back to article Digital radio may replace FM altogether - even though nobody wants it

On the 16th December, culture minister Ed Vaizey makes one of the least popular decisions anyone in the Ministry of Fun can make – implementing the unwanted digital radio switchover. Moving the major UK radio stations to DAB from FM would force the newer digital standard through - while of making millions of analogue sets …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't happen

    It won't happen in the short to medium term. Too many small stations can't afford to go onto DAB and the multiplex transmission areas don't match their own MSA's. I know of one radio station that was offered space on a mux that if they'd had accepted would be broadcasting to just 30% of their own "area" but to a massive area they didn't broadcast to. Made no sense let alone the cost which was many times more expensive than their FM setup.

    I might even suggest the BBC may be pushed into taking stations off of FM first to pave the way and make life easier for the commercials. This is essentially happened when the BBC had to vacate it's MW frequencies. Although ironically the vacated frequencies were sold off to commercial stations (Virgin and Talk Sport) with 1 set of frequencies being reserved for Radio 5.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If DAB was actually better sound quality than FM, then it might stand a chance.

    But as it is, several channels have better quality sounding FM stations than on DAB with many on quite low bit rates and some even broadcasting in mono.

    1. M Gale
      Pirate

      Since when did that prevent the switchover to block-o-vision TV?

      Really, DAB can sound better than FM, however it frequently doesn't. As far as one of the advertised benefits of coping with interference goes... utter bollocks.

      Still, at least the digital switchover will leave plenty of room on the FM dial for the stations that play decent music. See icon.

      1. Nigel 11

        No. It can't sound better. The codecs used in DAB introduce non-harmonic distortion into an audio signal. For music, this is ghastly. Far worse than hiss and crackle, far worse than mere harmonic distortion.

    2. Acme Fixer

      I'm from the U.S. but...

      So I don't really know anything about (or hear) DAB. But... My observation from digital TV is that the broadcasters want to squeeze more 'stations' (broadcasts) into a single channel, in order to maximize revenue, commercials I assume. So now the expensive 1080P TV doesn't get many stations higher than 720, and when I was watching one station and they showed a flock of birds taking off, the whole screen became blocky and pixellated, presumably because the compression algorithm couldn't handle the high rate of changed data caused by all the movement. Same thing with sports scenes or other action scenes. It sucks.

      And every time I turn off the switch to the fluorescent light, I lose a half second of audio and video. I long for the days when all you'd see was a glitch on the screen and (probably not even) a click in the sound. I wonder if DAB is going to suffer the same vulnerability. In which case, I think it should stay away from the U.S.

      What could be worse is if HPN or ethernet over the power lines starts to interfere with the DAB signals. Or if the 'white space' digital signals start getting too close to the DAB signals. Stuff happens...

    3. Immenseness

      My tuppence worth

      I have a couple of DAB radios and several FM. I listen for hours to the FM and find it is easy on the ear. I listen to the same programs on DAB and the over compression and poor quality actually make it fatiguing to listen to. You should be listening to the program (FM) not noticing the compression/artifacts/noise that it is making (DAB). There is plenty of unused space on the FM band that could host some more of the "desirable" channels at decent quality (leaving DAB still there as a choice - I'm not saying ditch it) but no one seems to want to do that when there is a quick buck to be made by flogging off the FM frequency band and as someone else has pointed out, when you have designed lots of nice digital DAB gardware you can lobby for that sale, dangling carrots of financial windfalls right left and centre to our elected elite.

  3. FlingoBingo

    DAB Bashing

    The Reg has been on an anti-DAB crusade for about 10 years now.

    Without straying onto the topic of internet radio, I like my DAB radios and anecdotally I think most of the radio listening public feel either neutral or positive towards it. In fact given the choice between 10 stations on FM, 50 on DAB I know which one will give me more content I want to listen to. My kitchen radio? DAB. Garage? DAB. My car? See below..

    The only way to increase uptake further is to put more effort into getting DAB sets installed and working in cars. I had a horrendous mini countryman courtesy car last month, the only saving grace being an excellent DAB radio - why has it taken until 2012 for vehicle manufacturers to to even install them alongside FM??

    Anyway - the Reg, you've been forecasting the death of DAB for a decade like some crazed FM-Shareholder. Maybe after all this time you should pop out and buy a set and maybe, just maybe it might not be as bad as you thought.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Bashing

      If DAB will ever become a viable alternative they need to stop messing around, tear the entire thing down and start again.

      DAB gives access to better stations so you don't have to listen to the morons on BBC, but the actual quality isn't much better, and the signal reception is pretty pap.

      There's nothing more annoying than driving along listening to a good track, only for the sodding radio to start re-tuning to the next nearest antennae.

    2. Steve Crook

      Re: DAB Bashing

      DAB sets are expensive and don't last long on batteries. I've got a Sony world radio that runs on 4 'AA' cells for about two weeks of fairly intensive FM listening. Is there any DAB radio that can come close to that sort of performance? No, thought not. DAB sets are almost all confined to mains operation because battery life is so poor.

      I've been looking at DAB sets for some years and have always been put off by the price and the weight, mainly that of 4 'D'' cells that'll be needed for any sort of mobility.

      My current cost estimate for replacing all my radios is in the region of £250 if you include replacing the car radio. I can't buy a single DAB adaptor like I could for the TV, and I have no reason to go and spend this money on radios other than the government forcing me to.

      DAB offers me nothing I want, and at considerable expense. That's why I'm opposed.

      1. Chris 3

        Re: DAB Bashing

        The Roberts DAB I have runs very happily for about 4 days of intensive listening on rechargable AAs, Personally I got DAB because I value the wider variety of stations - 6 Music and 4 Extra in particular. I also nipped down to Halfords and got one for the car.

    3. Karl H

      Re: DAB Bashing

      When I've had DAB in a car its been great. I have no problem with in car DAB. After all there is a nice big 12V lead acid battery and loads of spare power from the alternator to power all those extra transistors, plus the ability to have an external aerial with a nice big ground-plane making reception of the signal easy.

      Where I do have a problem with is on my portable radio inside my house. The aerial on my portable radio isn't as good as a car aerial, and the brick walls of the house get in the way of the signal. This is down to the propogation of 200 -> 300 MHz signals not being anywhere near as good in a house as a 100 MHz FM signal. Reception of DAB in my house is crap. I have to have the frickin' receiver near a window to stop it losing the signal. Then there is the issue of powering up all those extra frickin transistors. The AA batteries in my nice little cheap FM radio last for WEEKS. In a DAB radio I have to have it plugged into the mains because I can't afford its appetite for batteries.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: DAB Bashing

        >I have no problem with in car DAB. After all there is a nice big 12V lead acid battery

        Fine until you're stationary, I've had a DAB radio pancake a car battery in under an hour - result unable to start engine and a call to a recovery organisation ...

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: DAB Bashing

      Whoopie for you.

      Personally, I'm not a big radio listener so have no "bias" either way. But DAB doesn't receive where I drive. It means replacing every radio I own. It also means that signals exhibit the same as digital TV signals when the power is weak - artifacts that you can't compensate for rather than a slight static / loss of volume as on FM. Not only that, but the WORST thing that ever happened to UK TV was when we went from 5 channels to 100's. Reason: The advertising revenue dive-bombed and so did the quality. There's a reason Saturday night TV died, when it was the staple for decades. There's a reason that channels are full of "cheap" repeats. There's a reason that advert breaks are twice as long as they were when I was a kid. Putting 50 DAB channels when there's only X amount of channels bothering to take an FM licence means two things - the big channels die and the small, junky, new, channels take over to get their 0.1% of the audience in their place.

      The reason vehicle manufacturer's don't install it is because people won't pay for it. I'd rather have no radio at all (literally - same as me giving up my TV for several years when the digital switchover happened and barely noticing - I only have one now because it's "free" with my phone/broadband).

      The death of DAB is not when there are zero DAB channels. It's when people don't buy into it. There are lots of Thunderbolt-interconnection products out there. It doesn't mean that it's dead, but it also doesn't mean that it'll rule the world.

      When you take into account the "Oh, your Freeview needs another upgrade" DVB-T2 debacle, then it's inevitable that people are loathe to jump into DAB especially when there's been talk of codec upgrades and DAB2 for a long time now. And that will mean changing all your hardware again. Freeview etc. could piggy-back on the fortunately-timed fad for large, flatscreen TV's on walls taking over from thick, bulbous CRT's on a TV cabinet. DAB doesn't have any such thing. "HD Audio"? I couldn't tell when my laptop advertised 96Kb/s audio 10 years ago, why would I care now?

      DAB isn't dead, but it's never really got a good start in life and won't be going far without being FORCED as a standard. And it's just as likely that people abandon radio entirely in that case, rather than move on. It's a risk that the major stations don't want to take because they know it probably won't go their way. They may be FORCED to at some point but if you have to force people onto a technology, rather than letting market forces play out, then you know that it's doomed.

      If FM turned off tomorrow, I wouldn't be buying a DAB radio. At all. Probably forever. I'm a geek, and I have multiple dual-tuner TV cards from both analog and digital eras, just "because" it then gives me an adaptor to view that content if I ever need it. In comparison I have an FM radio in the car, one on my phone, one in the shed, one in the kitchen, etc. - which of those would I DAB if they turned off? None of them. I'd just stop using them. I wouldn't even bother to go to the effort of binning them.

      If DAB were just a digitisation of radio that could be implemented on a simple circuit, they'd already be implemented. It would be like LW/MW/FM transitions - just switch to digital audio and have the same channels. The fact it that it requires a lot of upgrades and a lot of junk and a lot of frequency allocation and provides poorer overall service when you consider ALL current users of FM. And all the "selling points" aren't - sending additional data and even images over DAB is a waste of time in the Internet era.

      Fact is, DAB is streaming audio over 3G (maybe not specifically, but that's basically what it is) but without any significantly useful buffering. If I want that, I have that elsewhere but done a lot better (sometimes on my existing devices, e.g. smartphone).

      DAB isn't dead, but it's a dead-end. It might be forced into the market and enjoy a small resurgence but DAB2 will be the decider - death of all DAB or obsoletion of the existing DAB. When you have found out which, come back and tell me so I can look at buying it then.

      1. Acme Fixer

        Re: DAB Bashing

        Perhaps someone will come up with a converter box that rebroadcasts a single channel on a FM frequency, over an area of a few tens or so square meters. Then the old FM radios will be able to receive any one of the DAB channels. Something like a mobile hot spot for FM radios. And if they wanted to add a feature, they could decode the online radio stations and rebroadcast one of them, too. It will probably put a dent in DAB set sales, so the manufacturers will probably oppose it.

        Boo! Happy Halloween.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: DAB Bashing

          Perhaps someone will come up with a converter box that rebroadcasts a single channel on a FM frequency, over an area of a few tens or so square meters.

