back to article Blighty's great digital radio switchover targets missed AGAIN

The digital radio revolution is taking place regardless of the uptake of DAB, according to Ofcom's annual digital radio report (PDF). Home penetration of DAB receivers has still not reached 50 per cent and sales of DAB receivers in Britain – including car audio systems – has fallen from 2.2 million in Q1 2008 to 1.9 million in …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    The future of radio is in some form of radio-on-demand. Folk can already download podcasts to listen to at their convenience. Unless you want to hear the news or live reports such as traffic updates there is no need to tune into the local radio.

    One note of caution though, if you already have a radio show you can expect a better response to your approaches than a podcast only outfit. For example I doubt that 'One Life Left', a radio show about computer games on Resonance 104.4FM, would get the same input from the industry if they operated as podcast only.

    1. Annihilator

      Almost - you can get *some* podcasts (minus music) of radio shows, but there is still a vast wealth out there that isn't available yet. I'd love to listen to more Radio 4 shows (It's Not What You Know being a cracking example), but it has only been available as one-off guest appearances on the Comedy of the Week podcast, or streaming live. Through the majority of my drive, I don't have anything like a good enoug mobile connection to stream, although I've certainly tried.

      My only outlet so far has been getting it through "illicit" places such as the now defunct thebox. My primary option now is taping it! Barely a 20th century solution...

      1. En_croute

        Have a look at Radio Downloader from nerdoftheherd.com

        RSS & Any streamed/available BBC radio show - Small PC app: series link & future schedule link.

        Excellent stuff.

        1. Len Goddard

          Not any more

          The BBC provider plugin for RadioDownloader has been removed ... at the request of the BBC.

          get_iplayer still works and generally downloads better quality material than the official BBC podcasts.

      2. Heathroi
        Pint

        thebox (sigh) and before that UKnova.......

  2. Andrew Oakley

    Cost

    A DAB radio costs 25 quid and eats a set of 4 AA batteries before 9 hours of listening.

    A mechanically-tuned FM radio costs 3 quid and a set of 2 AA batteries lasts longer than 24 hours of listening.

    A digitally-tuned analogue-signal FM-RDS radio costs 15 quid, has all the pushbutton/auto-tune functionality of DAB and still lasts more than 24 hours on 4 AA batteries.

    A mechanically-tuned AM-MW/LW radio will last 96 hours or more constant listening on a pair of AA batteries!

    If Kerrang was still on FM in the Midlands, I don't think I'd bother with DAB at all.

    I do find myself listening to a lot of BBC World Service on DAB, though. But a lot less local radio - BBC Radio Gloucestershire isn't even on DAB at all!

    1. Velv Silver badge

      Re: Cost

      My Freeplay runs off solar, or 30 minutes on one wind. No batteries at all. Thank you Trevor

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Cost

      400 Hours on some 1950s battery valve radios. Though large batteries. But a 1929 radio with rechargeable LT and a staggering 80 x AA cells for HT runs for 450 hours on HT. vs 6 hrs for 4 x Alkaline AA on DAB set.

      dividing 450 by 20 gives 25 hrs per 4 x AA, so 1/4 running cost of the DAB set.

      Only LW & MW though.

      An all band Tesco mechanical £8 radio (€10) is about 135 hrs on VHF-FM on 2 x AA, so comparing with DAB set 4 x AA, that's 270 vs 6, an incredible 45 times better. It also does LW, MW and many SW bands well.

      Try and get a DAB set with LW, MW & SW. Many with FM don't even do RDS. The sales of DAB sets is purely because they are commonly available in the shop. Many are used for FM, or not used at all. Channel changing too slow and awkward User Interfaces.

      Also a few weeks ago on Feedback BBC said Cricket is on R4LW because the BBC DAB coverage is 6% worse than FM, which is only 99%, that means about 1% of households = 200,000 Households don't get VHF-FM and rely on MW & LW. So if I interpret BBC correctly 212K households can't get DAB. That probably assumes an aerial. If so then about 1 Million out of 20Million households can't get decent reliable FM without an extended aerial (not needed MW & LW) and very many more no DAB reception without moving the radio to a suitable window.

  3. mfraz

    DAB in car

    Considered purchsing a DAB radio for the car, but then nearly all the stations on D1's multiplex went mono and I thought what's the point?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB in car

      I did too. Until I realised that a base model DAB stereo was at least twice the price of a comparable trad head unit. And that the makers of my 5yo car had installed a DAB blocking aerial filter which would cost £many to get round. Pity, cos R6M is great - but moving to DAB car audio is just too hassly.

  4. MJI Silver badge

    Not getting it

    Sticking with FM ot works

    Oh and no one does a DAB head unit with built in MD player with CD changer control.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Not getting it

      no one does a DAB head unit with built in MD player

      Does anyone do any head units with MD these days, DAB or not? Most people have progressed to USB and/or SD cards.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not getting it

        " Most people have progressed to USB and/or SD cards."

        A friend bought a new Khia saloon last year with an upmarket radio/player. Trying to get MP3 tracks transferred in bulk to the internal storage involved reading the thick manual**. It was amusing to see the section on USB said that such devices should be temporarily removed before starting the engine - otherwise there was a risk of them being destroyed.

        **It transpired that you had to go through an arcane sequence of pushing several buttons to transfer each MP3 track - one at a time. You could then play all your (potentially several thousand) tracks in that fixed order - without any "album" preselection choice.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Not getting it

          My car has a 3.5mm socket which I can use to plug in an iPod. I haven't attempted to use any of its other audio features.

