back to article The future of radio may well be digital, but it won't survive on DAB

Radio in the UK passed a significant milestone on 17 May. For the first time, more than half of Brits now access radio digitally. According to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), the figures have risen from 49.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2017 to 50.9 in the first three months of 2018. Passing the 50 per cent digital …

  1. David Knapman

    My pet peeve with lack of coverage on main roads is on a Motorway, no less. On the A74(M) about 50 miles south of Glasgow there's a dead spot that takes about 30 minutes to drive through (ignoring the odd splutter when it gets a signal for about 10 seconds)

    1. ForthIsNotDead

      I know the exact area you are talking about. When looking at it on a map, it's very sparsely populated, hence one could imagine that it's not really going to be an important for DAB coverage. On the other hand, it's the main route between England and Scotland FFS! Sort it out!

      On the plus side: I drive from Aberdeen to Durham and back every week along the A1, and DAB Radio6 works flawlessly all the way. Perfect.

    2. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

      DAB Is just as bad on the M4 between Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea. FM works fine all over the south west without having to retune every 25 ish miles.

      Also that annoying bloke on traffic broadcast from somewhere in Sommerset keeps coming up when I'm in Wales. Wish I could block that 30 seconds of traffic news and 5 minutes of talking cr@p.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When the BBC engineers first started planning the FM network, they had the freedom and money to do it Properly. That's properly, with a capital P. Meaning that the intention was to make it the most comprehensive, best engineered radio network that could be humanly achieved.

        And they did. The UK FM network is nigh on unsurpassable. The tweaks that have happened since the 70s to accommodate commercial stations and RDS have only made it better.

        Tech fact - one of the earliest radio shows to exploit the UK FM stereo network was Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, all the way back in 1978.

        Even today, the best technical quality broadcast radio in the country is BBC Radio 3. With a proper FM radio and a good antenna, the fidelity is truly outstanding, and is better than any digital medium no matter what compression technology they've gone and used.

        Part of the reason for this is that Radio 3 was given an extra large slice of the FM spectrum, and could therefore use a greater modulation depth. Thus the dynamic range of audio that could be transmitted by Radio 3 is higher than all the other FM stations in the country.

        So the UK FM network sets a very high bar indeed. Picking DAB to replace it was the decision of technical numbskulls, who were unaware of the vastness of a DAB network that would have to be built to match (never mind surpass) FM. Anyway, DAB is the wrong standard to use. DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) is far superior, repurposing existing AM transmitters as digital broadcasters, and also making far better use of the FM band than analogue FM does. It's a really good technology, but unfortunately the politicians who made the decisions never bothered asking if there was anything technologically superior than DAB. Choosing DAB irrevocably was a bit like deciding to use 8" floppy disks for evermore, despite the availability of USB memory sticks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          FM and Digital engineering

          I thumbed-up your post about the quality of the UK FM network, but I think you are being somewhat unfair, thanks to having the full benefit of hindsight, about DAB. When digital radio was originally being planned, way back in the 80s, DAB/MP2 was as good as it was. At that time, few, if any, could have foreseen the subsequent advances in audio codecs and in internet technologies, and quite how soon they would then occur.

          Yes, DAB is "yesterday's" technology now, and perhaps the biggest failing was not that DAB existed, but that it is not possible to firmware upgrade existing radios to be able to handle DAB+ or DRM instead. But, again, back then, the idea of upgradable firmware was probably some combination of unimaginable/impossible/unaffordable...?

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          While I agree that the frequency planners did an excellent job (though you have to be aware of the international co-operation that was necessary, particularly on the south and west coasts)...

          Radio 3 was given an extra large slice of the FM spectrum, and could therefore use a greater modulation depth

          is utter tosh. All radio stations in the UK have to conform to the same set of standards, and modulation depth is not allowed to exceed +/-75kHz under any circumstances.

          ITU reference

          Ofcom looks after this sort of thing in the UK. Note that in this Technical Parameters for Broadcast Radio Transmitters they don't even bother mentioning modulation depth.

          It is the same for every transmitter.

          Unless you can point me in the direction of contrary documentation?

          M.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The day DAB died

      When all the stations buggered off from D1 (with high 90 something percentage coverage) to cheaper D2 with around 45% coverage, mainly around cities.

      My DAB radios went in the bin and I stopped listening to these stations, as if you are going to force me to internet radio, you need to be ready for having to competr with a much bigger set of competing stations.

      Not listened to Planet Rock in over 2 years, not since they went to D2, the day DAB died...