          But it'll sound even more crap than a pure DAB radio. And it'll do nothing to address DAB's other weaknesses. It won't get you a signal that doesn't keep dropping out on the move (es[ecially in rural parts), and it won't give you the battery life of an FM radio if you want to listen somewhere that a mains or automotive electricity supply is not available.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: DAB Bashing

          "a converter box that rebroadcasts a single channel on a FM frequency, over an area of a few tens or so square meters. Then the old FM radios will be able to receive any one of the DAB channels. Something like a mobile hot spot for FM radios."

          Look up Pure Highway.

          Then ask yourself why the current version is £150 at Halfords.

          I did briefly have a refurb version of an earlier model (bought for £50). It broke, I won't be replacing it.

          And if you're a serious traveller, ask yourself (and the industry) why DAB radio doesn't even have RDS-like Traffic Program functionality.

          Give me 6 Music on FM instead of one of the now-indistinguishable "not-independent not-local" radio stations being allowed to occupy much of the FM band in contravention of their original licence terms (requiring local origination and content, not just locally targeted adverts), and then I personally have no need at all for DAB.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: DAB Bashing

            [Whoops, missed the edit window].

            The current (£150) Pure Highway is a hard wired DAB thing. The original (£70?) Highway was a DAB->FM retransmitter. Not the same thing. Sorry.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: DAB Bashing

          > Perhaps someone will come up with a converter box that rebroadcasts a single channel on a FM frequency, over an area of a few tens or so square meters.

          Well you could do that with the Internet and it would probably be a lot more reliable.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Bashing

      "The Reg has been on an anti-DAB crusade for about 10 years now."

      I don't know where you've been, but here on planet Earth just about all BBC output has been plagued by ads featuring an 'cool' black midget puppet extolling the virtues of digital (including DAB.).

    6. Archivist

      Re: DAB Bashing

      And why do you think DAB gets bashed? It's not that there are FM and DAB fanboys competing, it's just that DAB has failed on most counts:

      Coverage - poorer

      Power consumption - poorer

      Audio quality - mostly poorer, much through use of low bit-rates on inefficient codecs and even mono.

      Selection - It wins!

      The really annoying thing is that it could have been so much better. The adoption of an early and non-upradeable codec means things will never get better for DAB, all we can hope is that manufacturers will be pressed to make DAB+ inclusion as mandatory, with a view to changing the standard in future.

      It comes as no surprise that 2018-2013=5 years - the accepted life of domestic kit nowadays, suggesting to me that they will switch systems in 5 years, making much of the current DAB stuff obsolete.

    7. Bob H

      Re: DAB Bashing

      If it wasn't for the fact that DAB is bad technology I would imagine that El Reg might consider standing behind it.

    8. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: DAB Bashing

      "The only way to increase uptake further is to put more effort into getting DAB sets installed and working in cars. I had a horrendous mini countryman courtesy car last month, the only saving grace being an excellent DAB radio - why has it taken until 2012 for vehicle manufacturers to to even install them alongside FM??"

      Try using a DAB car radio outisde of the main cities and you'll see why.

      not to mention that that the UK's DAB system is ONLY used in the UK (Everyone else uses DAB-T2), so UK-specific radios aren't much of a market worth bothering with.

      More power to you if you get a usable DAB signal. I've tried and I don't, not even with an external antenna. Trying in the car was even worse, even using a DAB antenna.

      1. simon gardener

        Re: DAB Bashing - landfill

        5 years? - possibly for tvs but many people keep theirs for much longer.

        When it comes to radios and stereo equipment I would have thought much longer then 5 years would be the norm. At my parents home most of their radio kit is at least 10 years old, some much older. It works as well as it ever did and they have no intention of replacing working equipment. Rightly so.

        Forcing people to replace working equipment at their own expense is ridiculous. The waste would be huge. Imagine it tens of, possibly a 100, million radios being thrown away. All working , all adding to landfill.

      2. Tony Rogers
        Pint

        Re: DAB Bashing

        I remember reading that the signal on the European DAB-T2 was considerably better

        than the cut down cheapo version we have been stuffed with in the UK.

        Politics, money and the BBC were the main cause of our 3rd rate tech offering.

        So much for the EEC unification if the car radio you buy in the UK

        is not much good across the channel !

        ( English Sea Channel that is...NOT, a radio channel)

    9. Acme Fixer

      Re: DAB Bashing

      If most of the people in the 'neutral or positive' category are neutral, then what is the justification for changing it?

      And if you already have FM sets all over the place and you're satisfied with the content...

      If something isn't broke, then why fix it? Just my two U.S. cent's worth.

      Oh, yeah, I forgot about one reason. Changing to DAB will help the manufacturers sell more radio sets. Obsolete all those FM sets and we'll sell all these DAB radios.

      Oh, they forgot that the users could just change over to their favorite stations on their PCs, laptops and mobes -- for free. Duh.

    10. James Wright

      Re: DAB Bashing

      I have DAB in my car, I thought "great, now I get to try out DAB". However it's horrible, it keeps cutting out and in again. At least the FM signal is analog and when the signal degrades you can still hear it. With DAB it's all or nothing (digital!). If they think of shutting down FM I will complain loudly. If they sort out the signal issues then I would be happy.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Bashing

      There is indeed agenda here. Something that's never mentioned is the CHOICE that dab offers. On fm I have the same old shite namely

      Radio 1 and local radio which caters for 11 to 16 Year olds

      Radio 3,4 and 5 for pensioners

      Classic fm for pensioners

      That's it. Dab offers me loads of channels

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Bashing

      It's not just getting it into the market that will help adoption. It should be required to be integrated into radio equipment with AM and/or FM, at least two full years before go live. TVs sold in the U.S. were mostly analog up to the day that digitial broadcast went live. The U.S. government shelled out money for coverters, when it should have mandated that all manufacturers put the tech. into the t.v.'s sold years ahead of the digital rollout.

    13. Ian Tunnacliffe

      Re: DAB Bashing

      Experience of DAB depends almost entirely on location. I live in the IT workers' paradise of the Thames Valley - on the A4 between Slough and Maidenhead to be precise - and there is just one windowsill in my house where a strategically placed DAB set can (usually) get some sort of signal. I have a semi-built-in system in my kitchen that uses an external aerial to receive DAB reasonably effectively. Apart from that, forget it.

      That's point one.

      Point 2 is that even if you had decent signal coverage DAB receivers are heavy, bulky and power hungry. If you are away from mains power for more than a couple of hours then your DAB receiver rapidly morphs into a brick. And if you are on mains power, chances are you are online too so can use Internet radio. Failing that, the radio signals from Sky or Freeview telly.

      So, where DAB works quite well there are alternatives that work just as well, and where FM is the best solution DAB hardly works at all.

      In this case El Reg is perfectly correct to lead the resistance to a compulsory switch. If it gets a bit tedious for your taste, well you don't have to read the articles.

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    FM Radio:

    - inexpensive sets,

    -very good battery life (weeks of occasional listing on two AA batteries)

    -audio is in sync between sets in different rooms (not true of DAB sets)

    -speech remains largely comprehensible when reception is poor.

    -sets turn on instantly

    DAB:

    -Expensive sets (of which I would need two at home plus one in the car and one for the jacket pocket)

    -terrible battery life,

    - only a slightly wider selection of content than FM

    -Audio quality rapidly becomes intolerable when reception is poor.

    -audio quality not fantastic, even in ideal reception (poor codec)

    Internet:

    -Thousands of stations and podcasts, plus streaming services from Spotify et al.

    -Many people already own the required hardware

    -Sound quality can be very good.

    If I wanted the things DAB offers, I'd be better off using the internet. I already possess the hardware, and there is literally a whole world of content available. Leave FM alone - there is a place for easy, cheap, low power listening. DAB shares the disadvantages of internet-enabled devices (expense and poor battery life) but offers only a shadow of their advantages.

    I'm not sure what is difficult to grasp here.

    1. BigAndos

      I agree, why don't they just plan to retire dab in the long term and replace it with internet streaming? 3G (and eventually 4G) coverage is probably of a similar level to DAB coverage and we can bin a whole standard! Keep FM for areas with patchy mobile internet.

      1. Soruk
        FAIL

        The big negative for internet 3G/4G streaming of radio is the cost of the mobile data, the monthly fee and/or the per-MB cost. At home on a near-unlimited broadband connection this isn't so much of a concern.

        (and yes, I did listen to LBC 97.3 by wifi + VPN while visiting the in-laws in Guangdong.)

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          @Capt J

          I love Radio 6 Music, and I won't deny that FM stations are limited. That was taken into account in my argument, and I did state that DAB has more stations that FM.

          Basically, the cons outweigh the pros.

          Today you can walk into any supermarket and walk out with a £3.99 device that will let you hear the news, some comedy and some music, and continue to do so for many many hours on a single battery... making it £25 for a device that only lasts a few hours is just silly. Really, it's like the difference between a CREE LED and a Xenon flash-light in terms of battery life. One of the genuinely useful technological advances in the last decade is that when you pull a torch out of your glovebox today, there is a very good chance the damned thing is ready for use.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Doh!

        DAB is Free to listen to once you have paid for the receiver.

        Internet streaming is not. Your 3G connection costs money and has capacity limits.

        Also not everywhere can get even 2G let alone 3G or for heavens sake 4G.

        Where I live (<50km from London) I can get DAB perfectly. 100yds up the road is a phone dead spot yet my in car DAB works perfectly. Don't even talk about the railway line from Redhill to Reading. IMHO a good 20% is a mobile dead zone for 2 of the 3 networks and in some places no mobile connectivity at all.

        Many people seem to fail to grasp the difference between a BROADCAST technology and a POINT-2-POINT technology.

        1:Many vs 1:1

      3. Nigel 11

        why don't they just plan to retire dab in the long term and replace it with internet streaming?

        Coverage and bandwidth. Do you think 4G will ever be available on unclassified roads in deepest Dorset or the Grampians, five miles from the nearest hamlet? (And even if road coverage were to reach 100%, what about farmers and walkers miles off anyroad). Do you think there will be enough bandwidth to support any encoding that doesn't introduce so much non-harmonic distortion as to turn music from a source of joy into a source of pain?

    2. CaptJ

      You left one out

      FM Radio:

      -Doesn't have the channels I want to listen to.

      Ah, but that doesn't fit your arguement does it?

      1. Andy Miller

        So we should all replace our radios (the factory fit one in my 2 year old car is going to be expensive) so you can listen to your favourite radio station? Where do you work? The House of Commons?

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        FM radio has all the channels I want - DAB does not

        Internet download and a small fm transmitter. Sorted.