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Not getting it

            I've got a USB-iPod head unit. Plug in iPod, control it via head unit, sound comes out the speakers. Nice.

            In future though, I'll get one with a rear mounted USB socket and route the cable through the dash. At the moment, it's...er...kind of messy:

            Clicky for Piccy rehosted from my FB account

            (front mounted USB cable is normally caught in the corner of the glove box, and held taught so it doesn't interfere with the gearchange. Ford Puma/Fiesta (same dash), Kenwood head unit. Controls for the iPod are pretty good though, it follows the whole 'rotate and click' model of the iPod so it's straightforward to use)

            Basically, get one that has front and rear sockets if possible so you can hardwire and properly cable a decent amount of storage in an old iPod classic, and still have a front USB for if someone wants to play their own MP3s.

            Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, FM for me thanks. I'd rather have static than 'blocky' noise. It's bad enough on telly when it screeches and squeaks at you, if I had the radio turned up in the car and it did that I'd probably either shit myself, end up in the ditch, or end up in the ditch while shitting myself. While on fire. Backwards. Or something.

            Steven R

            1. Steven Raith

              Re: Not getting it

              I got upvotes for my meandering ramble about car head units?

              Thank you, one and all - hope it helped your in car entertainment needs.

              I'd also suggest getting something with Bluetooth support for hands free (and car satnav) - see if you can find one that supports Google Apps/iOS navigation, I'd imagine that'd be pretty fecking handy.

              Steven R

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Not getting it

        I transferred about 30 LPs to MD, it was that or buy a new HiFi cassette deck.

        I like Minidisc!

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

    FM does me just fine. Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4. Sometimes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      "Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4. Sometimes."

      Classic FM helps fill in the gaps - particularly when Radio 4 is trying to attract a youf popular audience. However - many of the Classic FM adverts are so excruciatingly annoying that the reaction is to become an anchorite and switch to CDs. Dental treatments, car servicing, car insurance - all as grating as each other.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      There is, of course, Jazz FM. Which is no longer on FM any more...

      1. PJI
        Go

        Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

        Radio 3 can be very good, not just for classical/serious music. Also jazz, "world music", poetry, plays and discussions. Much underrated because otherwise intelligent people are often frightened off by the name, "radio 3".

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      Local radio travel news.

      Any travel news when in the car.

      I used to listen to Tommy Vance. RIP

    4. Piro

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      Agreed in full.

    5. Norman Hartnell

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      @JimmyPage "Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4."

      Radio 4 Extra for usual listening, plus the occasional comedy on Radio 4.

    6. Richard Gadsden

      Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

      "the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4"

      Radio 5 Sports Extra lets you keep listening to TMS during the shipping forecast

  6. Paul Shirley

    padding the numbers with Freeview

    Bloody annoying they continue to add Freeview reception figures to the total. Freeview radio has no local coverage and barely possible mobile reception. Yet it's still being used as an excuse to cut off analogue radio without being a viable replacement for it.

    Even more depressing is Freeview has had much better sound quality than I've heard on DAB, even on the BBCs brief excursions in 128k MP2 hell.

    1. MarketingTechnoDude

      Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

      Kind of interesting this, as it was myself who first mooted (at a conference set up by the government), the idea of broadcasting the Digital Radio channels on Freeview when there were only 50k DAB receivers in the market and Freeview had access to 1.25M OnDigital receivers. The DAB guy making the presentation about lack of DAB receivers in the market was very dismissive of my suggestion at the time!

      It was not a surprise to me however that a few months later after my suggestion, hey presto Freeview was broadcasting digital radio channels on DVB-T with a much higher bitrate than DAB. Freeview since then always has had the best quality digital radio reception (some say better than FM).

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

        What number of the Freeview receivers are built into TVs. Do they expect people to turn on their TV to listen to the radio?

        I'm in Canada where they killed off DAB after a short attempt to get anyone at all interested in it. I can get one Audio only station on my TV (from the US) but I'm not going to turn on the TV to listen to radio.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

          @Tom 35:

          Reluctance to turn on a TV may explain the fairly small proportion Freeview contributes to the figure. A lot of people do just leave small sets turned on all the time in rooms like kitchens and might be using them for radio. I think I only have 1 DvB tuner here (out of 5 devices/9 tuners) that routes through a TV but that's a rare setup - so plenty of people must be using TVs or TV+set top box to do it.

          I'm just grateful so few bother or FM would have been turned off years ago.

    2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

      They're also underplaying the numbers of FM radios since many phones include FM and they're conveniently choosing to avoid these numbers.

  7. Gavin Chester

    If...

    I could get a sigal I'd be qualified to comment on quality.

    Given I live 20 miles from the centre of London and can't get a signal at home at all it shows how poor coverage can be in places.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If...

      "Given I live 20 miles from the centre of London [...]"

      30 miles north here - and it needs a cascade of two mast head amplifiers on a 4 element yagi before DAB reception of BBC and Classic FM is mostly ok. FM from Wrotham is no problem.

      It was interesting that the preamp suppliers started selling a replacement version - apparently identical apart from the same product number having a "4G" suffix. They hadn't read the literally small print. The original was FM-DAB-Freeview wideband up to about 900mhz. The "4G" version was narrowband excluding FM and DAB bands - and reducing the top frequency of Freeview coverage.

    2. Carabus

      Re: If...

      I live about 20 miles from London, in Slough, and here DAB radio is far superior to FM. I listen mostly to classical music on Radio 3, broadcast at 160k or 192k, and DAB has the edge in two ways. Firstly, background noise is much lower. Radio 3 is compressed much less than other stations, so can be much quieter, as can classical music - switching between DAB and FM reveals significantly higher noise on FM.

