decide what you want - cost or quality

    My issue with this article is this bit:

    "DAB+ is up to three times cheaper to transmit, because multiplexes can carry three times as many stations."

    If DAB+ coding is, as you say, 3 times as efficient as DAB, this means that you can get the same audio quality in 1/3 the bit rate, OR you can have higher audio quality at the same bit rate as before.

    So if the broadcasters go with your plan (squeeze 3 times as many stations into the same bandwidth) there will be exactly the same amount of people listening to "bubbling mud" as before, because you've just delivered them the same sound quality they already had.

    You can't make both arguments. You either want to improve sound quality for listeners, or reduce broadcasters' costs.

    There's a parallel to this situation in Freeview, which is a great system (I make my living from it) but looks like shit because it uses MPEG2 coding at low-as-possible bitrates. This is a corollary of the UK being the first to adopt DTV in Europe and the pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap philosophy of cramming as many services as possible into it. Kind of what we have with DAB, really.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Dennis

    The sucess/failure is all about in car

    I don't know where people listen to their radios, but for me it's just in the car.

    iplayer/any other content delivery method all well and good - make that happen in my car please - then you can turn off fm/dab.

    poorly planned, poorly executed and poorly marketed.

  27. Stuart
    Unhappy

    DAB is better than Steve Green

    Oh dear - those who know of Steve Green on usenet will understand his obsessive and continued degradation of DAB and any who question his particular analysis. This despite his repeated claims to have first class degrees yet demonstrates a complete lack of grasp of elementary statistics as his presentation of the graph again demonstrates.

    Yes there is much wrong with DAB and Steve does have some good points. But he has succeeded in alienating potential support by committing the same sin of some of the Beeb/Ofcom people by bending facts to the cause. IMHO the figures sugest that DAB is not a failure - nor a runaway success. Its here, we should try and improve it. Winning the hearts and minds of Ofcom/Beeb ain't going to be easy. I don't think this is going to help.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    shit as Freeview is...

    ...it still manages higher MP2 bitrates than DAB. The worst Freeview channels dip down to DAB bitrates, most do better. Don't seem much difference in the quality of material either. Choosing a £100 DAB or £20 DVB box for any room with an aerial feed is a no brainer, that's half the in home sales gone right away.

  29. Neil Hoskins
    Stop

    Oh, PLEASE let's finish one thing before we start on the next.

    Talk of deploying 3.9G and 4G in a few years' time is ludicrous. We don't even have 3G at my home or place of work. And no, I don't live and work in Shetland but the South of England in the medium-sized town of Aylesbury. We've got to the point where it's impossible to finish one thing before the Next Big Thing comes along. Take this to its logical conclusion and you end up with half a dozen people in London, Birmingham, and maybe Manchester, with 5G networks, DAB+++, and Terabits per second pipes, while the rest of us are still on dialup and AM radio.

    You've basically just spent three pages stating the bleedin' obvious, "I no sooner get my new PC/MAC home than something far better and cheaper becomes available." That's the fundamental problem that needs addressing, not arguing over what the Next Big Thing should be.

  30. James Dunmore
    Thumb Down

    What about Cars

    A whole DAB article with no mention to the car radios!!!

    I have a DAB radio at home and use it - great to have 5live without the MW crackle - but otherwise, all stations I can get on FM without the mud !

    However, cars are where the problem lies.

    I always listen to radio in the car (well, sometimes CDs, but 90% of the time, its the radio)

    I agree that radio via Broadband is the way to go (wireless network around the house, and a radio receiver that can pick it up) - but what about my car? Do I have to have a 3g receiver in my car to get broadband, to listen to radio?

    I think that how any format is adapted to be used in the car radio will be instrumental in deciding the successor of FM/AM radio - look at the moment, hardly any DAB in cars.

  31. Jon G

    Un-Green DAB Machine

    With the BBC constantly force-feeding us stories on the news about how the planet is doomed from MMGW - I'm wondering how encouraging the public to purchase DAB radios is going to help things ? I assume that they aren't all made in Carbon-Neutral factories, with non-polluting materials and shipped to us on sail-boats ?

    Perhaps the BBC would like to tell us how much additional CO2 will be pumped into the atmosphere as a result of this policy, and how much of the ice sheet will be lost as a result ?

  32. Roddy

    Steve Green hates DAB - So what ?

    When I read these articles I can't help but feel Mr. Green has missed the point slightly.

    DAB might not be the most technically advanced format and there might be better alternatives but that's miles from why DAB _might_ be failing, or at least not taking over from say FM. It's because the units are overpriced, and as someone already pointed out, have gone for style over substance because you get a better markup from 'stylish'.

    Plus in order to get maximum wonga for minimum effort the streams have had their nuts compressed off to get as many in as possible meaning there's no great improvement in quality over existing systems.

    I do agree that that graph is about as misleading as it could possibly be.

    It seems Mr. Green is constantly trying to push us to use freeview or Internet (IP) based systems. Both of which I've used and find don't suit the way I want to listen.

    So why not stop slating DAB and start highlighting what it is you actually do and don't want ?

    I want a small cheap receiver which I can easily move from room to room. Something I can't do with freeview receivers or _most_ devices relying on IP.

    I want a system that work in my car (so probably not freeview or IP based again...)

    So I pretty much want a (radio)wave broadcast.

    I want some of the channels currently only available via freeview, IP and DAB

    I want small, useful, cheap stereos which I can buy a few of to replace the FM/CD machines dotted round my house and in my car. Plus 2 well specced HiFis capable of receiving my chosen programming without turning my telly or computer on.

    As for the BBC, they even have to balls up web radio. None of the 'affordable' media streamers and/or web radios do the Realplayer format that the beeb uses and if they change formats for the new iPlayer crap (spot a Linux/Mac user if you can) then even less stand alone units will support it. I have 3 'cheap' streaming media receivers (mp101s and a Roku soundbridge) and the easiest way to listen to the beeb on them is get a computer to convert the incoming Real stream to an outgoing mp3 one (adds about a 3s delay).

    If someone made a small ( micro/mini stereo format ) box that could receive DAB (or the DAB channels I like), stream music off my computer/audio server (mp3 or preferably ogg) and tune into web radio (without needing my computer to be on at the time) as well as play CDs and cost less than 200 notes, I'd buy 3 at the weekend. A bonus would be mp3/ogg off CD/DVD and or a card/USB.

    I don't understand why, when all the elements exist, and have very common requirements, they aren't all strapped into one box yet.

  33. Critical

    DAB is fab

    I agree with Mark and many of the other commenters - I'm very happy with the DAB service. Perhaps the author of the article was scarred by a 220MHz radio wave as a child?