        DAB radio - just gurgles cos the signal in the house is no good. And there isnt a singe radio what isnt designed by some attention seeking idiot designer - I want my radio so I can listen to it, not for it to clash with every other item in the house.

        1. Archivist

          Re: FM radio has all the channels I want - DAB does not

          @Tom 7

          "And there isnt a singe radio what isnt designed by some attention seeking idiot designer"

          Love it! how true...

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        FM Radio:

        -Doesn't have the channels I want to listen to.

        The internet does and I can stream it to my mobile phone, with coverage where I need it.

      4. Countryman

        Fine. You want choice. You have it. Go buy a DAB radio. Just don't ask the rest of us who are perfectly happy listening to the available channels on FM to waste our money buying things we don't want and for a far inferior sound quality.

    3. redpola

      I think you missed a very important consideration also:

      FM - requires very few freely-available and trivial components to receive

      DAB - requires highly-developed and non-trivial silicone made by relatively few companies

      Now, if I've invested many man-years of development time to research and manufacture chips to decode DAB then the least I can do to get some return on my investment is sponsor a political party who can push through completely dumb legislation which will result in me selling lots of devices.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      That's next parliaments plan. When everybody has switched to DAB they will sell off those frequencies and everyone can switch to t'internet

      1. TedF

        It's Silicon. (You may however have a radio polishing fetish - who am I to judge.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Highly-developed and non-trivial silicone?

        Radio isn't the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of silicone.

      3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        @redpola DAB - requires highly-developed and non-trivial silicone

        You mean you can receive DAB on breast implants? Or just that it gets on yer tits?

    5. Mage Silver badge

      DAB : needs x6 as many fill in transmitters as FM to avoid holes in coverage

      DAB : Inherent delay in changing stations vs FM. Huge delay to acquire a new Multiplex that wasn't stored.

      The problem isn't just DAB, "Digital" at all proves to be a poor replacement for AM & FM. Even FM can't do away with AM, AM is only way to have fully national coverage and trans-national broadcasting.

      Satellite, 3G/4G, Internet, Cable, DTT can't replace AM & FM either, only complement it.

      Most of the problems with DAB can't be solved by using a different Digital System such as DAB+ (likely to only be used to double number of channels, never for more quality), DRM or DRM+ or DMB or LTE-B or whatever.

  5. Tezfair
    FAIL

    DAB struggles to play

    We have a few DABs kicking around the house. The main one in the kitchen needs to be connected to an aerial in the loft to get the local radio stations. A portable dab I brought for the wife still resides in it's box, unloved and I recently brought a clock radio with DAB and R2 is the only one that is strong enough to play without distortion.

    But it's unlikely I will ever replace the ones in our cars or buy adapters so it's the advertisers that may lose out in the long run.

    DAB fail

    1. DaLo

      Re: DAB struggles to play

      "R2 is the only one that is strong enough to play without distortion"

      How do you manage to get a single station to have a stronger signal than others on the multiplex?

      1. Archivist

        Re: DAB struggles to play

        Not necessarily stronger. Within one multiples the broadcaster can choose the error resilience (ruggedness) of individual streams.

        1. DaLo

          Re: DAB struggles to play

          2Not necessarily stronger. Within one multiples the broadcaster can choose the error resilience (ruggedness) of individual streams."

          Can..but do they? No they all use PL3 on that Multiplex.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: DAB struggles to play

        I suspect he means DAB/FM and R2 is the only thing the FM side picks up, vs nothing at all on DAB.

        That's my experience on cheap clock radios anyway.

  6. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    30% seems high to me

    I only know one person with DAB in their car and almost no-one with a personal DAB radio.

    1. FartingHippo
      Boffin

      Re: 30% seems high to me

      Well I've got a DAB in my Ford - didn't ask for one, just came with it. Also a DAB in the kitchen. So on that sample 30% is ludicrously low.

      Good job polling companies question enough people to render our anecdotes worthless, isn't it.

    2. mark1978

      Re: 30% seems high to me

      We have a couple of DAB radios in the house, but on the main one we still listen on FM because the DAB reception was terrible. The other one upstairs my wife listens to 6 Music while she's working. The rest are in the car which are FM.

      1. SuperTim

        Re: 30% seems high to me

        I only know one. He listens to Radio 4 and Classic on it, so it doesn't need to be a DAB. he also moans because the sound quality is terrible (maybe because it is between his router and a fridge freezer in his man-cave). He could use FM, but he cant work out how to tune it due to the combination of him being old and the instructions being in Changilsh.

        I would use DAB, but only in the car, and I aint paying £100+ to get a dab installed. If FM disappears, I will Bluetooth stream internet radio (or my own mp3s) on the £50 bluetooth enabled head unit I have now.

    3. tirk

      Re: 30% seems high to me

      FWIW I have 5 DAB radios at home (mostly rechargeable, which gets round much of the battery issues) and one in the car (a second-hand Focus, to preempt the conclusion-jumping). Admittedly I do live in a very good signal area, but overall I wouldn't want to go back to FM.

    4. Captain Queeg

      Re: 30% seems high to me

      Completely DAB an online here, no FM at all.

      That's 2 cars (both factory fitted) a DAB media streamer and 2 portables.

      But then our 2 favourite stations are AM, Stereo DAB and mono online, so i guess we have specific use cases.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30% seems high to me

      @Captain Scarlet

      I suspect they just don't know or care. The majority of new vauxhalls and fords for one come with DAB. If any of your friends have done "well" enough to be allowed a compnay vehicle like an Insignia or astra then they will almost certainly have DAB if it's a post 2006-2008 car.

  7. Jim 59

    DAB Shmab

    "while of making millions of analogue sets useless, and reducing consumer convenience."

    And making my car's traffic warning systems useless. in the 1960s, transistor radios made music portable for the first time. But we don't have to put up with that anymore, now they are being replaced by heavy, expensive, fragile, mains-only, severely band-limited DAB units.

  8. Chris McEwam

    Is DAB better? Dont think so

    I always wanted a DAB set. got a new car with DAB in it and switching between our local Station on FM and DAB and you can hear that DAB is not as crisp or clear as the FM broadcast.

    1. Soruk

      Re: Is DAB better? Dont think so

      Earlier this month I rented a car with a built-in DAB receiver. Yes, I'm a boring fart who likes listening to Radio 4 and LBC97.3, but decided to give DAB a try. In the space of 10 minutes I was annoyed enough with the DAB drop-outs that I left the thing on FM, where the signal degrades much more gracefully.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Is DAB better? Dont think so

      The comments about audio quality are DAB vs DAB+ - Wikipedia covers this fairly well.

      However the UK is DAB and there is no indication whatsoever of moving to DAB+, so you get to put up with substandard digital audio for the forseeable future (Maybe this is deliberate so that consumers will resist any move to switch off FM?)

  9. Steve Crook

    DAB and DAB+

    There was an interview with someone from the BBC talking about DAB. I don't remember who or what program (Feedback?) but at one point they were asked about the technical shortcomings of DAB compared to DAB+, and they replied that, while DAB+ was clearly superior, there would be no switch to DAB+ for the foreseeable future because they didn't want to upset all the people that have invested in DAB sets.

    The interviewer managed to completely ignore the open goal.

    1. PJI

      Re: DAB and DAB+

      This not changing to DAB+ … idiocy. Now is just the time to do it, before the whole country has been forced to buy DAB sets. Anyway, decent, modern DAB sets can receive both. It would be cheaper just to subsidise the minority with DAB-only to upgrade to DAB+, in the long term, not that GB seems to think long term in anything.

      I live in Switzerland: we were encouraged to DAB (my wife bought a decent Pure radio that can receive it, vast price, first one had to go back for replacement as it just stopped working after six months). Now most things are on DAB+. They just did it, no complaints in public at least. But I suppose it was done a couple of years ago now, before too many people had bought the limited DAB versions. Fortunately, the radio can get FM too. I believe most of Europe (except UK of course) is going the same way.

      Now I see that all UK suppliers selling DAB radios here support DAB+ as well (ours was bought just too soon, never be an early adopter, her newer Roberts portable gets DAB and DAB+), on the same set. So where is the BBC's problem? Or is this some daft, alternative world where the suppliers provide only crippled radios within UK and future-proof ones abroad, where the future is already the present?

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: DAB and DAB+

        Would not be surprised if the suppliers dumped all the old DAB sets in the UK that they could not sell in Europe.

  10. The First Dave Silver badge
    Boffin

    DAB is obsolete, FM isn't.

  11. Daemon Byte

    simple solution

    surely is just to make all future radio sets (particularly those in cars) have to support dab as well as fm. Then when you want to switch in a few years it won't matter because everyone will have dab capacity. I doubt many of the general public care over if they get their radio via fm or dab. I suspect what they care about is right now they don't have dab capacity and it would be expensive to switch.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: simple solution

      >surely is just to make all future radio sets (particularly those in cars) have to support dab as well as fm. Then when you want to switch in a few years it won't matter because everyone will have dab capacity.

      Why would I buy a new radio in the next few years? There are lots of FM radio sets that have worked for a very long time, and will continue to do so for many years. It be a shame to throw out a Roberts or a Sony after decades of faithful service!

  12. ChrisElvidge

    Battery life

    "As the summer months were particularly glorious this year, more people may have taking their personal radios out to the garden or elsewhere. This is an easier task with an AM/FM radio as the battery tends to last longer," said the RAJAR mouthpiece.

    This is a really good (and green, though I hate to say it) reason for not using DAB.

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Foregone conclusion

    With 60% happy with FM it seems the only sensible course is to defer things until at least a reasonable majority of consumers come round to preferring DAB.

    Either that or announce the switch-over followed by a politically embarrassing U-turn in the backlash.

    It seems a textbook case of the industry wanting what the public does not and I cannot see Vaizey or the government pushing for with a mandated switch-over nor Cameron being prepared to risk yet another U-turn. Especially when they're under pressure over HS2, fuel poverty and everything else the public is blaming them for.

  14. Michael Strorm

    They'd be better shifting to DAB+

    DAB is already old tech anyway. As DAB hasn't taken off as they wanted, this means there's not *that* big an established base of DAB radios- actually a blessing in disguise (*) if those in power have the guts to risk offending a few early adopters and (worse) being seen to be changing their minds. Why? DAB+, that's why.

    Since AFAIK a lot of countries are adopting the newer- and more advanced- DAB+ instead, economies of scale will probably result in most new "DAB" radios sold here actually being DAB+ models anyway (i.e. backward compatible) if this isn't the case already.