      Secondly DAB is practically immune from the effects of aircraft passing by to and from Heathrow, just a few miles away. FM copes badly with lots of flutter from the dramatically changing signal levels.

      I suppose this is to be expected, as FM is an 80 year old system, with stereo being a bodge which greatly degrades the mono performance. The DAB standard was designed to reduce the problems I describe, but alas the broadcasters try to cram as many stations as possible into each multiplex, with low bitrates and high audio compression. If we adopted the more recent digital radio systems I suspect things would be unchanged as even more stations are crammed into each multiplex.

      1. Ian Tunnacliffe

        Re: If...

        Well, I must live within about five miles of you and DAB is only reliably available with a roof mounted aerial . There is one windowsill where I can sometimes get DAB depending on the weather and no doubt the phase of the moon.

        I get very cross when the Beeb uses my licence money to advertise this useless system.

    3. ScottME

      Re: If...

      In North-east Hampshire I struggled for years to get any kind of usable FM reception except via a large roof-mounted four-element antenna. Then I tried DAB, and it just works, everywhere in the house, so I have several receivers. I now have it in the car too. I mostly only ever listen to Radio 4 though. Does anyone actually listen to any of those identi-clone commercial music stations on DAB?

  8. Kebablog

    Lovely Low Quality

    It's not looking good is it? In the West Midlands the regional Multiplex has recently ceased transmission, shunting more stations on to the local multiplex and some local stations dropping from 128K to 112k (Free Bham - formally BRMB).

    Looks as if the quantity over quality brigade are running the show. Only station available over 128k is now Radio 3 (Classic used to be 160k).

    DAB+ might help, but with millions sold the DAB quality lie it might be some time before old sets are replaced.

    1. Splodger
      Thumb Down

      Re: Lovely Low Quality

      Exactly: DAB is simply poor quality audio.

      Try plugging a tuner into your hi-fi and listening to a few stations - it's almost painful.

      Add the fact that they're expensive, energy guzzlers and at least as far as the four PURE units I've had bloody unreliable (with no firmware upgrades either), it's not difficult to see why the public are unimpressed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lovely Low Quality

        Must be in a minority here.

        I love my DAB radio.

        FM and MW reception near me (for the stations I like) is awful. DAb signal is perfect, Mradios are used when plugged into the wall so all this stuff about battery consumption is a none-issue for me.

        1. Caesarius
          Unhappy

          Re: Lovely Low Quality

          I'm pleased someone loves their DAB radio, because it is a very interesting technology. There is potential for excellent sound quality coupled with information services, and I once sent streaming video and files over it.

          We all know that any deficiencies in the DAB experience are due to

          a) Allocating too little bandwidth, so as to squeeze in more channels at the expense of sound quality

          b) Not even bothering to transmit interesting text info, like full details of the track playing

          c) Poor user interfaces, as if someone has re-invented the wheel and tried a square version this time

          The parallels with my lovely computer hardware and some of the software available for it will make all of us wince.

        2. Justicesays

          Re: Lovely Low Quality

          At home I also plug into the wall, with a network cable that provides me with whatever digital data I need via the internet (including "Digital Radio"). I hear you can get something called "Wifi" as well, that removes the need for the cable to the wall.

          Availability of DAB is a non-issue for me when in a home with an internet connection. When I want radio to work is when I move around.

          This is where the disadvantages of DAB are a problem, and it has many compared to FM radios,

          cost, weight, complexity, power consumption,multiplex handover.

          I don't support a radio standard that works in situations when I don't need radio, and doesn't in situations where I do!

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Lovely Low Quality

      Free Birmingham

      How many Tiger Tokens?

      Our local station disappeared as well!

  9. Neil 44

    No Traffic Announcements on DAB - useless in cars

    The fact there is no provision for a similar facility for RDS-style traffic announcements (switching to a local station for traffic announcements when they are broadcast from whatever else you were listening to) would make me resistant to using DAB in my car even if it had a receiver.

    I do listen to "digital radio" from time to time (usually TMS on Radio 4 longwave!) using internet radio from my phone (which is then interrupted by TA announcements from the FM tuner as needed).

    1. John Miles

      Re: No Traffic Announcements on DAB - useless in cars

      There may not be the provision on DAB - but my car regularly switches from 6 Music to local traffic (though I am getting fed up of one of the local commercial radio switching for advert, then switching again for traffic)

  10. AMB-York Silver badge

    DAB in cars

    £420 optional upgrade on my new car. That's after paying for the 6 CD changer and MP3 gubbins.

    Be better spending money on nationwide 3G, then stream radio that way. Alternatively, just stick with FM.

    DAB is 20th Century solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB in cars

      "£420 optional upgrade on my new car. "

      Is that the one where you have to unplug any MP3 USB stick before starting the engine - otherwise risking destroying it (according to the manual)?

    2. calmeilles
      Facepalm

      Re: DAB in cars

      Is there an in-car receiver that will do DAB here, T-DBM in France and DAB+ in Italy?

      (And cost less than the car it's fitted to of course.)

  11. HMB

    Oh Dear

    Expensive receiver + Bad Coverage + MP2 sound compressed to 128 Kbps when you're lucky.

    Vs

    Free software + Existing device (Smartphone) + Mobile Network Coverage (with added caching) + Huge Listening Choice + High Quality Sound.

    As time moves on, the environment that DAB has to compete in gets harsher and harsher. I don't think DAB is going to have a happy ending.