  34. Pete Burgess
    Thumb Down

    (untitled)

    like others have pointed out... that graph shows year on year sales growth, so even if it got to 0%, doesn't that just mean that they are selling the same number of radios this month as they did in the same month last year? They only need worry if the figure shows negative, i.e. a sales decline...?

    Perhaps a comment from Steve Green to answer these points is warranted?

    Thumbs down because of the attempted deception...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multicast is

    largely irrelevant here, although arguably it's marginally more relevant to delivering "broadcast" content (multiple people listening to the same content at the same time) than it is to generic IPtv and in particular the VoD flavour of IPtv which BTw like to hype when they're hyping 21CN (which they do rather a lot).

    Mr Orlowski recently promised an article focusing on multicast. He already has my comments. There'll be more if/when the article arrives.

    Other than that, there's some rubbish in the article (the interpretation of the graph) and some sense (the bubblies).

    Actually the most significant thing in the current UK commercial radio market is probably the fact that the industry is consolidating in a big way (so much for competition and local services, eh?)... eg http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7427657

  36. Andy

    DAB does have a problem

    ...if commercial interest is waning. Which it would appear to be.

    ...if we are practically the only country in Europe still doing it.

    It may well be that the problem is this: why should I pay good money for a new sort of radio when the old one still works, and I don't deliberately listen to the radio much anyway? In other words, most of us think that if it's not broke, it doesn't need fixing.

    I only listen to the radio in the car. I'm happy enough listening to FM, I don't know how I could get a DAB player for the car, and I'm pretty certain I couldn't afford it if I did.

    Of course, that's not to say that those of you who've bought DAB players were wrong; you just had a bit more emotional capital invested in listening to the radio than the rest of us.

  37. paulc
    Stop

    the blindingly obvious...

    the receivers were stupidly expensive for no visible gain over existing FM... and as previously mentioned, the styling was crap...

    almost as if they were designed to fail in the market...

  38. Steve Green

    Regarding the year-on-year sales graph

    I've just received an email about my use of the year-on-year sales graph, and people are calling me "a liar" for using it, so here's the reply I've just sent to the person by email, which explains why it DOES show a failing format:

    The text in the article that's relevant to the graph is this bit:

    "One thing is certain: the UK can't carry on the way it's been going.

    Digital radio's year-on-year sales growth fell off a cliff the moment the

    BBC stopped its "DABaganda" TV ad campaign in the run-up to Christmas 2005,

    and sales growth has continued to slide ever since."

    which says "Digital radio's year-on-year sales growth fell off a cliff".

    The relevance of the year-on-year sales growth graph is that there are

    120m - 150m devices that contain FM, and there have only been 6.5m DAB

    receivers sold so far. Therefore, unless there is a reasonably high level of

    sales growth, DAB will NEVER reach the target number of receivers sold. For

    example, if sales growth falls to zero, as the trend of that graph suggests

    will happen - unless the BBC kindly donates a loads more air-time for DAB

    adverts - the annual sales wouldn't increase year-on-year, and annual sales

    currentlys stands at 2m, so it would be 2m forever more if there was no

    growth, so it would take 57 years for DAB sales to reach 120m.

    Now, I don't know about you, but I happen to think that 57 years is too long

    to wait for DAB to replace FM."

  39. Richard Gadsden
    Thumb Up

    Satellite radio

    XM and Sirius are light-years ahead of DAB, and have the coverage problem cracked for in-car radio, which is the killer-app for radio.

    If you're driving, you can't look at pictures; that's why radio is so good.

  40. Chris Miller

    Just my 2p

    For years you couldn't buy a DAB radio for under £100. Now you can get them for £20, a change which seems (to me anyway) to have happened quite suddenly and relatively recently. I'm in a marginal reception area, so I get a bit of mud, but it's better than FM.

    Now if the Beeb could just fix the 2.5sec delay, which is really annoying as I move from a room with DAB to one with FM. If ClassicFM can do it, why not auntie?

  41. Dan Maudsley
    Dead Vulture

    Fan DABby

    I really have no complaints about DAB, owning two sets and a portable, which I listen to regularly. I like the choice of stations available and the ease of tuning.

    On another point, the BBC doesn't advertise DAB as the only way of receiving digital radio. It goes out of its way to point out the many different ways you can listen. Eg, the Five Live stab "On DAB digital radio, digital TV, downloads and online, this is 5 Live". Pretty comprehensive, wouldn't you say?

    To assert that OFCOM/the BBC/the Government should have waited for DAB+/Internet radio/direct telepathy is an argument that can always be made. Whichever technology is adopted, there will always be something better 'just around the corner'. In the end you just have to pick a moment to adopt what's available and go for it. I'd say DAB's been a success. Sure there are now better technologies out there but DAB does the job and it'll serve its purpose until we all move on to whatever the next standard becomes. Register or no Register.

  42. Red Bren
    Unhappy

    Upgrade Fatigue?

    "What Ofcom is scared of is that if DAB+ stations were launched today there would be complaints from a few luddites who think technology should stand still forever"

    Is it "luddite" to refuse to upgrade when the replacement gadget costs significantly more than the original, yet delivers no discernable improvement in quality, or possibly even a reduction? The benefits of DAB over FM are nowhere near as obvious as FM over AM or DVD over VHS.

    Is it "luddite" to want to wait to see if a technology is stable and successful rather than rushing out to buy the next betamax? The colour TV my parents bought in the early 70s was still going strong in the late 80s. The "HD Ready" digital TV I bought last year might already be obsolete if OFCOM won't allow HD over the existing DVB network. My £10, 10 year old FM clock radio still does the job I bought it for. Can I expect the £60 replacement DAB model to still work in 2018? Why upgrade in such a climate?

    Moore's law may apply to technology, but it doesn't apply to people's wages and most people will not part with their hard earned cash to replace perfectly serviceable equipment for something that offers little perceived benefit and a probable shorter lifespan. And this holds true for DAB, HDTV, Blu-Ray, etc.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Im rather sad.

    After reading all these comments i despair a little.

    First off lets get a few facts straight. Next time you are listening to DAB, go to Radio 3 (one of, if not the, highest quality sound stations on both FM and DAB). Press the info button and make a note of the bitrate.

    Usually about 192kbps.