    Thus, they may as well shift to DAB+ as the standard (requiring new sets to support it), but retaining standard DAB transmissions in the short term for existing sets. By the time they switch over, many of the early DAB-only sets will have been replaced by newer models that are DAB+ compatible anyway, and we avoid getting stuck with DAB's early-90s tech.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that a number of jobsworth bureaucrats, officials and politicians- having already publicly committed to ye olde DAB and sung its praises as the "latest" tech- won't want to risk looking bad (or upsetting a few disproportionately vocal punters) and will put the kibosh on DAB+ solely to avoid losing face.

    (*) Just like the original Freeview (i.e. Standard Definition DVB-T technology) being a success is the opposite- the government spent years persuading everyone to move to SD Freeview, and by the time the switchover formally took place, people were wanting HD, so we had Freeview HD. Except that existing Freeview boxes can't accept the newer HD DVB-T2 transmissions, so the already cramped spectrum is wasted by having to broadcast both SD and HD versions of the same content. OTOH, Ireland went digital later, so all boxes sold for use with *their* "Saorview" service were HD-compatible anyway, no separate SD transmission needed.

    1. redpola

      Re: They'd be better shifting to DAB+

      Our government chose DAB as a standard when DAB+ was already available and known to be an improvement. There was no reason for them to choose DAB, which by then was already obsoleted by DAB+ and DRM.

      And so the madness continues.

      1. Len Silver badge

        Re: They'd be better shifting to DAB+

        I don't know where you got that idea. The DAB+ standard was finalised in 2007 and the first broadcast and receiver hardware didn't appear until 2008.

        The DAB transmissions in the UK were officially started in 1995. There is no way (unfortunately) that the UK government could have chosen DAB+ twelve years before the standard was ready.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: They'd be better shifting to DAB+

      many of the early DAB-only sets will have been replaced by newer models that are DAB+ compatible anyway

      Why? My two DAB radios are in the same condition as when I bought them. Barring accidents, they should be good for about 50 years. If I'm compelled to replace perfectly sound kit that I've been encouraged to buy because of the next stupid fad I shall expect to be compensated.

      Maybe your radios have a hard life and need frequent replacement.

  15. Philip Cheeseman

    I don't expect it'll ever happen

    If they had forced car manufactures to have DAB radios and made FM radios hard to buy I could see it happen but without that it stands no chance. After all why would I pay for a new DAB radio for the car and buy a new alarm clock/radio just for the chance to listen to stations I can already access via FM.

    Unlike Freeview I just don't see the need for digital radio. It just seems like a solution looking for a problem! If it wasn't for the government looking to sell off unused FM bandwidth DAB would be dead already.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge
      WTF?

      I'm Curious

      Why do the powers-that-be want to get rid of FM outright? Perhaps it's a big chunk of spectrum that they can then auction off? Ker-Ching!!

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: I'm Curious

        There is no market for Band II (FM Spectrum) other than FM Radio.

        No one else has any plan to close Band II. Some countries have only just adopted it instead of FM on 70MHz band.

        Actually they SHOULD have added 65 to 85 and 175 to 195 MHz to FM to triple number of stations. A £5 converter that runs off 2 x AA cells for 1000 Hrs would ad the two bands to existing sets. On - off and Hi-Lo. When off you get band II. On you get BandIII or 70MHz band.

        Some Asian sets today and since 1965 tune this whole range already!

      2. bonkers

        Re: I'm Curious

        I don't get it, the FM band is a worldwide simple standard. They can't easily sell it off because it would still want to be used for sporting events etc. In any case the bandwidth is small, only 20MHz all-told, and the useability is not good, you are reckoned to be able to use 1/15th for big transmitters (i.e. national networks), the figure for little low-power users cannot easily get below 1/4 due to the 4-colour theorem.

        So, in all, maybe 5MHz of bandwidth in any given place. Get Tim Worstall onto it, he will agree that there is no exploitable resource here.

        The DAB bandwidth, on the other hand is 174MHz-239MHz, or 65MHz, over three times as much. We currently use just seven of the available 40 bands, in London, broadcasting about 80 stations. I can't see us ever needing much more than this, if you really can't get enough christian thrash metal genre, then get a computer, or a life.

        So, they could sell the DAB band, or half of it, for more money, it doesn't need such a long antenna, half what the FM band needs, but I can't think of a use for the bandwidth, given that there is "white space" radio spectrum coming along that allows all users to use what they like within reason and license-free. There will be no market at all for odd bits and pieces of RF-bandwidth when this comes in.

        Don't bash DAB, it is a really good system, its hugely efficient in BW terms, allowing a national network using only one frequency and greatly reduced megawatts, it just needs more time. Also, sure, really don't abolish FM, there is no need to and no benefit forthcoming from it.

      3. Len Silver badge

        Re: I'm Curious

        The UK has no plans to switch off or stop using FM so the spectrum will not be sold off (even if it could).

        What will happen is that no new nationwide FM licenses will be given out/extended and the nationwide FM infrastructure will be switched off instead of being replaced/contracts extended (much of it is due for renewal/upgrade). From that moment the only FM licenses handed out will be for regional and local stations who have their own transmitters, all nationwide public and commercial stations will be digital-only (via DAB, Virgin, Sky, BT, Freeview, satellite, internet, mobile apps etc.).

        The financial benefit is that there is no need to maintain and invest in ageing FM infrastructure where fewer and fewer people are listening to. FM is very inefficient as it costs a lot to run but provides only capacity for a small number of stations. Compare that to potentially 100+ DAB stations and millions of internet radio stations and FM just becomes a financial burden.

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: I'm Curious

          "Compare that to potentially 100+ DAB stations"

          Abso-bloody-lutely. On my many and various FM radios and receivers here in Arsetrailer, I could only get two decent, quality stations plus a dozen or so auto playlist shit stations churning out endless Top 40 or 'Classic Hits' (ie multiple plays of Hotel California, Baker Street and My Angel is the Centrefold, rinse, repeat), while on my spanky DAB radio, as long as I put it on a high shelf next to a window and moving very carefully so as not to disturb it, I can now receive well over 100 auto playlist shit stations and a low bitrate version of one of the quality stations.

          This is not the Brave New World we were promised by Raymond Baxter!

          Just saying

        2. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: I'm Curious

          Thanks all for the excellent clarifications. One further question - @Len: "FM is very inefficient as it costs a lot to run... "

          From the original article I gathered that many small local stations do not want to switch to DAB because it's more expensive than FM, so what gives? Is it that FM is cheaper on a smaller scale but costs scale up rapidly, while DAB is more expensive for a small installation and is cheaper nationwide?

  16. The Electron
    FAIL

    Digital One

    Perhaps the drop in listener numbers is down to the farce that is Digital One. Dropping my favourite radio stations, Planet Rock and Absolute Radio 80s, to MONO and a stupidly low bit-rate has resulted in me ripping my digital radio out of my Hi-Fi stack. I have no interest in listening to the BBC, so for me, DAB is dead. And that is quite annoying and costly. I was a fan - although not of the bubbling or crap MP2 codec. I have a self-fitted DAB unit in the car that will be removed soon, plus a number of "collectors edition" 'Marshall - Planet Rock' branded DAB radios that are technically scrap (they do not do FM). I am forced to stream Planet Rock and Absolute Radio 80s over the Internet, which only works for the Hi-Fi system. It's useless in the bedroom, or when one is out mobile.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Digital One

      So you are actually scrapping them? Why not sell them for a fiver or give them to charity?

      1. The Electron
        Boffin

        Re: Digital One

        Yes, they will be scrap, unless 'Pure' (and other manufacturers of other brands) offer replacement boards for the insides of the radios. If the government does move to DAB+, all of the older DAB-only radios will become WEEE junk as many have their functions embedded in silicon. A chip change will be required for them to work with DAB+; and that's not in the manufacturer's interest when they can force you to spend another ~£100 on the "latest and greatest". That will put people off, with many just giving up on broadcast radio!

  17. ElNumbre
    Meh

    Chicken and Egg

    The trouble is that without an end date for FM radio, manufacturers have to use DAB as a 'value add' upsell, rather than a 'you need DAB because otherwise this will stop working in x years'. But the MoF don't want to set an end date for FM because of the slow uptake of DAB.

    Case in point; Cars. How many new car's ship with DAB as standard? Id venture <50% and that's probably optimistic. Most car's have a lifespan of ~12 years so if they cull FM in say 5 years, you're going to have a lot of vehicles on the road who have to fall back to CDs or learning what that aux port is for for a significant period of time, or force them to spend some money retrofitting the solution at a later date.

    If they need to do it (and I've not yet seen the business case to support DAB) then it needs to be 10 years and a lot of promotion by both UKGOV and Retail plc.

    1. Len Silver badge

      Re: Chicken and Egg

      The 40% mark for all new cars sold coming with DAB as standard was reached this spring. That is mostly down to Vauxhall, Ford and VW. Since then brands such as Audi and Volvo have started offering DAB as standard and at the current rate the 50% will be reached before the end of this year.

      Obviously, with the majority coming with DAB as standard it will still take years to replace all British cars...

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Chicken and Egg

      I'm not sure of the figures but I get the impression that I would be better off buying a phone plan and using that to download the radio stream via the interwebbly rather than paying the ~£500 or whatever it is they wanted for a DAB radio in my new car.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we just put the BBC on DAB and let everyone else provide some choice again on FM ?

    Pirates and all!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      There's no shortage of pirate stations in London... in fact it's hard to find a slot in the spectrum to use an FM transmitter in your car to relay your own choice of audio to a stereo that lacks an aux input.

      That's another area where perceived progress was actually regression: Many tape-based car stereos had aux-inputs marked 'CD'... when CD playing head-units became the norm, the aux-input became rarer.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go for it Ed

    "one of the least popular decisions anyone in the Ministry of Fun can make"

    Well, other departments have coped OK going with stupid, ill advised, expensive, and unpopular decisions (like pushing HS2, ordering aircraft carriers for which there are no aircraft, mandating £30bn of crappy windmills in lieu of good, cheap, effective coal or gas plants, stoking a housing bubble by guaranteeing private borrower's loans etc etc).

    Never forget that the people paying for whatever decision is made, and suffering the unintended consequences will be (along with all logic) completely ignored in the decion making process. That process is called "government", and involves (under any of the main parties) Oxbridge toffs with no relevant experience (nor any education in science or technology) being handed ministerial posts, wherein they can make bad judgement calls in response to free lunches and pressure from vested interests.

    What's not to like?

  20. Robert E A Harvey

    The triumph of commerce over democracy

    I thought governments were supposed to listen to us?

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: The triumph of commerce over democracy

      Really?

      When did they pass that?

      Since when have "they" ever listened to the people?

      Now, if it was a green thing, we would be knee-deep in FotE/Greenpeace(assuming any are out of jail yet) and everyone with windmills on their estates.....

      Maybe we should be thankful for small mercies?

      If you want DAB cancelled you'll have to suggest it contributes to global warming.