    I have unlimited data and use Spotify and iPlayer Radio, even in the car. It works very well and the sound quality is very good. I don't think I'll ever be interested in buying a DAB radio again (I did look into it around 5 years ago but dismissed it due to SQ and coverage issues).

    1. Fihart

      Re: Oh Dear @HMB

      Add eats batteries so even "portable" needs to be plugged in. DAB is another example of technology that just seemed like an interesting idea -- until someone realised it would free up FM wavelengths to be flogged off to telcos.

      In the end that's what it's all about.

      As for more stations, we've seen how well that worked with Freeview -- so much crap programming and advertising to wade through that anyone with an alternative (i.e. downloading movies and select stuff like Breaking Bad) has given up on broadcast TV altogether.

      1. Richard 23
        Pirate

        Re: @Fihart

        I think you have hit the nail on the head - the pressure is from the "guvm'nt" to free up the bands so they can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

        Expect to see the update and coverage stats fudged even further to try and achieve this.

        "Pirates" icon - robbery, that's what the "guvm'nt" is trying to do!

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Oh Dear @HMB

        But the Band II VHF is no use to Telcos.

        Community radio would remain on VHF-FM anyway.

      3. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Oh Dear @HMB

        Freeview TV

        I just end up on a few channels, I like News 24, and other BBC channels, Dave ect

  12. Daz555

    Hardly surpsing. DAB is a terrible standard and a backwards step in terms of audio quality in comparison to FM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, the Eureka147 technical standard is very well thought out indeed - it's just the modern commercial realisation of it that sucks.

  13. Ian 55

    Long live FM

    The idea of forcing everyone to attempt to switch over to DAB via taking away FM is bonkers, and I say that as someone with more DAB radios in the house than FM ones.

    Picking a 50% target just shows greed for the cash in selling the spectrum, and failing to get there just proves how unwanted the switch over is...

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Long live FM

      Why don't they just do what they do with Global Warming, and lie about the need?

      I think that 97% is the figure that the Warmists use...

  14. itzman

    No need for DAB

    Id rather have a roaming internet connection instead

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    DAB Radios

    Not surpsising, compare the cost of a DAB radio versus a FM-AM one, how people use the radio, battery life etc doesn't look much like an upgrade really

  16. monkeyfish

    per cent

    Fifty-nine per cent of listeners said they have no need to acquire a DAB set, and 39 per cent are happy with what they've got.

    What the hells wrong with using the % symbol for 'per cent', and wring the occasional numbers out? Have you purposefully tried to make it harder to read, or did you have to do it to increase the word count?

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: per cent

      House style. Tis the same across the entire Register.

      1. The First Dave
        Headmaster

        Re: per cent

        That's all very well, but 'percent' is a single word.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: per cent

          No it isn't. It originates from the original Latin "per centum". Strictly speaking it should be written "per cent.", as in "Big Company X's share price crashed by 300 per cent. last Friday" but the common English usage has evolved away from denoting abbrevs with full stops.

          Percent is one of those horrible Americanisms. Not to say Vulture West don't ever use it, mind.

          1. Richard 81

            Re: per cent

            A horrible Americanism, maybe, but sadly it seems to be the international standard these days.

            Like spelling sulphur with an f.

            1. Splodger

              Re: per cent

              Who cares how Johnny phoreigner spells it?

              This is Blighty old bean!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: per cent @ Richard

              "Like spelling sulphur with an f."

              Fulpher?

            3. PJI
              Headmaster

              Re: per cent

              Thank Heavens, I have not yet seen "sulphur" with an "f" in English English. Just because some may make such mistakes is no reason to accept them, any more than any other misspelling or bad grammar. Let the Americans go their own way, with their strong influences from their Spanish, German, pidgin English and so on roots. Let English speakers support and promote their own English, complete with local dialects, Queen's or Oxford English and so on.

              I know that some claim that American is the international standard English. But those saying it tend to be American. If we do not care for our language and culture, who will? I find it odd that so many are prepared to roll over and speak or write cod-American while desperately defending, for example, dialects or Maori or Cornish or Welsh or insisting on government leaflets being translated into a dozen Asian languages, while completely ignoring their own language and culture.

              re DAB: DAB+?

          2. Mike Taylor

            Re: per cent

            Well played sir! (where's the cricket bat icon?)

          3. Richard Pennington 1

            Re: per cent

            "Big Company X's share price crashed by 300 per cent. last Friday".

            So their shares, previously valued at $10 each, now sell for MINUS $20.

            I've known companies like that.

        2. Piro

          Re: per cent

          Either is fine, in my eyes.

      2. monkeyfish

        Re: per cent

        House style. Tis the same across the entire Register.

        First time I've noticed it. Maybe most articles only use it once or twice so it slipped under the radar. Any chance of changing the house style when writing articles that consist of lots lots of them?

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: per cent

          As we've done it approximately 64,800 times before in virtually every article that discusses a percentage, no.

          Have a nice day.

          1. monkeyfish

            Re: per cent

            As we've done it approximately 64,800 times before in virtually every article that discusses a percentage, no.

            Ha, wow, slapdown. Have an upvote, I guess. Told me.

            1. gazthejourno

              Re: per cent

              :-) no hard feelings.

          2. The First Dave
            Headmaster

            Re: per cent

            Don't you mean "per centage" there?

            No, didn't think so.

            Well aware of the latin parentage of the _word_ percent, but thanks to her German heritage, Liz likes to concatenate things just a little, in _her_ language.