    If you told anyone who enjoys listening to music and has a pretty nice hifi that this codec and bitrate was nearly as good as CD - they would laugh hysterically. I don't know what kind of radio some of you used on FM but I reckon you generally bought the cheapest set available before going on to DAB. Radio 3 on an average priced radio sounds superior than on DAB. I can tell the diference on my blix when i swtich between DAB and FM on radio 3 (If you have one - hook it up to you HiFi and try the same experiment - Oh and i have full signal strength on DAB). FM, by simple dint of the law of physics, for good to excellent signal strength, will produce better sound quality than DAB because at the current bitrates and codec used it cannot do it by it's own nature. Ask ANY sound engineer. Lower signal strengths, well then that depends on local interference and how much brake up you get on DAB compared to signal hiss on FM. DAB cannot compete with FM in terms of sound quality in a like for like - get over it.(Dont get me started on the tag lines CD QUALITY on Philips Radio boxes)

    So the sound quality is mute. Some of you get poor FM yet DAB is fine? THat is not any proof in the FM vs DAB debate. More in your location, the equipment you are using. Again BBC HYS mentality creeping in here.

    Some of you stated that you only here DAB bashing on the Reg, well I hear DAB bashing from lots of sources and aquaintences.

    Now, just before the flames come flooding in, im not a luddite. I like radio, I have DAB and analogue sets, most of my music is based on computer. WHen i first heard of DAB I was interested and looking forward to it. Then I got one, but couldnt receive the signal where I lived at the time but ok. Then I moved and could receive it and was quite dissapointed. But that's me. Personal thing. Sound quality EVEN IN MONO matters to me. Stereo has nothing to do with the quality of sound, just the perception. Most small stereo radios, the speakers are that close together any stereo seperation is lost anyway. (Listen to a Tivoli Model one - Mono can also be good).

    DAB+ would have been a better bet - plus more sets since a lot of Europe adopted it also meaning better choice and cheaper radios for all. By the way, GET OVER THE LOOK OF THE THING. the look of some radios (looking like 50's sets for example) has nothing to do with this debate. That is purely aesthetics.

    The only real show that i use DAB for is now BBC7. Again personal choice since all the other channels I want i can get on FM, the sound is better. If I could get that on FM then I would have no need at all for a DAB set. And that saddens me, because there is, properly implement, a real place for it. The comment on satellite radio i think is an apt one. Sooner or later, DAB will fail because it is doomed from the start, the technology is not up to the demands that will come about. I mean come on - streamed radio on the net being better than digital radio?? That should not be the case at all. There is no future for it as it stands. OFCOM are reprehensible for their part in this, that i am sure of, and nothing they have reported on or stated or done has really given me any confidence in their position of 'for the Public'.

    There is a place for analogue radio. There should always be too. Any comments on an FM switch off are not really thought out. From an emergency point of view - any national disaster, DAB infrastructure will be harder to keep going, yet alone the radios, whereas analogue is pretty resillient.

    This was a good article, and a lot of it is has been said by others not related to the reg. I have to say that a lot of you commenting haven't taken too much of an interest in this debate in the past and haven't tried to do even a little research. I ask that you do some now, on other sites, find out what others are saying too and consider the point that just because it provides what YOU need, doesn't make the points in the article any less valid. The rate of take up graph is interesting when you consider the penetration of sets per household compared with number of households. This is before we even get started on car radios.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB

    A similar graph of FM receiver sales would show a similar drop in sales so is FM a failing technology?

    Also if DAB is obsolete technology then what about FM which is 70 years old.

    If DAB+ was adopted then what are the chances that by the time the broadcasters get it in use then DAB++ or DAB+++ will have appeared and the same people will be calling DAB+ obsolete?

  45. SFAOK

    Four times?

    I glanced over the BBC PDF used to prove DAB is four times more expensive - all I can see is a table that say the direct cost of DAB for 07/08 is £6 million (+3.6 million for local transmission), £9.2 million for AM and £12.3 million for FM

    The whole article reads like someone with an axe to grind. There was a similar "DAB disaster-ton!" story about a month ago that had a "Thanks for you comments of agreement in my last story" opening with a link to said comments. In fact the thread seemed more pro-DAB than anti. It all makes it kind of hard to take the arguments seriously.

  46. David Bell
    Stop

    What's the point?

    FM Radio sound quality is good enough and has a certain 'Atmosphere' to it. Sometimes sound quality is not the only thing you want.

    Plus, I've been looking at buying one for a while but the majority of them that I've looked at don't play CDs or MP3s so it's radio only, a bit limiting me thinks.

    Add to that they just replicate existing radio station with a few commercial radio stations added (Double Glazing Anyone?) and Black and Asian music which for me is akin to having bamboo thrust under my fingernails, then I have to ask......

    What's the point!

  47. Hate2Register
    Flame

    What's your problem? Well, WHAT?

    If DAB is going to be superceeded, then I'll have to replace my mum's DAB, which will annoy me intensely. But it is already better than FM. Much. If anone disagrees with that, they probably still use FM, and are being pathologically loyal.

    The Reg has to go. I mean it. Sometimes you disrupt my sensitive and artistic peaceful calm. What is it with you guys?

  48. Jaster
    Stop

    DAB is bad but not as bad as all that ....

    A DAB radio in a fixed place on mains power works just fine thanks ....

    .. I know several people who are very happy with it

    But these people have a DAB radio and are not going to buy another one soon ... that's why the sales figures have fallen off - people who want one have it ...

    What's the sales of FM radios like ..?

    .. The problem with DAB is when you want it portable (use too much power, all or nothing reception)

    .. or in a car - Again all or nothing reception (or bubbling mud....)

    But how exactly will internet radio or freeview radio help this - both are non portable (over any useful distance) and cannot be used in cars ...

    The thee things that put me off buying DAB

    I already have freeview for fixed Digital Radio

    The portable radios are bulky, ugly and power hungry

    The In Car radios are still expensive and the decent coverage is patchy ...

    Satellite Radio - Well if the receivers are cheap, coverage is good, and not power hungry then yes they will do better than DAB ... but I doubt all the above will be true (hey will be expensive, ugly, power hungry, and won't work indoors ....)

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Concerted Dissing of DAB

    Wow, another dissing of DAB and this ones uses distorted statistics and dodgy graphs. 25 quid of subsidy per receiver, wow, that makes a great dent in my TV licence, thanks Beeb!

    Whilst I agree that a upgradeable route for DAB would have been preferable, the technology platform available back in 1999 might have had problems with that at a viable cost.

    Now it is quite possible to imagine receivers that can be updated over the air or maybe by plugging in a memory card.

    I suspect the biggest problem is that whenever I am sad enough to see a copy of the Sun or Daily Express, some idiot is saying "DAB is a failure, all your receivers are obsolete.. DAB+ will make your children weep and the sky fall". I think this makes OFCOM (like all government agencies in the UK these days) very conservative and afeared to do anything sensible.