    2. Neill Mitchell

      Re: The triumph of commerce over democracy

      "I thought governments were supposed to listen to us?"

      Like DAB, they can't hear you due to numerous walls in the way.

  21. Simon B

    DAB just does not have the power. Try walking with it and see how far you get before you lose the signal. It's crap!

  22. Steve Todd

    Keep grinding that ax Andrew

    While there is plenty of argument that we should be moving to DAB+ (better encoding and error correction), analog FM is inefficient in its use of spectrum and bad a supporting national networks. It's going to have to yield to digital sooner or later for those reasons, in the same way that PAL analog TV was killed by DVB.

    Andrew, standing Canute-like on the digital shores shouting "We don't want you, back!" Isn't going to cut it here. Try a different record for a change.

    1. DrStrangeLug

      There's a difference

      You can't sacrifice utility and ease-of-use on the holy altar of efficiency.

      Other than another radio spectrum auction, exactly what does scrapping FM radio get us?

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: There's a difference

        I'm not sure which DAB sets you've tried, but all the models I've used were easier to use than FM (they auto-search for stations, provide you with names for all stations found, sort them into alpha order and tell you what kind of signal they are broadcasting). Power consumption isn't much of an argument these days either. DAB decoders have dropped in power requirements dramatically and will run for days or weeks of standard batteries.

        20MHz of spectrum with good building penetration isn't anything to be sneezed at either, plus we get more radio stations available (especially national networks) and no interference from pirate broadcasters.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Keep grinding that ax Andrew

      "analog FM is inefficient in its use of spectrum and bad a supporting national networks"

      Yes, but it works better than DAB does

      Good is the enemy of perfect. DAB would take off it was "good enough" and "cheap enough" - it's neither.

      FM took about 45 years to be widely used and there were failed AM broadcasts in Band 2 first. If the govt really wants to promote DAB then as others have suggested, implementing DAB2/+ and moving the BBC regional stations there would be a first step.

      Mandating a change whilst more than 10% of radio listening is analogue is a non-starter (When 405lines was switched off, noone noticed. By the time analogue TV was switched off only a few thousand people were left watching it. Switching Analogue LW/AM/SW/FM off right now would directly affect _millions_ of people(*)

      (*) There _ARE_ digital standards for LW/AM/SW and they're widely used, but not by the BBC.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Keep grinding that ax Andrew

        > By the time analogue TV was switched off only a few thousand people were left watching it. Switching

        > Analogue LW/AM/SW/FM off right now would directly affect _millions_ of people(*)

        But that's because they spent years telling us analogue was going away. Without that, there would have been lots more people still buying analogue TVs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keep grinding that ax Andrew

          "But that's because they spent years telling us analogue was going away. Without that, there would have been lots more people still buying analogue TVs."

          Actually that's just not true. The TV switchover took place at a fortunate point in history when the prices of LCD TV's were coming down fast, and the quality (and size) of almost all flat screen TVs was so immeasurably better than CRTs that wholesale replacement was being undertaken, and people were looking for better source material and more of it. If CRT's were still the norm, then people wouldn't have had much incentive to buy set top boxes, because the quality and convenience aspects would have meant little when wired into a crappy 28 inch CRT. Then they'd never have been able to get the viewing figures up beyond the 15% that will always be hoodwinked by government propaganda.

          The TV switchover worked well, but it worked well only by a happy chance confluence of different and unforeseen technology and market changes. The original business case for analogue switch off was typical government bollocks, where a huge and unjustifiable cost is offset by a made up number, in that case the "value" of extra choice. As far as I can see, the extra channels have diluted quality programming, so that should have been a negative number, but in practice it has turned out rather well. Unfortunately there's nothing on the horizon that looks like making DAB an attractive or economic proposition.

          And that's why DAB wallows in a trough of public apathy - there's no compelling reason to adopt it. The sound quality is no better, often worse. Any PLL tuner (or whatever they use these days) will auto tune and offer push button selection. Any RDS set will pick up the names. Why would I want to pay good money to replace a perfectly functional FM radio something that's more expensive and offers me no other useful benefits?

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: Keep grinding that ax Andrew

            "The TV switchover took place at a fortunate point in history when the prices of LCD TV's were coming down fast, and the quality (and size) of almost all flat screen TVs was so immeasurably better than CRTs that wholesale replacement was being undertaken"

            I think you'd be surprised at how many analogue CRT sets were being used even a couple of years ago. Digital TV took off primarily because so many people had bought into digital capable set top boxes (Sky/Freeview/etc) that there was no need to replace the CRT until it died or until flatscreens became affordable.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Keep grinding that ax Andrew

              "I think you'd be surprised at how many analogue CRT sets were being used even a couple of years ago"

              We still have a 32" CRT driven by a Humax Fox-T2 PVR. Picture quality is good (I think the analogue display tech smooths out some of the pixelation artifacts of channels like ITV1), and well it's still working 5 years after I bought it so why bin it?

              I think I'll most likely go flat-screen when we move as I don't really fancy lugging it onto a van to take to the next place. But for now, it's working just fine thanks.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kick it out and start again

    DAB is a dodo, please someone take it out the back and shoot it.

    Relaunch digital on DAB+, specify in law minimum quality standards for transmisison (ie, AAC stereo at 128kbps minimum) and we can talk again.

    1. Soruk

      Re: Kick it out and start again

      Even AACplus stereo at 64kbps can sound quite reasonable (though certainly not "excellent") - DI.FM and SKY.FM internet radio streams a case in point.

    2. LarsG

      Re: Kick it out and start again

      If DAB were a Dodo it wouldn't need shooting because it would already be extinct.

  24. Thomas 4

    Crazy theory...

    Maybe digital listening is falling because we're in the middle of a ball-breaking recession and DAB radios cost a magnitude more than a cheap FM radio?

    That said, my only experience of Digital radio was the old Psion Wavefinder. Way ahead of it's time but cool in a geeky way.

    1. Len Silver badge

      Re: Crazy theory...

      You can probably rule out the economy. Analogue radio sales have dropped 21% in twelve months while DAB radio sales have remained stable at 1.9 million sets sold in the same period.

      Besides, the figures the article quotes are not for receiver sales but for listening. In other words, people who have already bought sets, were listening to them previously but listened to them less this summer. It is not very likely that people have reduced listening to the radio due to the recession. If anything it probably went up with unemployment.

      A typical seasonal effect like this is more likely down to things such as weather and major sports events which influence media consumption.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Crazy theory...

        >Psion Wavefinder

        Hehe, back from when DACs were so pricey it seemed a good idea to use the one on your PC's soundcard, IIRC.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Crazy theory...

          I had one of those ... admittedly when they were being dumped at £49 by Curry's because noone was buying them. But at that time a DAB radio would be £300+ and Pure when Pure announced a limited number of £99 radios would be sold at a handful of locations over a period of 2 weeks to judge demand they were astonished to find queues outside the shops at 9am on the first day with the entire stock intended to cover 2 weeks gone in the first half hour. (remember this because I'd planned to take a trip to try to get one at lunchtime!)

  25. DrXym Silver badge

    If they're dumping FM

    Then make DAB+ the new standard and put an end of life on DAB.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TVs could be upgraded with a STB when digital arrived. There are plenty of radios that can't have such an easy upgrade.

    You can get DAB to FM converters for cars but auto electrics can be a right pain.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Car Radios

    What proportion of radio listening is in cars? I would have expected it to be pretty high....

    Until the car industry start fitting digital radios as standard why can they countenance stopping FM? And that ignores the many millions of older cars on the road that have AM/FM radios...

    DAB is STILL missing a fundamental component that is commonly used on FM: RDS's Traffic facility so you can be listening to Radio 1/2/3/4 and cut automatically to local traffic information. I seem to remember hearing that the Traffic channel of DAB has been scrapped...

    The other problems is that the UK use DAB, whereas almost all other places that are still trying Digital Radio use DAB+ and I believe the two are incompatible

  28. Alan Brown Silver badge

    making 98% of existing car radios useless at a stroke

    Is not something any politician would do easily.

  29. Wibble

    Cars?

    And how, prey, does one deal with car reception, not least because so few cars have DAB radios - and that's ignoring the real challenge of poorer reception.

    Switchover: never.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    long live FM

    I just took delivery of a new car which came with a DAB radio. 50% of the time it says 'No Reception'. My last car with an FM radio never dropped out. I live in Surrey.

    DAB - f'in useless, for me.

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: long live FM

      I've just picked up my nearly new car. It does have the option of DAB on the onscreen menu, but whenever I click it it says "Service Not Available". I'm assuming that means that it doesn't have the DAB radio option installed, rather than it can't pick up a signal. I don't care either way, I'd never use it.

  31. Peter Mount
    Facepalm

    Coverage is still way too poor

    I do have 2 DAB radios but don't use them as the signal strength is way too poor.

    Yesterday I had BBC Radio Kent on to keep up with the storm travel disruption. I had it on FM for just that reason.

    So if he proposes ditching FM then what happens the next time we have such an event?

  32. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    More transmitters might help

    Try building some more transmitters to cover all the dead spots first - see the map:

    http://www.ukdigitalradio.com/images/coverage-map.jpg

    and anyway, my 2-year-old car has a built-in non-DAB radio. Does the government expect me to scrap it and buy one with a DAB radio?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More transmitters might help

      and anyway, my 2-year-old car has a built-in non-DAB radio. Does the government expect me to scrap it and buy one with a DAB radio?

      Advantage of no-one buying DAB meant I picked up a Pure Highway for ~£40 recently and it works fine in my car - even using FM retransmission. Recenly drove Bristol-Cambridge without needing to retune the FM retransmission frequency either.

  33. DPWDC

    Early adopter

    So I apologise for being in the statistics for people who have a DAB set. However it's in my desk drawer, and hasn't been used for years...

    Bit rates are awful, so music sounds horrid. Signal strength is a real issue, so using it in the car isn't really an option as it drops out too much to a squelchy mess of noise.

    DAB just seems like a pointless stopgap to me. May as well ditch radio all together an rely on streaming via 3/4G if they are determined to switch off FM.

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. AGR

    Not to mention...

    I happen to live on the cusp of the signals coming from two directions (and I live in a built-up area). In order for a DAB signal to reach into my brick-built house, I would need to connect DAB devices to an external aerial. (Learned that at the expense of two different DAB receivers.)

    That's innovation.

    I can only receive BBC 6Music through a desktop/laptop or through my Freeview telly. Frustrating.

  36. Len Silver badge

    Digital is not the same as DAB

    Funny how many people seem to think that DAB is the only digital option. DAB is the most popular version of digital radio but certainly not the only one as a considerable amount of people in the UK use Freeview or Satellite to listen to the radio and internet radio is on the rise as well.