  17. Shoot Them Later

    Dead Horse

    I very frequently stream radio over the Internet, either from a mobile device or desktop, but I will always choose an FM radio where it's an available option. Better sound quality, reliable, no delay (which just annoys me), reliable, works properly in my car, RELIABLE.

    I think it is also a spurious justification to turn off FM when 50% of all radio listening is via digital means. If somehow DAB alone managed to scrape together 50% of the listening hours then that would be reasonable (if quite surprising this side of hell freezing over), but to use the rise of Internet streaming in order to justify the turning off of the most popular broadcast radio medium is just wrong.

    The government should look to DAB+ as a minimum for the future, and only turn off FM when it comprises only a minority of direct broadcast radio listening. Oh, and broadcasters should avoid nasty little tricks like deliberately making popular content only available on DAB or broadcasting the first episode of something on FM and making the rest of the series digital only (as Radio 4 did with their production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When travelling abroad

    My car needs the ability to pick up UK stations, DAB doesnt do this once I reach Dover.

    Since the "Digital TV switch" the reception in the UK has gone from good with sometimes watchable to OK or none.

    all in the name of some pompous BBC git wanting a good pension fund and their name in lights, much like Blair and the dome / olympics costs

    1. PJI
      Thumb Down

      Re: When travelling abroad

      If UK must go DAB, why not DAB+? I live in Continental Europe and DAB is being phased out fast in favour of DAB+. In Switzerland, most of the DAB stations have moved to DAB+, meaning that my old Pure radio is used now mainly for FM (which does not give access to, for instance BBC World Service). So, when you get your portable radio or car radio and travel 30 or so kilometres South of Dover, guess what, that portable that you took with you and your car radio will no longer work.

      The biggest annoyance with DAB is that it lags: processing time means that it is significantly behind: compare FM on one radio with DAB on another on the same station. So the spoken time announcements are also out.

  19. Chronos Silver badge
    FAIL

    22dB SNR...

    ...and still glitches on the recovered audio. No, sod it, DAB isn't fit for purpose. No idea why they're so desperate to clear Band II, either.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it a wonder

    Just bought a mid-range Renault Captur, the DAB radio is a £500 extra which is part of R-Link (don't get me started on making R-Link an extra, yes I'm really going to pay £25 pcm extra so I can rent applications from you). We looked at Nissan, Pegeot and Ford's in all of them DAB was either an overly expensive extra or only in the top model.

    My year Xperia T has an FM radio built in (as do all Sony's), but there is no option for a DAB in any phone I'm aware off.

    I can't think of a single gadget which has DAB by default, if it isn't the default it won't get used.

    1. druck
      FAIL

      Re: Is it a wonder

      We've got that top of the range Ford, and the DAB dropped out everywhere we've tried it, where as FM was perfect. There is no option for DAB in my other car, and never will be, so if FM ever goes I just wont be listening any more.

  21. Velv Silver badge
    Coat

    Why does this make me think of ...

    I love deadlines.

    I love the wooshing noise they make as they fly by.

    (Douglas Adams)

  22. phuzz Silver badge

    Well, if it wasn't for 6Music, I probably wouldn't bother with DAB (or radio at all). Fortunately though I'm one of those happy people who can't hear a drop in quality over FM, and I live about half a mile from a transmitter. I can't pick up any TV signals though, but that's not a problem as far as I'm concerned.

  23. MaximumJed

    Different Experience

    Though I'm not a fan of DAB in particular, and I don't want FM switched off to force people to move, I do have to say that my DAB experience has proven to be much better than FM.

    To be fair, I only listen to radio in the car, no need or desire to listen at home and no ability to listen at work. My daily commute is north Kent to central London and frankly, despite driving a variety of cars, for the last 5-6 years FM reception has been utter crap. It fades in and out, gets interference, is susceptible to random stations bursting in either by broadcasting a dodgy traffic signal or just broadcasting on the same frequency. Even with the ability to cross frequencies during my journey, radio coverage has always been annoying.

    Earlier this year I put an Alpine CDE-136BT into my daily snotter, along with a matching aerial and its performance has been faultless. The sound is clearer, has only received interference on a handful of days due to atmospheric conditions and only cuts out (or bubbles) in the blackwall tunnel.

    I only wish I could put DAB into my main car as I really miss it at weekends when I have to switch back to crappy FM reception or listen to CDs.

  24. Truth4u

    Isn't the point of broadcast systems to make it cheap and easy to broadcast stuff? Audio works well in the analogue domain since it's an analogue phenomena to begin with. Why not leave it analogue? People who want digital have the internet as well. Sheesh.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    satellite FTW

    I got a complete satellite TV kit from Screwfix for GBP 49.99 and it works great. There is a fuge number of free radio channels. They come in at decent technical quality as well. OK no good in the car obviously but fine for home.

    @monkeyfish yes I could have used the Pound sign but you never quite know how it is going to come out. BT sent me a phone bill for so many Dollars once and they were well miffed when I actually wanted to pay it.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: satellite FTW

      Not portable though.

  26. Greg D

    DAB pros and cons

    Cons

    1. Shit quality. Really, if your signal is even slightly below full, you get horrible squelching sounds and its just not good generally. As soon as your signal gets flakey you cant make out anything and it all goes into that nasty digital garbled mess. At least with FM fuzz you could make out what song was on.

    2. Shit radio stations. Most radio stations are shit, but at least on FM there are a FEW that are half decent and do the job on a short car journey (I always take a USB full of my own stuff on long journeys). ALL of the stations on DAB (except Chill) are so godawful they should be banned, others close at certain times, and some of them arent even broadcasting anything!