    This is where I agree with the article.. a planned evolution to DAB+ with the current core of channels staying on DAB would work well. C4 could have been asked to launch partially on DAB and partially on DAB+.

    But, this isn't PC and Internet.. fucking up a format (like Minidisc and DCC or the Bluray/HD-DVD war) can kill a new technology stillborn in the world of real world white goods and the older demographic who really like DAB and Freeview.

  50. Gary F

    DAB won't replace FM in vehicles

    DAB isn't up to the job of replacing FM in cars, vans and lorries. That's about 25 million sales DAB won't get. Error correction can't cope with the constantly changing quality of reception as vehicles move past all sorts of objects that affect the signal.

    My solution is DAB++ which can be backward compatible with DAB. It can transmit a channel twice on different frequencies about 3 seconds apart. DAB++ receivers can replace missing or corrupt data in the first transmission from that in the second transmission.

    Until quality is improved all of my cars will continue to have FM radios.

  51. BeachBoy
    Unhappy

    Multicast

    I have in recent years worked in technical sales for two of the global big 5 Backbone providers. Eight or so years ago they started to Multicast enable their networks. However neither of them launched Multicast as a product/service simply because they couldn´t figure out how to make money out of it in an environment where the cost per megabit was falling.

    Yes it enables them to save bandwidth on the backbone, but at the moment they are charging content providers per MB for the high bandwidth connection to the servers, which they would lose. The little ISP´s whine that their backbones are clogged with streaming data. But someone is still paying to put that data on a netowrk somewhere in the first place.

  52. Paul M.
    Thumb Up

    DAB == 8-track

    What a lot of DAB fanboys. Maybe they only ever listen to low bitrate talk radio?

    DAB is now obsolete, and conning the public into buying 8-track cartridges when the rest of the world has moved on really is a scandal.

    Good article, long overdue.

  53. Steve Green

    Re: Four times?

    See page 48:

    "Increasing coverage further to levels similar to those of FM radio may cost the BBC up to £40m per annum, as the number of transmitters would need to be increased to approximately 1000."

    Then add £3.6m for the BBC's local DAB stations - total = £43.6m. Then look at the table, which shows that FM costs £12.3m per annum, and that's for all of the BBC's FM stations.

    And as for the other thread, I read that, and as I recall it most comments were against DAB.

  54. Paul Jaggard
    Boffin

    @Gary F, DAB won't replace FM in vehicles

    Your idea to help vehicle reception by broadcasting the signal on two different frequencies is all very well, except for the minor detail that DAB already does something like that - the DAB signal is actually broadcast on (I think) 1536 different subcarriers, making it much more resilient to multipath interference (eg: signals bouncing off buildings as you drive by) than FM.

    Of course, doesn't help hugely if the signal strength is weak to start with because it's too expensive to put up transmitters to fill the holes...

  55. Matthew Leathes
    Pirate

    not very green

    I like digital radio but am put off buying a DAB radio because of the vast amount of power they use in comparison to an analogue radio.

    It's going to be very difficult to keep to any kind of energy emissions targets when we're encouraging everyone to go out and buy digital tvs and digital radios, both of which consume several times the power of their analogue counterparts.

  56. richard
    Unhappy

    crickey

    has steve green had the tv detector van-man knocking on his door then? calm down dear, it's just a DAB advert...if you really want to talk about the BBC wasting money - let's have a watch of 'reality tv z rate celebrity dancing on ice' type show, not that's enough to get the readers angry....

  57. Steve Todd
    Unhappy

    £25 per receiver is another example of the reality distortion field

    IF the BBC had to pay commercial advertising rates for the DAB adds that they had included in the padding between programs THEN is would have cost £25 per receiver (and that's using Mr. Green's other reality distortion number of 6.5 million sets. Elsewhere, on his own website, you find that more than 10 million sets have been sold to date).

    As the adds are padding they cost the Beeb next to nothing (it's not like they're allowed to sell the time, and the space needs to be filled somehow).

    Transmission charges are another area where the numbers seem dubious. Current multiplexes are transmitting about 10 channels each (splitting the costs 10 ways). How many channels (excluding pirates) can you receive on FM? Mostly less than 10. You need only one frequency for a national multiplex (how many frequencies does, say, one BBC national FM station use?).

    Lack of stations? There are currently over 300 stations broadcasting on a mix of national, regional and local DAB multiplexes.

    Getting Ofcom to commit to a schedule to migrate to DAB+ is one thing, but most of the rest of this article is pure organic fertilizer.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    FM radio sales?

    "If sales growth falls to zero, as the trend of that graph suggests will happen - unless the BBC kindly donates a loads more air-time for DAB

    adverts - the annual sales wouldn't increase year-on-year, and annual sales currentlys stands at 2m, so it would be 2m forever more if there was no growth, so it would take 57 years for DAB sales to reach 120m.

    Does anyone have comparative year-on-year figures for sales of FM radios for the first 10 years after the first BBC FM broadcast in 1955? I suspect they were substantially lower than sales of DAB radios in the 10 years since the first BBC DAB broadcast.

  59. Steve Green

    @Steve Todd

    "Mr. Green's other reality distortion number of 6.5 million sets. Elsewhere, on his own website, you find that more than 10 million sets have been sold to date)."

    DAB sales were 6.5m the last time I saw any figures on it, which was post-Christmas. You definitely will not find me saying 10m DAB sales anywhere on my website.

    "Transmission charges are another area where the numbers seem dubious."

    A multiplex costs £X to transmit per year, so if 3x times as many stations transmitted on the multiplex the transmission costs per station would be x/3. Not that I'm suggesting that they should cram 3x as many stations on though, because they should improve the audio quality first.

    "As the adds are padding they cost the Beeb next to nothing"

    That's not the point - the point is that DAB has failed to sell well despite having masses of TV advertising lavished on it, and if it were a commercial format the plug would have been pulled by now because you can't just keep throwing money at something when the public are resisting buying it.

    "Lack of stations? There are currently over 300 stations broadcasting on a mix of national, regional and local DAB multiplexes."

    People can only listen to the radio in one place, so how many transmit across the entire country is irrelevant.

  60. Evil Graham
    Stop

    Calm down "green" Matthew

    Digital TVs don't use "several times" the power of their analogue counterparts.

    Presumably you are talking about LCD and Plasma vs. CRT technology (as opposed to a CRT TV with a digital tuner in it, which is also a "digital TV").

    In many cases, particularly with modern LCD technology, these TVs use less power than an equivalent-sized CRT (although obviously there was an upper size limit for CRTs so you can't always compare). They also weigh a lot less and are easier to recycle at the end of their lives.