  2. createahandletheysay

    Wait

    There's more stations than BBC6 on DAB?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wait

      "There's more stations than BBC6 on DAB?"

      Not in my house there aren't...

      1. PickledAardvark

        Re: Wait

        I always think of it as BBC6 in spite of its official name.

        And I'm delighted that the silly price DAB radio I bought 15 years ago still works with current broadcasting standards. It works best in one particular location -- inches make a difference. It has outlasted a gorgeous looking Roberts analogue radio which functions only as an ornament. Maybe I could hack it and put something useful inside. I'll buy a new DAB radio when my old one conks out, ideally one with push buttons to select my preferred channels rather than a "tuning" knob.

        OP: "A lot of others aren't even available in stereo, which seems pretty bonkers in the 21st century." My radio is mono and 7" wide; it is enough for casual radio listening whilst cooking. If I want to listen to music -- to bury myself -- I tweak the knobs on my hifi for Robert Johnson, Louis Jordan, early Stones and Beatles but it still sounds like mono...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wait

          >I always think of it as BBC6 in spite of its official name.

          Nah. It's radio 6. BBC 6 would be on the telly.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Wait

            BBC 6 is BBC 1 SD

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Wait

      Planet Rock,... in my kitchen, while I cook. That's DAB for me.

      And occasionally, digital warble. No idea why that happens, it works flawlessly for weeks, then randmly it'll start dropping out and warbling one day, and be fine the next.

      1. Multivac

        Re: Wait

        Don't buy a Bosch washing machine, completely wipes out the DAB signal when it's running.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Wait

        My radio does the same sort of thing and it's bloody annoying when it happens. I normally have rock solid reception on the Surrey & North Sussex mux which is fine. However every so often and far too often in my opinion it dies completely. The station I listen to is Eagle Radio and the display just says "Station unavailable" which is of no use. I thought it might be atmospherics but it happens in all weathers and is a pain. My expensive radio doesn't scan that block (10C} automatically and it's a real song and dance to get the station back up and running. I have to do the following:

        Unscrew the aerial,

        Turn the radio on and scan

        It finds nothing.

        You then have to go into the settings,

        change the tuning range to include 10C

        rescan and add the station to the same preset as I used before.

      3. David Paul Morgan

        Re: Wait

        we love Planet Rock in our house. I had to buy an extension antenna for my sony monolithic bluetooth/fm/dab/cd brick to reduce (but not eliminate) the warbling.

        it's very annoying.

        However, when i get up, I just shout "OK Google, Play Planet Rock Radio " and it's ready and waiting when I make the morning coffee!

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Wait

      4 Extra perhaps?

      My mum will kill anyone who tries to end that.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Wait

      "There's more stations than BBC6 on DAB?"

      There's a BBC6? I often wondered what was below Radio7 and assumed the rename to Radio4Extra was to remove that anomaly. :-)

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Still haven't worked out how DAB came into being in an era where we could transmit the same kind of MPEG-compressed streams, buffer them properly, and have small retransmissions necessary to fill in the gaps.

    Thus, though your radio might be a few seconds behind, at least it won't completely cut out just because you go through a tunnel, or go funny because you're near a big building.

    Sorry, but everything now should be over IP. There's no reason not to. DAB could easily have been that - just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

    I have a car with radio and DAB built into the entertainment system. I can honestly say I've only ever used either by accident (stupid voice control, and bad placement of the "mode" button on the steering wheel", right next to vol up/down).

    But the car has its own Wifi, can interface with 3G etc. sticks, bluetooth PAN, connects to my phone as soon as I start the engine, etc. As such, DAB is really a dead-middle-ground.

    To be honest, I think it's also "listening live" that's dead, rather than "listen on demand". People don't want the waffle and adverts and talk-overs and the "most popular" song on constant loop. They want to listen to what they want to listen to. Again - possible on IP technology, but not on DAB.

    Give it another generation for the current kids to grow up and get their own cars, etc. and you'll see that DAB is dead. Nobody cares about it. If it's not on-demand, it's dead, and we're all carrying on-demand music/podcast streaming devices on our person that connect to cars and hifis, and are much more likely to be with us than a DAB-capable radio.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I enjoy listening live to 6 Music - the music is varied and the hosts put the music first. And after all, how would I know to search for something on Spotify (or in a record shop!) if I hadn't already heard? On a Sunday morning I can put Cerys Matthews on and make my breakfast without having to attend to any playlists.