    3. Already superseded by better quality protocols. Why they chose DAB I will never fathom.

    Pros

    1. I can tune into a DAB station to set my alarm clocks time automatically!

    2. none.

    1. Timbo

      Re: DAB pros and cons

      " Why they chose DAB I will never fathom."

      They chose DAB back in the late 1980's when things like MP2 were "the norm" for digitising analogue signals. MP3 and other codes just weren't available...and no-one knew that new codecs would be coming along.

      The trouble with DAB was that most equipment at the time as far too expensive for most people (and manufacturers) and so from 1995 when the BBC launched DAB, until about 2001, the cheapest DAB radio was a tuner for around £500.

      It was only after PURE released the Evoke-1 for £99 that it started to become more popular....however, nearly 10 years had passed and no-one had updated the specs...so we've been stuck with MP2 ever since.

      Of course DAB+ is now available, but for Arqiva to re-equip to broadcast this is too expensive for them. As such UK have really been "guinea pigs" for the DAB system and now other countries have seen the pitfalls and are now introducing DAB+ which uses better codecs and it sounds better.

    2. Piro

      Re: DAB pros and cons

      Your first pro is already done by an fm-rds receiver. My Astra H sets the in car clock very quickly after a change or battery disconnect from the fm signal.

      Something that just works, and is everywhere. Why do we want to break it for some laggy, low quality, battery sucking rubbish again?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must admit to being ignorant to how the tech works, DAB signal, in my house, is perfect and the quality is far superior to FM and MW. I live in the middle of the east-mids, so as far as places where signal "should" be awful I'd guess that's right up there.

  28. Toltec

    DAB Penetration

    Our house has been penetrated by a DAB radio it is just a pity that the signal does not so it is always used in FM mode.

    We are not in a marginal reception area, we have a strong Freeview signal from Crystal Palace. Our TV aerial is currently dangling off the chimney by its coax and even with half of it missing and the rest pointing at least 30 degrees away from the transmitter we get a strong signal.

  29. Zot

    TuneIn radio app for me

    I use it all the time. With thousand of radios stations, and blogs, and the ability to record and set sleep timers, it was quite a natural switch over to Internet radio. I really don't think people need DAB in their homes.

    I've heard of an Internet radio station that tried to go DAB, but they could could only afford mono(!), and only in London. Why would anybody bother using DAB instead of the Internet for broadcasts.

    In TuneIn I've got a favourite channel that broadcasts 24-7 Goon Show back to back, with no advertisements. Now that's entertaining.

  30. En_croute

    Car DAB

    I've had 2 DAB sets in my cars(s).

    A JVC head unit, (2005-12) with fully wired roof mounted ariel, that was amazing.

    Full DAB coverage across the UK - the only dead spot I found in 7 years - In Marylebone, behind the BBC offices.

    Now I have a Pure Highway 300i (New car, fitted radio was non removable) with a propietry "through the glass" mounted ariel, and the reception is rubbish - cuts out under every bridge. On the motorways, I have switch to Radio5Live on medium wave, or stream from my phone via Bluetooth.

    Only bright spot was an excellent fitting service at Halfords - truly surprised me.

    Shame the product didn't meet the high installation standards.

  31. mickey mouse the fith

    I was given a DAB radio for free a while back, it remains perminently in FM mode due to the non-existent DAB signal in the area i live. On occasions i have fiddled with DAB radios in an area that actually has coverage, i was not impressed at the audio quality. Nasty distortion, weird bubbling mush type sounds and most notable of all, a really flat, lifeless quality to the sound (probably due to the horrible bitrates). Fm sounds much clearer and degrades a shitload better than DAB, at least you can still listen to it without wanting to tear your own ears off.

    I think broadcast radio is living on borrowed time anyway, most stations are just unmitigated crap in radiowave form, from inane dj`s, awful ads and the same 10 songs looped until you hate them with a passion. Streaming radio and huge mp3 collections are rapidly making broadcast radio irrelivent.

  32. Maharg

    @DijitulSupport

    Same, DAB is great where I live, FM is poor and MW is just a buzzing sound, which changes tone depending on which station you want.

    I would like a DAB in the car, as where I live the FM signal cuts out if it rains or is a ‘bit foggy’ and the lack of clarity on 5Live means when I wanted to listen to a football game I had better sound quality using my Nokia to listen to it on the internet, and using the built in FM transmitter to transmit it to my car to listen to it via those speakers, apart from the occasional buffering I managed to hear a complete extremely dull England match.

    But If the government wants people to buy in car DABs they need to do something about the price, very few people care enough about the radio considering they have CDs, Aux ports for MP3 players or good (Nokia) FM transmitters to play music from your phone via you speakers, to pay £90 for a new radio, hell I know people who plug their iPhones into a tape which they put in their in car tape player to listen to music, if they can’t be bothered to upgrade to a CD/Aux port for £30, they are not going to spend £90 just to listen to radio 1/2 a bit more clearly.

  33. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    DAB

    Does

    Audio

    Badly

    My latest car has a DAB/FM radio as standard (also with a 3.5mm Input socket). I tried out the DAB side on a 200 mile mixed motorway/urban/country trip. At no point did I get a clean reliable signal. On the return journey I switched to FM, a bit of hiss under some bridges but otherwise fine. I've never used DAB since.

    Mind you, the radio programs are such crap these days (or quite unsuitable for listening while driving) that I mostly use an mp3 player in the audio feed.