    Radios, I don't know so much about them. Perhaps someone else can comment.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...dancing on ice...

    Mmmmm Holly.

    She could sell me a DAB radio any time.

  62. Allan Hack-Barr
    Paris Hilton

    Ebay bargains of the future ...

    Introduction of DAB is a classic case of technological determinism. It might help kill air-broadcast radio but it won't take over from FM in a million years.

    DAB will never achieve the level of market share to replace the competition, because it does not address the needs of a significant proportion of listeners. It is not usefully mobile, and cannot service those who still listen to radio in preference to the plethora of alternative audio sources. In between things like high-bitrate mp3s, podcasts and internet streaming radio (DRM aside), DAB falls sadly short of two things FM excels at - being easy to tune into with a low-cost device and the potential for high quality sound.

    There is not yet, and probably never will be, a tiny DAB receiver that will work on a beach, a bus or in your pocket, at all or for a reasonable length of time - not startling miniaturisation, after all there was all this for FM way back in the 1970s. DAB is apparently never going to work properly in the car, or at all for 10% of the population. The boxes won't get much smaller, or cheaper, or more economical, as potential sales won't justify the development and production costs. Do they have DAB in China?

    Quite likely many people are tempted, even me, even now, to buy one: personally I quite like the idea and it's certainly an interesting gadget - blue LED displays and an audio transducer as well as radio 4 (sometimes). I am not overly concerned about the lack of sound quality, as I would mostly listen to talk and over ambient noise. However I would find it really difficult to justify the spend on what, with its dwindling market share, is rapidly becoming a niche for late/early adopters and curiosity collectors; as well as the evidence of the German experience it just seems fairly obvious by now that the whole DAB phenomenon is on a one-way trip along the way of 8-track, Betamax, HD-DVD et al.

    Paris because she is dumb enough and rich enough to buy one.

  63. Steve Todd
    Stop

    @Steve Green

    "DAB sales were 6.5m the last time I saw any figures on it, which was post-Christmas. You definitely will not find me saying 10m DAB sales anywhere on my website."

    Want to dial down the BS? See http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/articles/Annual-DAB-sales-50-below-forecast.php on your own web site and dated October 2007. 6.5 million was the number of sets sold as of the start of 2007.

    "A multiplex costs £X to transmit per year, so if 3x times as many stations transmitted on the multiplex the transmission costs per station would be x/3. Not that I'm suggesting that they should cram 3x as many stations on though, because they should improve the audio quality first."

    You've proved that you can reduce transmission charges, not that the current charges are uneconomic. Two different things entirely. DAB is cheaper than FM to broadcast on because, even though the hardware is more expensive, you share the costs between multiple broadcasters. Radio spectrum is also an expensive commodity, and DAB is much more frugal on that front too.

    "That's not the point - the point is that DAB has failed to sell well despite having masses of TV advertising lavished on it, and if it were a commercial format the plug would have been pulled by now because you can't just keep throwing money at something when the public are resisting buying it."

    The public are currently buying about 2.5 million DAB sets per year. More than 50% of all radio sets on retailer shelves currently have DAB. Sales per month are still increasing. That doesn't much look like the public resisting to me.

    "People can only listen to the radio in one place, so how many transmit across the entire country is irrelevant."

    Most people have access to less than 10 FM stations. DAB gives them 15 national (with 10 more due this year), plus regional and local stations. In London the mix currently equates to more than 60 stations. Not much choice?

  64. Steve Todd

    @Allan Hack-Barr

    "There is not yet, and probably never will be, a tiny DAB receiver that will work on a beach, a bus or in your pocket, at all or for a reasonable length of time - not startling miniaturisation"

    What, like this one? http://www.pure.com/products/product.asp?Product=VL-60799&Category=On%20The%20Move or is 24 hours DAB playback on a charge not good enough for you?

    "DAB is apparently never going to work properly in the car"

    So the fact that I can drive from one end of the country to the other with nothing but the occasional fallback to FM is a figment of my imagination?

    "The boxes won't get much smaller, or cheaper, or more economical,"

    They're already small, cheap and economical. ASDA will currently sell you a DAB set for less than £25. When the supermarkets move in then you know that a product is mainstream.

  65. alyn

    DAB was designed for mobile use

    It uses a single frequency network (SFN). The idea is that you add fill-in transmitters which re-inforce the signal.(ON FM this would cause multipath problems.) BUT---the BBC has never installed any fill-in transmitters, so it's useless as a mobile medium.

  66. Luther Blissett

    Emperor's new clothes

    The fairy tale tells us is that lots of people were very happy with the emperor's new clothes before the little boy squeaked up, and that in the course of time they all came to agree with him - but not what people did in between. Nor the fate of the little boy. I suspect he may have been seriously abused.

  67. Steve
    Thumb Up

    DAB in-car?

    A quick check on Amazon shows both Sony and Blaupunkt DAB car radios. My wife's Opel has a connector for the official DAB adaptor.

    Bummer that here in France DAB was short-range L-band, limited to a couple of pockets around Paris and Lyon and so never took off. If I were back in the UK I'd not buy a car radio without it.

  68. duncan wood
    Go

    Sound Quality

    Given the only FM station I can receive where there's an audible difference in sound quality on a decent receiver is Radio 3 & that's hardly the most popular radio station in the country then it seems unlikely that the quality is preventing people buying DAB.

    & the Pure Highway has better reception than any FM station everywhere I've driven recently.

  69. Steve Green

    @Steve Todd

    "Want to dial down the BS? See http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/articles/Annual-DAB-sales-50-below-forecast.php on your own web site and dated October 2007. 6.5 million was the number of sets sold as of the start of 2007."

    Look at the top of the graph you're referring to, it says "by year end". So you're claiming that they were the sales at the start of the year, when they were actually the sales at the end of the year.

    "You've proved that you can reduce transmission charges, not that the current charges are uneconomic."

    Don't take it from me, take it from GCap:"The Board of GCap Media believes that DAB, with its current cost structure and infrastructure, is not an economically viable growth platform for GCap Media."

    DAB's current cost structures are that it costs over £1m per annum to transmit a 128 kbps station nationally on DAB. That's why theJazz, Capital Life and BFBS ALL closed down on the Digital One multiplex two days ago, and that's why Planet Rock has just got one month to find a buyer or it will also be closed down.

    "The public are currently buying about 2.5 million DAB sets per year. More than 50% of all radio sets on retailer shelves currently have DAB. Sales per month are still increasing. That doesn't much look like the public resisting to me."