    That nobody wants digital radio is nonsense of course. That close to 40% of all radio listening is digital and that with the current trend it will be become the dominant form of radio listening in two years suggests that people do seem to like it. This summer digital became the dominant form of radio listening in the home, breaking the 50% barrier. The majority of new cars (from big brands such as Ford, VW, BMW, Volvo, Mini, Audi, Mercedes and Toyota) now comes with DAB as standard and the first internet-enabled car radios are making an appearance so expect digital radio listening in the car to grow sharply.

    There is just too little capacity on analogue radio with its limited (and generally fairly bland mainstream) offer to appease the British public which is why analogue listening is on a steady decline. Things like BBC 6 Music, Radio 4 Extra, Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, or thousands of quality stations from abroad are nowhere to be found on FM.

    1. Chemist

      Re: Digital is not the same as DAB

      "ow comes with DAB as standard and the first internet-enabled car radios are making an appearance so expect digital radio listening in the car to grow sharply."

      Except that most people find their car radio is often useless on DAB, I know mine is. SO just because cars are being fitted with them doesn't mean that the DAB stations are being used. For that matter my car is fitted with self-parking but I'll never use it.

      Until DAB radios are cigarette lighter sized and run for 12 hours on one AAA battery like my Roberts FM set they're useless for hill walking too.

    2. Pastafarian

      plenty of sh1t DAB stations

      If they would get rid of all the foreign language and religeous cr@p there would be more space for some decent programme content. There are only about two DAB channels worth listening to.

  37. Roger Stenning
    FAIL

    DAB: Nice idea but...

    ... implementation was crap, to be generous. In other countries, they've gone to the next DAB standard, DAB+, which is apparently better in reception, error correction, and quality. yet HMG/BBC has declared that it's sticking with DAB instead of upgrading to DAB+

    Call me old-fashioned, but I think I'll stick with analogue, for as long as it lasts. Better quality even at long range, the kit's cheap, power efficient (well, the batteries last longer, anyhow), and there are more stations on analogue, too.

  38. john devoy

    FM is better

    As this minister spends his life in London surrounded by high power transmitters I've no doubt DAB works great for him, it's a travesty where i am. FM goes a bit fuzzy when the signal is weak, DAB just cuts off as soon as it doesn't have a perfect signal; it's next to worthless in my part of Glasgow.

  39. Bert 1

    DAB FAIL

    I swore i would never use DAB again after the DAB clock radio failed to tune in and turn on one morning. after the re-arrangement of frequencies a couple of years ago, I gave it another try.

    Guess what? Last month, same thing happened. I was woken up (barely) by a click and resounding silence as it failed AGAIN to tune.

    Fool me once, shame on you.

    Fool me twice, and I'll smash you with a hammer*

    Bert

    *Well, switch permanently back to FM :-)

  40. Luke McCarthy

    This of all the e-waste!

  41. Barrie Shepherd

    I'm in the DAB+ world of Sydney and while the paper comparison says DAB+ is better than DAB it's still worse than FM and even MW!! On a clear day I could see the top of the DAB transmission tower for Sydney yet the DAB+ signal is far from error free. It drops out and error distorts if I have the receiver anywhere but by the window.

    Sydney Talkback stations are on MW (and AM Stereo - but I've never seen a receiver!) which at least is a stable signal even when the set is in the bathroom for the morning swill - something the DAB set cannot deliver.

    As for portable use waste of time - batteries give up sooner than the next advert break - maybe the real advocates of DAB are Duracell / EverReady?.

    As others have said the use of FM is probably more in cars than homes and the UK's excellent RDS Traffic service should not be lost - on the rare occasions I drive in the Sydney rush hour I wish we had it here!!!

  42. Christopher Slater-Walker

    Politicians are liars (but we knew that anyway)

    It was on Radio 4's You & Yours in the last few days that Ed Vaizey (I think it was he) came on a feature about DAB (note: DAB specifically, and not the more generic "Digital" radio) where he said - and even contradicted the presenter - that the sound quality of DAB is "better than FM." And he repeated himself with emphasis.

    How can it be reasonable or even possible to make such a claim, when we have stations on DAB which now broadcast in mono? And where data rates are sometimes so low that the quality is clearly so much poorer?

    Almost in the same breath he also muddled up "Digital Radio" (that is, all platforms: DAB, Internet, via Freeview, Satellite) with DAB. This, of course, is the only way the politicians can make it look good - by deliberately confusing the issue in the minds of those who can't tell the difference, i.e. the great majority of the population.

    Anyway, by the time the DAB switchover actually arrives, the UK's DAB system will be so old and so obsolete that it will be a laughing stock, if it isn't one already.

  43. Zog The Undeniable
    Facepalm

    Too soon

    DAB (or a lot of low bitrate Internet radio - I'm looking at you, Classic FM) isn't worth running through a decent hi-fi amp and speakers, because it just sounds too bad. It's fine for speech on a small kitchen radio, which is where we use it. Except that my preferred music station, Jack FM, is, as its name suggests, not on DAB. So actually it's just my wife that uses DAB to listen to Radio 2.

    If FM goes I will only listen to Radio 4 on DAB, occasionally kicking the set down the garden when The Bloody Archers, some chattering-classes feminist claptrap or a esoteric documentary about lesbian haddock comes on. So that's two thirds of it..

  44. Jean-Paul

    I love dab

    Have been using dab for years. Both our cars (one a Toyota the other a Mercedes) have it build in a standard. And the three radios in our house are dab as well.

    Living in the country side we keep loosing stations on fm whilst with dab it can stay tuned in.

    Sounds pretty good as well to my ears without any of the interference on fm.

  45. The Axe

    Digital is dead, long live digital

    So FM is killed off by the stillborn DAB. But will digital still win out? I think it will with more and more listening to radio via the smartphones. So digital will still win out in the end, just not the way government planned. But then when has government planning ever worked?

  46. Stretch

    Bought a brand new car just 2 months ago. Does it have DAB? Of course not, no cars ship with DAB.

  47. phil dude
    Meh

    in the USA....

    As someone who sees this on both sides of the Atlantic (yes!). In the UK as many folks have commented on the DAB in the UK as a replacement to FM. In the US I think it is an extra channel to sell programming (and therefore advertising). FM still going strong...

    I am fairly sure the digital radio they have here is not compatible (it is proprietary so the sets cost a minimum of $300! ), and as a result I think the "extra" content just gets broadcast on the web. Perhaps this is ideal?

    I have T-mobile all-u-can eat so I can listen to both FM and BBC/NPR whilst out and about.

    Of course, you need to stay near the interstates....

    P.

    PS I just discovered El Reg editing...;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apart from the 40-50% that do of course, but let's not worry about facts eh?

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Politicians are liars (but we knew that anyway)

      I have to take you up on that - DAB has the potential to be better than FM, but most of the designer boxes that are out there are designed for appearance and not audio quality. Even the Bose ones that try and replace the bass with harmonic tomfoolery are acoustically pretty shit.

      My 60's FM valve radio connected to some quad hifi can actually be called good quality audio - the little boxes that produce nothing below 150hz are not much better audio quality than analogue telephones when listened to off axis.

      I've tried a DAB plugged into the HiFi - it was reasonable quality when the music was playing but I like music and, since Peel left us, even the best DJ is not worth listening to and a few decibels less noise cannot make up for their twattery.

    3. Neil Dawson

      Re: Too soon

      Jack FM is on DAB

      http://www.jackbristol.com/info/how-to-listen/

    4. BongoJoe
      Headmaster

      Re: I love dab

      Living in the country side we keep loosing stations on fm whilst with dab it can stay tuned in.

      I live in the same countryside and I can't get it. Now I know why; you've loosened it.

    5. Tac Eht Xilef

      Re: in the USA....

      "I am fairly sure the digital radio they have here is not compatible (it is proprietary so the sets cost a minimum of $300! )"

      In reality, cost-wise it should be the other way around - until recently the DAB Consortium levied per-unit fees on receivers and, AFAIK, DAB+ receiver manufacturers still have to pay licencing fees for the AAC+ audio codec. HDRadio, on the other hand, was specifically structured from the outset to be no cost to receiver manufacturers - iBiquity make their money from up-front & ongoing licencing fees on transmitters.

      (But, really, I'm only reading the comments looking for the unmistakable signs of Australia's own Alan Hughes, relentless DAB+/DRM fanboy & technical nutjob extraordinaire. Don't see him, but I can see the UK has more than a few of its own ;)

  48. gerryg

    Do those that decide have a clue?

    I'm in a good reception area for DAB so most of my household listening is digital mainly R4, R3, occasionally WS, very occasionally R4+, rarely R5L.

    For R3 at 192kb/s audio is as good as I can tell compared to FM, seems to offer better phase stability and no background hiss

    For my bathroom, garden or travelling the FM radio in my Nokia 5800 is ideal as is the solar powered FM portable.

    DAB is completely unsuitable for portable use - it's unclear how it ever will be. I have no idea what is the total power budget Tx/Rx for either technology - does government? What about all the energy in scrapped FM radios? What's the material cost?

    Digital TV I understand, no ghosting, better images, there's a benefit. The bandwidth for analogue TV was quite significant 860Mhz-470MHz ~ 400MHz

    What are the benefits, exactly? Sound quality? no. Use cases? no. Choice? possibly, though not supported by demand. Bandwidth 108MHz - 88MHz = 20 MHz Is that really worth the candle?

  49. Brian0735

    DAB - no thank you!

    In my area DAB radio receiption in the house is intermittent! Nor does the service include local BBC stations I want to listen to.

    The sound quality of those stations that can be received on DAB is also inferior to FM transmissions.

    I have not been convinced of any advantage of DAB.

  50. knarf

    NOOOOOOO............

    DAB is useless in my house at best and having on a Kettle / Microware etc.... stops it completely. I live in the middle of a city as well.

  51. Daz555

    DAB is laughably bad. Aside form the large number of channels (which often cannot be received) I can't think of a single redeeming feature.

    The only good thing about DAB is that as a result of the hype I bought a Pure receiver. Thankfully is also does FM and Internet radio - saving me from the horrifying stuttery mess of DAB.

  52. cosymart
    Thumb Down

    DAB - Could be better!

    I would love to use DAB as my main source of radio music as when it works it is great. Between my house and the transmitter is a long line of brick houses so the signal stands no chance. FM is fine though. Have 2 DAB radios. One is connected to an external aerial, works fine, the other does not have an external aerial connector so is either a door stop or connected to FM.

    Agree with the earlier comment about the design of the DAB radios, why do they all try to look "trendy retro" and fail?

  53. Mage Silver badge

    DAB+

    Be careful what you wish for.

    DAB+ has almost no real advantage, except to allow twice as many stations. All the reasons why DAB is inferior to Analogue apply to it.