  34. Timbo

    re: Power usage

    A simple cat's whisker can pick up (analogue) FM signals hence why battery drain on a portable FM radio is pretty low....whereas a multiplexed digital signal needs to be "processed" in order to extract the radio signal of the station you want to hear - hence why the battery drain on a portable DAB set will be much higher. In time there'll be more efficient chipsets that will run off lower power, but don't hold your breath yet.

    re: local reception

    The biggest problem has been that OFCOM has not "opened up the airwaves" to all and sundry - local DAB licences are issued on a "per county" basis, with the proviso that at least one "slot" be set aside for the local BBC radio station. Unfortunately, some counties have not yet had licences awarded to them and hence some BBC local radio stations are not on DAB.

    These local licences should have been made available at knock-down prices in order to stimulate commercial radio operators to get behind DAB and make it a success....but OFCOM haven't done that.

    re: Quality vs quantity

    Likewise Arqiva, who run the transmitter sites, charge a certain amount for the signal that is being transmitted....so, you pay less if you are transmitting in mono, compared to the same signal in stereo (as stereo uses twice the bandwidth of mono). Hence in these tough fiscal times, downgrading a station to mono can save the broadcaster some money....and if the majority of radio's only have a single speaker in them (such as many from Roberts and Pure) then most people won't notice the difference.

    Ultimately, what needs to happen is for the number of transmitter sites to increase so as to "fill in" all the dead spots so that more people can get the best use out of DAB. Ultimately DAB (and DAB+) have potentially a lot of good going about them, (despite Orlowski's clear bias against it) although the MP2 format of DAB is clearly "old hat" - but a nice healthy broadcast rate of 256k (or even 320k) will show how good DAB CAN be....if given the bandwidth.

    So, come on OFCOM and fingers crossed DAB can be made to work.

    1. Ed_UK
      Boffin

      re: Power usage

      @Timbo

      "A simple cat's whisker can pick up (analogue) FM signals hence why battery drain on a portable FM radio is pretty low....whereas a multiplexed digital signal needs to be "processed" in order to extract the radio signal of the station you want to hear - hence why the battery drain on a portable DAB set will be much higher."

      No. I don't know if this comes out of the Daily Mail Radio Design Handbook, but it is cobblers.

      A 'cat's whisker' makes a simple diode detector, which extracts the _envelope_ or amplitude of the signal. For an AM broadcast, this is a simple way of recovering the audio.

      In FM, the signal's amplitude carries no information at all. A diode detector will give you nothing, nada, zip (*). In fact, an FM receiver will have some stages which intentionally limit the signal amplitude, keeping it perfectly flat.

      The need for digital processing is real enough, though; you need to pull out the right bit stream, before turning it back into audio.

      (*) Ok, if you manage to detune to one side of the signal, you may manage some crude slope-detection, using the edge of your filter's passband.

      <...>

      "the majority of radio's only have a single speaker"

      ...and you can have your apostrophe back and all.

      1. Timbo

        Re: re: Power usage

        No. I don't know if this comes out of the Daily Mail Radio Design Handbook, but it is cobblers.

        A 'cat's whisker' makes a simple diode detector, which extracts the _envelope_ or amplitude of the signal. For an AM broadcast, this is a simple way of recovering the audio.

        correction accepted - I errored when I wrote the sentence as it should have mentioned both AM (for the cats whisker reference) and FM (where another reference was omitted whilst I wrote the reply via my mobile).

        <...>

        "the majority of radio's only have a single speaker"

        ...and you can have your apostrophe back and all.

        So, now I take it you will be correcting everybody else when they make even the slightest typos....you're going to be busy......

    2. Paul Shirley

      re: Power usage

      Demultiplexing is cheap. Cheap if done on the CPU/DSP, ludicrously cheap if done in hardware.

      Decoding an MP2 bitstream is also pretty cheap, power cheap enough for my disposable MP3 player to manage 12hr MP2 or 3 playback with it's display dimmed but still lit off a single NiMH AAA cell.

      Neither can explain the piss poor battery performance of current DAB radios. Prime suspect has to be the processing needed to extract a clean mux bitstream from the analogue domain, with all its distortions, reflected signals, strength fluctuations as surroundings change or the radio moves. That's never going to be cheap.

      It appears it's not particularly effective either. Exposed right there is why FM is a more appropriate technology for inherently difficult reception conditions, it doesn't need heroic efforts to receive and doesn't break catastrophically when those efforts fail. And doesn't eat batteries trying to do it.

      1. Timbo

        Re: re: Power usage

        "Prime suspect has to be the processing needed to extract a clean mux bitstream from the analogue domain, with all its distortions, reflected signals, strength fluctuations as surroundings change or the radio moves. That's never going to be cheap."

        ...except that DAB can utilise multipath broadcast signals and combine them in order to produce enough signal to be able to reproduce the signal without issues. See the section on Single Frequency Networks

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting#Protocol_stack

        "It appears it's not particularly effective either. Exposed right there is why FM is a more appropriate technology for inherently difficult reception conditions, it doesn't need heroic efforts to receive and doesn't break catastrophically when those efforts fail. And doesn't eat batteries trying to do it."

        FM fails in a number of ways - there is only a limited range of allocated frequencies for FM radio - 88-108 MHz. Within that, there have to be enough transmitters for the national broadcasters, plus enough for all the local area broadcasters - and frankly there isn't enough space....and bear in mind that in some area's you might have multiple transmissions for the same radio station.....if they were on the SAME frequency, you'd have no clear reception due to interference. Also, at the edge of reception, background noise on FM transmissions can be if-putting and likewise, listening to say some light classical music on Radio 3 can be less than ideal, if the background noise is too great.