    DAB sales were 2.07m last year, not 2.5m. And there's a graph of DAB's sales growth on the first page of this article - the problem is DAB isn't growing quickly enough - 18% year-on-year growth last year overall, which is diabolical when there's 120m+ receivers that need to be replaced. DAB is never going to get to the finish line, basically.

  70. Phil
    Thumb Up

    DAB in my car for <£200

    I installed a car DAB/FM/CD/MP3 unit with an external aerial for under £200 and I am more than happy with it. I travel 20000+ miles/year and listen to the DAB radio most of the time. It has never been annoying, and it has been one of the best technology gadgets I have bought in recent years. It has eliminated the problems I had with such stations as Radio5 and TalkSport where the MW/AM signal was variable and noisey.

  71. Ed Cooper

    DAB has issues

    mainly the quality, bring back the bit rate and it would help things. I Think it would be better waiting for DAB++ which should integrate 'podcasting' i'd like to see portable devices with storage capture radio programmes seamlessly, that would be worth investing money into. Could even be useful in the car.

    That graph is outrageous. The register should be ashamed.

    You can't really tell what its showing but if you decipher it its something like

    100 000 units 2003

    200 000 units 2004

    360 000 units 2005

    470 000 units 2006

    Thats units sold in that year not the number purchased accumulative. You can't expect to sell an every increasing number every year, there are only so many people.

    This guy should get a job with the government, i'm pretty sure you could make the ipod look like a failed product with that graphing technique.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    We missing the point?

    I think that the point is being missed. It is not Digital Radio as a whole that is being slated.

    My comment on audio quality was to make the point that off the cuff remarks stating that DAB just sounds better is not based in fact, and to try and take that non-issue out of the debate. This isnt an FM vs DAB debate, more the point that the DAB implementation in this country was severely flawed.

    Im all for Digital Radio, both on DAB+ and DRM (Digital Radio Mondial - the ability to receive stations at greater distances with better quality than traditional AM has amazing possibilities). But what some of you are not realising is that they are pushing something that has been obsolete from very early on. Obsolete in the way that disc cameras were. They were easy to use and load but in the end there were other offerings which better quality that were more widely taken up.

    I understand that you can say that any technology is outdated but the fact is how old is the MP3 codec? Yet still, at a decent enough bitrate, is perfectly listenable to. Just because it suits you doesn't mean it still has a future. As was mentioned, the infrastructure has the ability to trasmit on differing codecs and bitrates, so to stifle the introduction of DAB+ is crazy and self defeating.

    The one and only thing I will miss, and wouldnt want to lose FM for, is the fact it is a resillient and reliable way of mass communication. AM more so, yes it sounds crap for music and in our densely populated country is not really needed but in vast, relatively unpopulated areas it is vital for news, weather, etc. Look at the States in this regard.

    Digital Radio has a future, DAB does not as far as I can see...

  73. This post has been deleted by its author

  74. Robert E A Harvey

    Battery life

    DAB is too power hungry for portables. My sony reciever gets through a set of 4xAA batteries in a day and a half. The similar size (and sound) Roberts analogue set would last nearly 4 weeks on the same.

    Look at Mr Bayliss' wind-up set. 3 minutes of winding gives 30 minutes of FM reception. 3 minutes of winding gives 6 minutes of DAB

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @Evil Graham re DAB power consumption (vs TV???)

    Writes about TVs and then says "Radios, I don't know so much about them." Then maybe you should do some research before writing?

    There are plenty of wind-up radios around these days, including some DAB ones. Do the research. If you do the research you'll find that the playing time on FM is typically something like five times the playing time on DAB. Doh!

    I don't know whythis is, I admit I haven't done the research :)

    An analogue FM receiver is a relatively small and simple piece of silicon these days and a DAB receiver is always going to be complex in comparison, it isn't ever going to be as simple as an FM receiver (though why a DAB receiver couldn't be as simple and efficient as (say) a Psion 3 is a bit of a puzzle to me; are these guys all using Intel Inside? I know it's not an x86/Windows box but whatever it does have inside, it seems unreasonably power-hungry).

    In an FM receiver at reasonable volume, by far the heaviest power use is to drive the speaker. Given their comparative run times, the digital electronics in a DAB unit must be using as much as, if not more than, the output stages driving the speaker are using. Doesn't matter in a car, does matter when away from power supplies.

    As they say at Eurovision, null points.

  76. Tony Paulazzo
    Coat

    Dab is dead

    Long live Dab... Actually I only ever listen to the radio in the car, so I could give a fcuk - but Ofcomm:

    >Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries< (their home page).

    So how comes where I live (somewhere in West Yorkshire - yay me), cable doesn't exist for me - probably for ever, (and freeview won't be here until 2011 - a seperate whinge), so if I want broadband I have to get a BT line; doesn't matter who I want to go with, I have to have a BT landline first, even with Sky. Where's the competition in that?

    When British Telecoms was a government owned body it was bad, but now, as a cash sucking corporation, willing to sell my details to anyone with a shady past (whilst Virgin are doing the same to anyone who dares not be a BT customer), things are starting to really go 1984.

    What happened to the British Isle and its respect for the individual? Welcome to the 21st century... Burn baby, burn.

  77. Mark Powell
    Stop

    I'm so BORED of this arguing about DAB

    Personally, I think the sound quality of DAB is awful, but it does allow AM only stations e.g. Virgin, TalkSport, 5 Live to be at least listenable in the evening in those parts of the country that aren't very near an AM power-tower.

    I've got 3 DAB radios, but they're all usually switched into the FM mode because the only half-decent station in the Manchester area is FM only.

    Whatever happens with radio technology in the future, I'm definitely not interested and I certainly won't be wasting any more money on this guff. Yes, and I do have a perfectly good CRT "lo-def" TV which won't be getting "upgraded" any time soon either.

    I think there is a silent majority out there who simply will not spend any money on DAB+ sets, however hard people try and push it. The buck stops with DAB.

    They had their chance, they blew it. I presume FM has no switch-over date because 88-108 MHz is not prime government real-estate. Either way, it suits me. FM forever!

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is nothing wrong with DAB

    Any radio that my 70+ year old mother can easily use, retune to any one of a multitude of channels, set the alarm and wake up to Radio 4 in a morning without any pops whistles and fading has to be a winner. As for the sound quality, then like TV and recorded audio just about every step over the past 25 years has been a step backwards, so why should DAB be any different? Digital everything is nasty, always was and always will be when you have bean counters in charge of the bandwidth or are tied to a "standard" like CD. Digital TV is pathetic and CD's have always sounded dire, but DAB IMHO falls just into the acceptable category. But at the end of the day it's "progress"

  79. Julian

    @ Steve Green. Regarding the year-on-year sales graph

    Your argument is still skewed!