    I used to be a firm supporter of Digital Radio and DRM & DRM+ in particular. I'm now convinced it's technology for technology's sake. There is enough spectrum no use for Mobile to triple FM spectrum! The FM Band II isn't really much use for anything else.

    With the end of Band I & Band III TV (1985 in UK and 1999 & 2012 in other countries) and move from VHF Mobile Radio in "fleets" to Mobile Phones there is absolutely no pressure to save spectrum. Which is absolutely the ONLY advantage of Digital Radio. In every other respect Digital Radio is inferior for portable broadcast.

  54. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Single standard?

    You want a single standard? OK, FM.

    In all seriousness... DAB is using an even older standard than MP3, so compression ratios are relatively poor -- also, they do put too many channels on a multiplex, so you end up with all those low-bitrate streams (which will sound even worse than an equivalently low MP3 stream.) The error correction support is also poor.

    It turns out (as you all know), people do not want a system with poorer than FM radio quality and poorer than FM range. Go figure.

    At the very least, they should all use DAB+ (which is using a form of AAC audio called HE-AAC+), which is like triple the efficiency of MP2.

  55. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    All you DAB naysayers forget one thing

    Because DAB is Broadcast, the spooks can't track your location and the Advertisers can't track what you are listening to.

    Simple decision then? Want some privacy? then DAB it is.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: All you DAB naysayers forget one thing

      Privacy? If I had DAB then I wouldn't be bothered by any reception either.

      Someone here mentioned that DAB has been going for over a decade. Not seen a sniff of it here.

  56. Maharg

    I think something needs to be done

    People are pointing to battery life and signal range as if that’s not going to change, you don’t really think that FM radios have always been that small, that cheap and been able to run on a couple of AAs?

    I can just imagine back at the turn of the 20th century, “An automobile you say? Why look at it! It is slow, it is expensive, I have to wind it up, it is unreliable and it consumes way too much power!

    I will stick to my horse thank you!

    As for the internet argument, any negative points about DAB apply double to the internet, 3G (let alone 4) is practically none-existent outside of cities and large towns, and while DAB doesn’t have a much larger range, it doesn’t cost (in terms of having to pay for data or have it in a contract saying you won’t) and it’s a lot more simple, the same argument can be applied to TV stations, why do I need to bother with when I can just use the internet?

    Something needs to be done, and I agree with the point about DAB+ being the way to go, but a lot of the same arguments would still apply, and having 90s tech (DAB) is at least 40 years improvment on FM.

    I guess people don’t want innovation anymore, they want things to be perfect first time and never change.

    Prepared for down votes, but at least be man enough to explain why you disagree!

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: I think something needs to be done

      I have an FM portable that can just fit in a coat pocket, uses 4 AA batteries and is 40 years old. I've no idea how long the batteries last. Each time I change them I can never remember when the last time was.

      How's that for a reason?

      1. Maharg

        Re: I think something needs to be done@ Will Godfrey

        Thats nice, my dad still has a VCR with a remote attached by a wire in the loft, I guess he should have kept using that instead of getting a DVD player...

        1. rhydian

          @maharg

          The difference is that VHS to DVD was a step forward in picture quality and usability. People voluntarily changed their equipment. Also, as a rule, you only had 1 or 2 VCRs in a house, I have at least 4 distinct radios in the house, plus tech with built in FM tuners.

          DAB is a step back in quality. (When music stations are broadcasting Mono you know the game's up). DAB+ might be different, but I doubt it.

          DAB is a step back in coverage. (even with extra Masts/re-tasking FM sites, the frequencies used are in another band, and will never duplicate FM coverage). FM degrades gracefully, digital simply doesn't.

          I'm all for progress, but when you have a proven solution which does what just about everyone wants from their radio then I can't see how DAB/DAB+/Son-of-DAB can do the job better than FM.

          1. Maharg

            Re: @rhydian

            “DAB is a step back in quality”

            I would rather hear something clearly in Mono then in Stereo with a loud BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ sound every five minutes or a general hiss all the time.

            “DAB is a step back in coverage”

            Pretty sure when DVD playerss came out there were more VHS tapes then DVDs

            “FM degrades gracefully, digital simply doesn't.”

            No, digital stops, FM goes BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ or HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS I would, again, rather it just stopped then assault my eardrums.

            I'm all for progress, but when you have a proven solution which does what just about everyone wants from their 12”/VCR/Horse/Coal Fire/telegram/post then I can't see how CDs/DVDs/Cars/Central heating/telephone/email can do the job better than…

            There I fixed it for you…

            1. rhydian

              Re: @ Maharg

              "

              I would rather hear something clearly in Mono then in Stereo with a loud BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ sound every five minutes or a general hiss all the time."

              Strangely enough I've never noticed either of those things in my house (which is odd as it as two foot stone walls) on my radios. DAB coverage is however non-existent, inside or outside.

              "Pretty sure when DVD playerss came out there were more VHS tapes then DVDs"

              Of course comparing something you can physically transport (DVDs) to something that's broadcast from a mast (DAB) makes perfect sense. If I don't have coverage now, I can't go out and buy a box of DAB signal now can I?

              "No, digital stops, FM goes BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ or HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS I would, again, rather it just stopped then assault my eardrums."

              But of course it's fine for DAB to start sounding like boiling mud or cutting out all together? If your FM reception weakens you can either put up with it or swap to mono. DAB doesn't have that flexibility.

              "I'm all for progress, but when you have a proven solution which does what just about everyone wants from their 12”/VCR/Horse/Coal Fire/telegram/post then I can't see how CDs/DVDs/Cars/Central heating/telephone/email can do the job better than…"

              What you fail to see is there is still a massive swath of the country that has perfectly acceptable FM Stereo reception, but absolutely no DAB reception AT ALL. Why turn off something that works just because you think it's old fashioned? DAB and FM can co-exist quite happily.

              And as for 12”/VCR/Horse/Coal Fire/telegram/post aside from the VCR and the Telegram there's still plenty of people using them to do jobs.

              1. Maharg

                Re: @ Maharg @rhydian

                1) "Strangely enough I've never noticed either of those things in my house (which is odd as it as two foot stone walls) on my radios. DAB coverage is however non-existent, inside or outside."

                That’s nice for you, but this is not about you, it’s about the country as a whole, not everyone lives inside 2 foot stone walls, in fact most don’t, and a lot of the UK (including where I live) the FM reception is either constantly terrible, or cuts out, personally the DAB reception in my house is much better than the FM, which is why I don’t have an FM radio apart from in my car and a wind up one for music festivals but I didn’t raise that point as, again, we are talking about the whole of the UK.

                2) No, you can’t go out and buy a box of DAB, the point of the analogy was that when new technology replaces old, not everyone has access to it, what can/will happen is the coverage will increase, just like it did with FM.

                3) As I said, Digital stops, saying when an FM reception weakens I can “put up with it” is exactly the point, I don’t want to “put up” with fluctuating levels of static increasing and decreasing in noise, if you can put up with FM not working why can I not put up with DAB not working?

                4) “What you fail to see is there is still a massive swath of the country that has perfectly acceptable FM Stereo reception, but absolutely no DAB reception AT ALL”

                What you fail to see is THEY ARE NOT DOING THIS TODAY, from what I remember the reason the date keeps getting put back until they do cover enough people.

                As for this “massive swath of the country” with no DAB reception it is not dissimilar to that massive swath of the country that has absolutely no FM Stereo reception AT ALL!

                5) "Why turn off something that works just because you think it's old fashioned? DAB and FM can co-exist quite happily."

                I never said it should be turned off, I’m just trying to point out a few things wrong with this ‘FM is the dogs bollocks and DB will kill our first born children hysteria’.

                1. rhydian

                  Re: @ Maharg @rhydian

                  "What you fail to see is THEY ARE NOT DOING THIS TODAY, from what I remember the reason the date keeps getting put back until they do cover enough people."

                  DAB is on Band III. Band III is higher than the current FM frequencies which are in Band II. Therefore even with the same masts at the same power in the same places DAB will not cover the same ground as FM. Simple physics will see to that. Just look at the extra masts the old ITV companies on Band III needed to cover the same ground as the BBC on Band I. If the digital radio switchover was done in the same was as digital TV (broadly the same coverage areas in the same frequency band with an easy way to convert older receivers), but DAB can't offer that.

                  "2) No, you can’t go out and buy a box of DAB, the point of the analogy was that when new technology replaces old, not everyone has access to it, what can/will happen is the coverage will increase, just like it did with FM."

                  DAB's had a long time to establish itself. It hasn't. The BBC have even tried to move the Archers to DAB to prop up their digital listening figures.

                  One question you've not asked is do I listen to digital radio services. I do regularly listen to digital radio via my freesat box and have been known to use web based radio services. The problem is neither is nearly as portable as simple FM radio. I've used DAB radios when visiting family and friends and found them very sensitive to location, less than straightfroward to use and the audio quality less impressive than the £8 Tesco FM radio I bought for my kitchen.

    2. Chemist

      Re: I think something needs to be done

      "I guess people don’t want innovation anymore"

      People quite like improvement ! Innovation has to do something useful in real life to be commercial

  57. Craigness

    "Nobody wants it"

    I'm not surprised nobody wants FM.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Technology elitism

    The problem with over-relying on analog stuff is that in the case of a massive grid shutdown, people are screwed. This has already happened with digital fibre lines.

    Progress is fine, but we still need some analog in our lives.

  59. Tony Green

    Summer? There's a simple explanation

    During hot weather, the DAB signal becomes useless. That's why digital listening declined during the hot summer.

    I live less than ten miles from the BBC's huge Manningtree DAB transmitter. I have an outside aerial pointing directly at the transmitter. But on hot days during the summer, the signal was forever dropping out, either for seconds or hours at a time.

    So funnily enough, my digital listening declined a hell of a lot this summer, as I was forced back to FM

  60. Da Weezil

    My radio listening is mostly in car.. and here in south west west wales (thats the real one - west of swansea) FM is patchy, the thought of DAB being forced on us is a nightmare - and will result in my dumping radio for my trusty Ipod... that's less audience for the advertisers that fund stations like Real Radio.

    DAB is unwanted and unnecessary. Bad news for consumers as we are expected to buy all new equipment.. while the Government get the double income from both the VAT we pay to replace perfectly good equipment and having a little more spectrum to flog off to their city buddies.

  61. Richard Neill

    Why switch off FM?

    Much though I like DAB, I can't see why we need to kill FM. Unlike Digital TV, there's not much alternative use for the mere 20 MHz of spectrum that could be potentially freed.

    Also, from a cultural perspective, we need to keep at least something broadcasting on AM: so many engineers and physicsts get started on AM radios - and it's the only technology you can really build yourself.

  62. OnTheSpecialBus

    I dont need anything that costs me extra to replace something I already have.