        Using Band 3, you can have many more stations all broadcasting at once. (There are 37 ensembles allocated in UK - with somewhere between 4 (at "best quality") and maybe 10 (at low quality) stations per ensemble - so lets say maybe a total choice of over 300 stations). DAB broadcasts don't suffer from random noise, and they have potentially a wider bandwidth, *IF* the broadcasters used say a 256k or 320k signal (with 320k being almost synonymous with CD quality). The issue with sound quality is simply down to transmission costs - if it was cheaper then DAB broadcast rates could be increased and sound would be better.

        (However, there is also the possibility that if CD quality music was broadcast over the air, would a lot of people simply record said broadcasts, instead of buying the music ??)

  35. Daedalus Silver badge

    Nearly there....

    Hey, if more than 51% of the country has DAB sets, then OfCom can order the termination of analogue broadcasting and claim that a majority of the population will be unaffected.

  36. John Munyard

    No one should be surprised the take up isn't improving as they haven't fixed the underlying objections many consumers have to DAB, which are:

    1) Even the cheapest DAB radios are the best part of £30

    2) The quality of DAB is inferior to FM and everyone knows it

    3) We already have lots of FM radios which work perfectly well, thank you

    I mean... durrrrh!

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    So DAB <> Freeview and <> *general* digital radio

    And WTF about no RDS?

    Clearly someone thought they were being very smart by being 1st adoptors but this has in fact turned out to be a bit s**t.

    Time to cut losses and take it out back with 'Old Yeller.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB is too limted and political, and FM is tired, and AM is nasty.

    I despise BBC and most commercial radio stations, because they mostly play signed corporate mainstream bands, which I mostly find tired and boring , and worse they talk too damned much, the pretentious thorns! The choice of stations on FM is pathetic.

    DAB was much better than FM and AM because I found a lot more stations (but still not enough slots), and I discovered NME radio, then Amazing Radio on DAB, both were definitely not tired; however political nonsense got NME, then Amazing Radio dropped from a DAB slot.

    I got so fed up making do with the better mediocre stations that I bought decent Pure WiFi Internet Radios, including a 1st Gen Sensia, so use Internet Radio exclusively now, so now have much better choice including Amazing Radio there, and DLNA from my NAS. Oh, the Class-D sound quality of the Sensia (with Lithium battery) blows away analogue radios, as did my old Pure DAB radio, even my Pure bedside internet radio alarm clock has amazing sound for it's small size!

  39. Tony Green

    Reliabilty is a big problem

    Let's be clear, I LOVE my DAB tuner. I can plug it into a USB port of a computer and access every channel in whatever MUX it's tuned to simultaneously, so it's fantastic for a timeshifting application.

    The trouble is, DAB just isn't as robust as FM. I live less than nine miles from a major DAB mast and I have an external aerial pointing at it. But when there's a high-pressure system (which there was quite a lot this summer) it drops out on a regular basis - sometimes for hours on end.

    Even though my timeshifting was buggered up, at least I could listen to Radio Four on my FM tuner instead, something I won't be able to do if they switch them off.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transmission

    It's a pain for the stations as well. Sticking an FM transmitter up is relatively cheap and easy. Been involved with that myself. You don't even have to pay one of the big transmission site providers such as NTL or whatever they are called these days. Find a friendly farmer with a hill or the tallest building for miles and providing Ofcom clear it and you can get an audio feed in there then you are away.

    DAB however is only available from limited sites as the stations are broadcast as a multiplex. This pushes the cost up (rather than bunging a few quid to a farmer for rent and power you suddenly have to pay far higher prices to be on a big transmission site that is way more expensive). This may also mean the coverage area may not match your FM transmission area because the site may not be ideally placed.

    You also have to pay for your space on the multiplex and since local radio is an industry without a pot to piss in, stations have to go for the lowest cost option possible hence mono 64k music stations.

    I know of one small station that was approached to be on a DAB multiplex. Transmission wouldn't have covered half of their small patch but would would have beamed out 30 miles in the wrong direction. It was ludicrous.

    1. Caesarius

      Re: Transmission

      I thought I'd look up the cost of setting up a DAB transmitter, and found this:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/06/open_source_hacks_dab_to_the_masses/

      So it's probably comparable to an FM transmitter. (Perhaps twice as expensive rather than 100 times as expensive?)

      I wonder if Ofcom would smile on me if I tried to transmit DAB...

  41. Doug Elliot

    All the surveys I have taken on use of digital roll together DAB, digital TV and internet listening.

    DAB is costly failure and will lead to huge expense and mountains of toxic electronic waste. Scrap any thought of switching of FM radio which has far better quality and range.

  42. Jay 2

    We've got a PURE radio (DAB/FM/WiFi/Internet) in the kitchen that the missus likes to use at various times. I guess we've got a good signal (London) so I don't have any complaints. Though to be honest it is only used to play a handful of the main stations (I'm sure they're all on FM). And it's plugged into the wall, so no power problems. I'm pretty sure my amp has got DAB, but I never use it to listen to the radio. So even with it working in my house, I'm still pretty meh about it all.

  43. londonman

    If readers really want to know all the hype and BS behind the push for DAB then check out my website www.ten-myths-of-dab.co.uk Follow the money.

    The other thing for people to note is that Ed Vaizey has ditched the idea of national coverage equivalence as one of the criteria for switching over. Yet no-one in the media seems to have picked up on that. If he does decide to simply switch over when 50% of radio listening is via a digital platform then he leaves himself wide open to a judicial review.

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