    150 million other devices represents something like 3 per person of sufficient age to own a device (or something like 7.5+ per household) and this has been achieved over many years, nearly 50 in my case. Presumably lots of these are just gathering dust anyway.

    At 10 to 20% growth, there is the compound effect to take into account, therefore sales would not be static at 2 million which still represents at least a 10% to 20% uptake per household. anyway.

    Using your graph and statistics, how many households/individuals do you consider already have DAB radios?

  80. Chris Parsons

    I do have a DAB car radio

    Not bragging, honestly! It is, however, virtually useless and until this is fixed, for me and many others, DAB can never be mainstream. I live in rural West Sussex and get ok reception, in places, but it drops out a lot. However, driving along from Chichester to Woking, hardly a 'back of beyond' route, the signal drops out so many times as to be unlistenable. I invariably choose fm now when I'm driving.

    As for DAB in general, when it works, it's ok. At best, on the high bitrate stations (eg R3), it's not bad at all, but I would seriously doubt that it was better than good FM. As regards the time signal problem, I wonder how this can be fixed. The radio receives all stations at once and then presents you with your choice through software decoding, so this is dependent upon the power of the processor. I have 3 digital radios, all presenting their output with differing delays.

  81. Steve Green

    @Julian Regarding the year-on-year sales graph

    Re the number of FM devices: the 120m - 150m figure I quoted was Ofcom's estimate of the number of FM devices that are *in-use*.

    Re growth: the trend of that graph is downwards all the way from Jan 2006 when the BBC stopped showing its TV ads, so if DAB didn't receive a load more TV adverts the growth would fall to zero and then it would turn negative. Negative growth means annual sales would fall each year.

  82. kulibar tree
    Thumb Down

    BBC Greedy and Cynical (what else is knew?)

    I agree with Ben (somewhere further back on this page) - good quality FM is better than DAB: my 20 year old Quad FM4 tuner knocks the spots off the Cambridge tuner I bought a couple of years ago.

    However, I'd argue that the main reason is that the BBC has been too greedy and cynical in the the number of stations it transmits, meaning a lower bitrate all round.

    R3 may be at 192kbps at the moment, but it periodically has to share its bandwidth with R5, when the bitrate drops alarmingly.

    Too many of its stations are in mono - and these are are supposed to be for discerning, specialist music fans?

    The World Service sounds horribly boxy, as if it's coming down a long corridor.

    But the worst was making R7 mono only - the website cynically says, oh, that's OK 'cause most of the stuff was recorded in mono anyway, which isn't really true: since the 1980s at least, almost all R4 output has been in stereo.

    DAB really could have been OK, but it's been implemented by people with cloth ears.

  83. Allan Hack-Barr
    Happy

    @Steve Todd, @Roger Shone

    These devices

    (http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2007/08/17/cowon_iaudio_d2/ and

    http://www.pure.com/products/product.asp?Product=VL-60799&Category=On%20The%20Move )

    are both very tasty - but they are not equivalent to a cheap transistor radio that you could leave on the beach and expect to come back to. A splash of seawater, drop it on a rock or get it pinched; you'd be £100 down instead of something less than a fiver. But I might also refrain from buying one of them because it looked like the whole DAB thing was going down the pan.

    Sure, you CAN get tiny and portable DAB players, but they are nowhere near as cheap, as economical to run, or as robust in form or function as a little FM radio, and never will be. I am sure there is a bright future for digital radio, but DAB looks pretty doomed to me - not enough, too soon, and this in itself will limit the market, even if there isn't any direct competitor as was the case with HD-DVD for instance. If it walks like a condemned duck, etc ...

    And Steve Todd, I don't wish to accuse you of being a DAB apologist, and I am happy for you that your experience of mobile reception is unusually excellent, but there are plenty of other DAB users who find the situation unacceptable.

  84. VulcanV5
    Unhappy

    Calm down, dear, calm down. It's only a. . . radio.

    C'mon folks. Were Steve to publish a graph showing the number of Internet postings about DAB by a unique author in one year compared with the number of DAB sets bought by a unique purchaser in one year, it'd likely show that less than 1% of the UK population gives a toss about the technical merits, or otherwise, of digital audio broadcasting in its current form. . .

    Still less has a clue about it.

    The uptake of DAB radio purchases didn't occur because the majority of people investigated the technological pros and cons way back when and then finally bought when the cost-benefit equation came into balance.

    They bought when they happened to be in their local supermarket and some junk set was available at thirty quid and they thought hey, we remember when there was talk of these DAB-whatever things costing over two hundred quid, gosh, wow, let's have one of these now -- in exactly the same way that when the price of digital cameras came down, people who couldn't tell an F stop from a bus stop thought, hey, we remember when there was talk of these pixie-thingummies costing a fortune, let's splash out fifty quid now.

    And so they go home with a tinny DAB radio or a digital camera that produces truly lousy pictures from a plastic lens and 2Mp processor but hey, who cares? Unless post-purchase costs are sufficient to overcome post-purchase justification -- and it's costs which is what all this is about, not MP2, 3, 4, or 57 -- then they'll be happy with what they have and happy enough to recommend same.

    Enthusiasts may well believe these buyers have actually short-changed themselves, and contend that where DAB's concerned there's a world of difference between a twenty quid Techsonwanoo and a two hundred quid Pure Evoke 3.

    But what enthusiasts think doesn't actually matter. It's what the mass audience thinks pre- and post-purchase.

    Our family has no use for DAB in current form because we know one day it'll be superceded (though whether we'll even want it then is a moot point.)

    We do know, however, that our elderly parents -- fairly typical of mass audience purchasers -- have already decided that one DAB purchase is enough: as my father said, "the damn thing eats batteries, it's like buying one of them cheap printers and then finding that an ink cartridge costs more than the bloody printer."

    So when the topic of DAB crops up amongst their circle -- and it only does when a friend or neighbour pops in and sees the new portable in their kitchen and says, "is that one of those DAB thingies then?" -- our parents don't talk about bit rates or multiplexing or, well, anything at all: just the cost of the bloody batteries. And so their friends go off and tell their friends and progressively there develops a significant section of the community which says hey, we're not made of money, let's stay with our little FM portable.

    Does this mean DAB is dead? No. It merely means it's a technology that most people don't understand but which will, like any other technology, be adopted, or rejected, on the basis of anecdotal evidence about running costs and user benefit.