    My cars all have factory fitted FM radios and these work perfectly.

    At home I have T'internet and all its joys to entertain me, radio at home just does not happen.

    At the moment I have absolutely no need for DAB, if FM stops working I will simply stop listening to local radio when I am out and about in the car as I'm neither old enough or young enough to enjoy any BBC radio content.

    BBC Radio has WandErection for the Yoofs and Terrys Old Gits for the departure lounge massive but nothing in between.

    However as a licence payer I am funding these services I dont use but have the means to access.

    Here is a simple test, a reduction in the TV/BBC License fee if I have no DAB devices in my house or car,

    how many people would still be keen ?

  63. Michael Palmer

    No DAB Signal Here

    I live in a rural area where we can't get a DAB signal. So I either listen on my computer or via a Sky box. But what about people who don't own any digital technology & can't get a DAB signal? They wouldn't have any options. It's like cheques. They're use is in decline, but people still use millions of them. The banks wanted to scrap them because it would save them time & money, but it wasn't convenient for consumers. So the attempt to get rid of them failed. I think it should be like that with FM radio. There will come a time when so few people use them they could be safely scrapped without troubling too many people. But until that time we should leave well alone.

  64. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Tried and tested in Finland...

    ...and found wanting. From Wikipedia:

    "he Finnish broadcasting corporation YLE started DAB transmissions in 1997, which covered approximately 2 million listeners. However, not many compliant devices were sold and hence the DAB transmitters were switched off in 2005, although transmissions of the digital radio channels continue in the digital television network.[7]

    Finland is providing digital radio via other digital broadcasting systems, such as DVB-H."

  65. David 45

    A con

    In my opinion, DAB was the biggest con ever pulled on the great British wireless-listening public. I was an early adopter, buying a tuner, seduced by the promises of "better than CD" quality. Initially it sounded no more than just OK and what do we get? More and more stations shoe-horned in at ever- decreasing bit-rates (one in MONO, for goodness' sake!) and bloomin' 'orrible sound quality, There was also a mention in the early days (and I'm sure I didn't dream it) of user-adjustable audio compression but that appears to have vanished in a black hole and now everything sounds like the dreaded Optimod (or something similar) is still being used to flatten dynamic range to such an extent that I feel most of the stations (and this applies to FM as well) are painful to listen to. Some are audibly "pumping". I suspect sound quality is suffering because I understand DAB encoding is lossy, like mp3, and I am also guessing that the stations' computer music storage is not exactly .WAV standard either (imagine the storage space THAT would need), and the combination of the two, together with the way the raw audio is butchered before it enters the transmission chain, conspires to emit sounds which are nowhere near the quality of a good CD. I have reel-to-reel recordings made many years ago from FM and they sound fine with plenty of dynamics - unlike contemporary efforts. All in all, as someone else has mentioned, I think the whole system meeds a complete re-vamp. Current transmissions seem to be tailored to the lowest common denominator, i.e. portable radios and in-car systems. Given a half-decent hi-system, DAB fails miserably.

    1. JaitcH
      Meh

      Re: A con

      Reel-to-reel?

      That dates you .... do you still edit using a razor blade and sticky tape?

  66. Jim Wilkinson

    DAB - fix it or forget it

    Doesn't exist where I live. I used to get it in Hampshire so I have a receiver, but here in West Devon - no chance. Unless this proposal also includes a plan to extend reception to remote locations plus reception on the move, it has to be a dead duck.

  67. jonfr

    DAB Radio is old and obsolete

    If going by the Wikipedia on DAB. It is clear that the standard is outdated and obsolete. New standard needs to at least use mp4 audio technology or AAC+ as DAB+ (also obsolete by now). There is also problem with the spectrum. Currently DAB (and DAB+) is on the VHF-12 channel, that is around 230Mhz. It is difficult to receive that properly inside a house. While that is no issue with FM radio at 87,7 - 108Mhz.

    Internet radio works better today than DAB radio (via wlan at least) and I am sure that is going to be new in house standard in the future (if not already). I am not sure for remote or travel radio yet how that is going to be resolved. That might just continue to use FM radio.

    I live in Denmark and I am around 5 km away from next DAB transmitter (direct line). Yet I cannot get a good signal on it. At best I get around 70% signal with around 40% quality. That is no good and because of it I generally don't use DAB now. If I want to get good DAB signal I have to install VHF antenna for it and get me a radio that I can connect directly to a coax cable.

  68. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Who/what is driving digital broadcasting, worldwide, yet?

    If you wander the wilds of VietNam at night, the glow of television outlines the windows of isolated 'houses' where even the most impressive Yagi antenna might pull in one or two channels - if thee wind is blowing the right way.

    In the cities the maximum OTA (Over The Air) channels might be 15, Cable is good for up to 150 or so.

    In Laos and Kampuchea (Cambodia) the situation is similar. As for radio broadcasting we have FM and short-wave (for the mountains in the northwest). The rabid religious broadcasters, in the Phillipines, us 500KW transmitters on Medium Wave AM - they don't seem to realise we have no AM sets in China or Indochina!

    YET the governments of these countries has been persuaded, by ASIAN, to go digital. So poor people who might make $700/annum as farmers are going to have to upgrade. It can't be spectrum, VietNam has border to border to coast cell coverage, with masses of unoccupied spectrum.

    I agree with other posters, DAB is a retrograde step for quality, so who other than Chinese and Korean manufacturers are to gain?

  69. zaax

    It the price of the sets that get me, an fm radio is about £15 where are DAB radio is about £100. Anyway I have a web radio and I use that in the morning.

  70. Alex Bailey

    I see a few major problems with forcing the adoption of digital radio in the UK.

    First of all, despite the years of expansion of commercial stations there still doesn't seem to be the diversity of choice that there is in the USA. This is even an issue with analogue FM radio which seems to be flooded with national BBC channels with little room for local alternatives that play anything other than "general pop".

    Then there's the usage issue. More and more people are only casual listeners these days and nobody wants to spend out for expensive digital receivers, either for the car or home, when they're only likely to use it for 10 minutes a week. Now if ALL receivers were capable of receiving digital alongside analogue and were priced similarly to current analogue only models that might change - but somebody please listen, put in some way to disable the analogue tuner, I have dual analogue-digital TV's that default to analogue if they have an issue and now we can't get analogue channels are absolutely hopeless (I even have one that turns itself off after 20 minutes if it receives no analogue channels!!!)

    Finally there's the emergency aspect. We need a way of getting out information in the case of a natural disaster, analogue is ideal for that as it's cheaper to broadcast and cheaper to receive. We can't rely on power stations and the mobile network being active if we get hit by a comment or have a massive earthquake!

  71. Richard Cranium

    The only reason I use DAB is because it can usually get usable quality reception on the domestic mains sets - but only with that awkward antenna extended. Living in the forgotten North of UK we've always suffered poorer coverage.

    I had to abandon Radio 3 when it left AM, FM was unusable, at least DAB remedied that but then I committed the horrendous mistake of moving to the hilly Peak District (the clue is in the name). AM signals were good at "bending" over hills, FM/DAB aren't. Listening in the car is a lottery, numerous places on A roads where the signal deteriorates from OK to static.

  72. hoola Bronze badge

    Its all about money

    All Parliment wants to do is auction off the frequencies. They do not care about the impact or if it is better. Choice is not necessarily better.

    Car came with a decent FM/DAB radio but we do not use DAB because the reception is so rubbish. A courtesy car had the base model in and the DAB could not find more than one station. FM was fine.

    As usual moronic MPs not looking beyond next week (or next day) & high pressure lobbying will preveil and everyone will end up shelling out for a pile of junk. With DTV the changes to LCD & LED at least meant there was a liklihood of some sort of renewal cycle. With audio, this is none.

  73. NoOnions
    FAIL

    Nest to useless for me

    I have two DAB radios - both are next to useless.

    I pretty much only listen to Radio 5 Live. In the evenings I get 60-80% signal loss, so all I get is bubbling mud. If the microwave is on this becomes 100% signal loss. Mornings are okay, with 35-45 % loss.

    I've now taken to using my Sony Pocket Radio. Only cost a tenner, runs off two AA batteries and they last for months. I also quite often listen to 5 Live via the BBC app on my Nook HD tablet.

    Wifey listens to Radio 2, so the FM switch off would greatly annoy her.

  74. Nelbert Noggins
    Coat

    Oh here we go again.

    I'm trying to reduce the number of boxes and remotes in my house not increase them.

    Who's going to pay for the dab tuner I'll need to add to my cupboard when the FM Tuner on my receiver stops working?

    With an equivalent AV Receiver replacement going up to the £600-£700 price range I won't be replacing it anytime soon.

    While I sometimes stream internet radio via Sonos, the quality isn't as good as FM via the receiver. They also don't work when my internet goes off or bandwidth comes under pressure from video streaming, patching, software downloads and online games. FM just works and is built into my AV receiver.

    I guess once all us grumpy old men who actually like listening to music on decent equipment die out and the mp3 generation take over DAB will be high quality, especially when hooked up to Beats headphones. :(

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a different Axe to grind.

    It's not about the availability or quality. Power consumption or any other tech based aspect.

    It's about flexibility and choice. I like sports, I use my radio, both DAB and FM, to listen to a lot.

    MY regions local BBC offering (Radio nottingham as it happens) cannot be alone in adopting the approach they do for sport.

    In our region (and most others I imagine) there are multiple local sports teams,all of whom have local fans. Taking football as an example 2 weeks in 3 all the local teams kick off at the same time, 3 pm on a saturday. The current setup allows our one local radio stattion to cover the lot. They have 2 different FM frequencies, online radio and DAB, The current setup allows them to split content. One game one one FM frequency, another on the other, one on DAB and on online only. If this goes through someone misses out. I've no idea about the commercial costs of radio but i'm assuming every single, local,BBC station won't be able to afford to broadcast on 3-4 DAB frequencies at once (eg BBCrNottm1 BBCrNottm2 etc).

    I know it's not popular to like football on here but I know I can't be alone. I'd be willing to bet the football broadcasts are amongst this stations best performing, ratings wise too.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where are you people shopping for radios?

    Seeing some crazy numbers thrown around for DAB sets. Mine was under £30, from tesco, and is brilliant.

  77. James Pickett

    "the major radio industry players desperately want a unified standard"

    Really? I thought they just wanted to sell more sets (and possibly batteries). People don't buy new radios very often, as they last so well, so the desperation probably has very little to with 'unified standards'. As for batteries, our only recent radio purchase (a £10 Lloytron) bought three years ago and in daily use, is still on its original two D-cells.

    I might add that 50% usage is a very low bar. What about the 49% who either can't get or don't want DAB? How much of the licence fee can we withhold..?

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