    Unless our family circle is absolutely untypical -- and I don't think it is -- then I'm not surprised DAB sales are plateauing: audio enthusiasts who were going to buy have already done so; general users who were going to buy have already done so and their opinions are percolating through the rest of the population.

    DAB will trundle on until whatever incarnation comes next. It isn't dead but to many, it isn't exactly alive either.

    But then, it's just a radio, not an issue. And in the scale of things, of so little interest to so many that it's hardly worth getting hot under the collar about, on this thread or anywhere else.

  85. Neil Hoskins

    @VulcanV5

    As far as I'm concerned, you're right, and I'm not hot under the collar about DAB, Operating Systems, shiny feature phones, or any other technology. What does get me hot under the collar, though, is people stomping all over netiquette, statistics, and simple manners, to further their own agenda/obsession.

  86. VulcanV5
    Thumb Up

    @ Neil Hoskins

    100% agreed, Neil!

  87. Sparkypatrick
    Heart

    DAB quality

    Firstly, as a declaration of bias, I should say that I currently have 3 DAB radios in a 5 room flat. Long live 6Music!

    'Bubbling mud' is not a sound quality issue, it's a question of signal strength. You may well be able to fix this by changing the aerial. Many DAB radios have an input for an external aerial or will allow ou to unscrew the extendable aerial. Anything with a satellite-type connector can thgen be screwed on.

    The Vinyl/CD analogy is actually quite good, apart from the misapprehension that CD sound quality is better. It isn't. The advantage of CD is that you lose the hiss and crackle caused by dust and wear. Similarly, with digital radio (assuming a proper signal), you lose the interference that FM is subject to. That doesn't make the underlying sound quality any better.

    DAB does use more power, but you can mitigate this for portable use by having a unit that does not continually display any of the data that accompanies the audio. I had a Hitachi (stereo) in the bathroom that continuously displayed track data, etc. and ate it's way through 6 'C' cell batteries (rechargeable, by the way). When it died, I replaced it with a cheap (mono) Alba set from a supermarket. It shuts down the display unless you press button ands lasts appreciably longer on just 4 'C' cells. And I really can't tell the difference in sound quality when in the shower!

  88. Phil the Geek

    New role for Steve Green?

    I hear DAB radio as background music every day. It's absolutely fine and it just works.

    The graph at the top of the article is as everyone else has pointed out, grossly misleading. Shame on you Reg - we don't expect spin from you! 20% annual sales growth in a maturing technology market is just fine.

    Is Steve Green in training for a role as a BT/Phorm spokeperson?

  89. Jolyon

    Love DAB

    Have four DAB radios in the house and one portable.

    Quality is fine.

  90. Trygve
    Unhappy

    @Phil the Geek

    >20% annual sales growth in a maturing technology market is just fine.

    But not 20% _and declining_ when only about a fifth of households (and very few workplaces) in the country have a digital radio. I never listen to radio other than on a cheapo FM clock radio, so I couldn't give a toss about the technical merits.

    What I do give a toss about is that the BBC appears to be spending as much to support a handful of DAB radios as it does to support analogue radios (which are found in pretty much every home, car, building site, shop, mobile phone and £10 MP3 player in the country) - moreover, it seems happy for this situation to continue until hell freezes over. It's bad enough having to fund endless reality TV shows and worthless "talent contests" for the BBC- now I have to subsidise all the enthusiasts for Betamax radio as well?

  91. Nano nano

    For better or worse ...

    Having read this item last night (and being engineering type too) saw a Sony battery/mains DAB (-only) in nearby Sainburys for £30, and thought, "what the hell - good make, Sony".

    Well it works fine (on mains) and BBC7 (80kbps) was great fun must admit. Signal at 99/100 at the B&B in rural Yorkshire, and no bubbling mud yet, though I have heard that effect at a friend's house near Hursley, Hants.

    R4 (128kbps) and R3 (192kbps) seem OK for the money too. (Wouldn't have minded pause/mem card feature on the set, but hey ...)

    Good S/N, but still picks up mobile phone incoming ring interference - as do most electrical appliances ...

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Expect better from El Reg

    I like The Register's reporting - often taking 'facts' and figures being bandied about and demolishing them with a combination of common sense, healthy scepticism and a decent level of intelligence.

    I would have expected better of the Reg than using that graph in the article to drive a story about the format failing. It shows the format is currently *growing* by around 20% a year, and at times has had annual growth of over 150%.

    Certainly DAB has its problems - it's stuck using a less-than state-of-the-art technology with no upgrade path (as is FM, of course), but the fundamental one is that it's too costly for the broadcasters - and that's mainly the fault of the transmission companies charging a fortune for data circuits and kit. Someone please tell these guys that price of bandwidth has fallen a bit since the 1990s.

    Cost alone is behind most of DAB's problems - if it costs more to run an extra DAB transmitter than a broadcaster will ever make back in extra revenue, and it's not something being demanded by the listener or mandated by the government, why should it invest? Audio quality is easily improved by upping the bitrates, but this costs - and the cost is disproportionate to the benefit: only one (very vocal) guy on the internet seems to actively object at the moment.

    At least we can be thankful the graph showing Estonia leading the way in DAB didn't get regurgitated.

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Statistics.... Statistics

    There is nothing wrong with the graph used to show a reduction in sales growth, it has been used because it supports the authors beliefs just as the DAB industry always uses the figures that best support their beliefs. Just a fact of life and marketing.

    Funny thing is though Mr Green is happy to criticise others when they are 'selective' with statistics then goes and does the same thing himself. Interesting too that he felt it necessary to start a new newgroup thread promoting his article - Publicity seeking? Never!!

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB offerings are overpriced shit!

    I was in the market for a DAB radio a few months ago so I went off and did my homework. I visited all the retailers; Dixons, Curry's, Comet, PC-World etc. I checked out Ebay and other online vendors and the conclusion I came to? It's all overpriced for-over-function shit.

    I eventually plumped for a dual-speaker wooden cased DAB from Tesco's own brand (Technica). It has all the features I was looking for and was reasonably priced at about £30.

    What I couldn't understand was that for all the claims of superior sound quality was that most of the higher-end systems has single speakers. They also boasted features like recording / playback from SD cards, USB connectivity etc. I had to laugh when I saw the prices. £200 for an E.Voke Pure or whatever it was called. £200? I'm sorry but for a single speaker system that's a joke, regardles of all the other accoutrements that might go with it.

    Like someone else said; change the FM receivers they're stuffing into mobiles and MP3 players and you might see some adoption. Keep charging £200 for a stereo system with one speaker and it'll continue to be seen as a níche toy.

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