      I don't like ads on commercial radio, and Radio 2 is intensly annoying for many reasons - not least DJ's habit of talking g over a song and then not telling you what it is (their one job!)

      1. 27escape

        Spotify does have "Discover" modes

        It sets up 6 daily modes based on your tastes, as well as a weekly mode, these act as radio channels to get around the cost of playing individual tracks.

        There are also genre radio channels, as well as channels for activities, like contemplation, jogging etc.

        Works reasonably well, finds stuff I would not normally listen to, you just have to remember to wander about so that you do not keep in a pigeon hole

      2. therealmav

        Radio 2 is intensely annoying for many reasons...

        Steve Wright, that’s the main reason.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

      1) There are still a huge number of Mobile 'dead zones'. Some are less than 40 miles from London.

      2) Broadcasting means that I can't be tracked and the advertisers can't know what I've listened to.

      3) I've got to pay for the data that comes over the IP stream

      4) aren't we out of IPv4 addresses? It seems that widespread use of IPv6 by the average person is as dead as a Dodo.

      Streaming (like Cloud Services) are not the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

      Yours Grumpy with a Valve Radio.

      1. The obvious

        Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

        1) yes there are but that's not an unfixable problem and it should be sorted from a perspective of public safety

        2) multicast is your friend

        3) yes, fair point

        4) pretty much all mobile handsets support IPv6 today, if the networks are still dragging their heels after over 2 decades then that's a very different problem and ultimately they aren't going to fix it without demand

        So basically there aren't lots of reasons, there's one - the cost of internet access.

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

          The thing that's not fixable is that I can take my battery radio away for a two week backpacking trip and I'll get something on either FM, AM or LW wherever I go in the UK. Even if the Highlands get enough data coverage to stream radio reliably my phone battery will be dead after 24 hours, so it will be bloody useless. The transistor radio will work for weeks on a couple of AAs.

          1. uccsoundman

            Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

            But you are not supposed to be enjoying yourself in the Highlands. You are supposed to be in the city, either slaving away at your job, or at home consuming media that those in charge want to sell you.

        2. Flicker

          Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

          Multicast??? Don't make me laugh - with no hope of a workable standard across UK ISPs and CPE or motivation for them to support it carrier-grade consumer multicast is a mirage that's never going to happen here. The BBC ran a trial some years back which I spent ages trying to persuade my ISP to particiate in - the Beeb eventually gave up in the face of complete ISP indifference and myriad technical equipment issues.

          I've implemented multicast media distribution in an enterprise using a carefully controlled and configured narrow set of hardware / firmware and even that's not a picnic - for example a minor difference between the multicast support in different firmware levels led to the complete meltdown of Heathrow's IP network some years back following an upgrade (not my site BTW...). It sounds like a great answer but forget it as a practical solution.

        3. spinynorman

          Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

          @The obvious ... and exactly how many people use multicast?

          1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

            At a previous employer we used multicast for IPTV. It only worked if we were able to control the exact switches (make, model and firmware version) used within the building, and even then it was site-area network - doing inter-network multicasts, especially with an ISP, rapidly becomes an exercise in building your own network stacks. If the network supported it, however, multicast was a superb choice: point-to-point TV is a bandwidth hog for high numbers of users, but on multicast, the peak network load is limited by the number of available channels, not the number of viewers..

            While Multicast IP is great in theory, but at a LAN level, it was never widely adopted by switch manufacturers (IGMP, the protocol that allows receivers to join and leave multicasts, is best implemented at the switching rather than routing level of the network stack, but that requires that switches inspect the frames they receive in order to find the join/leave messages), and at a WAN level, there's no good routing protocol.

            But that's really not what was "wrong" with DAB. The designers made a good choice of transport layer; the problem was that the content stream encoding specified just before audio decompression hardware progressed to the point where it became possible to run the much better frequency-domain decoders (e.g, MP3) on cheap silicon. The root of DAB's problems are that in MP2, the available bitrate is equally allocated across the audio signal's frequency bandwidth - if there's no information present in a given sub-band, you can't reallocate its bitrate to other, more information-rich sub-bands. Thus, for certain types of signal, in which only a small part of the frequency range is carrying information, MP2's "used" bitrate is a fraction of the channel rate. Unfortunately, instrumental or vocal solos in classical music are exactly that kind of signal.

            DAB+, on the other hand, is pretty good, even at surprisingly low bitrates (I can receive the same services on DAB and DAB+ where I live)

        4. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

          pretty much all mobile handsets support IPv6 today

          Indeed. As an example, it's several years since Apple mandated that all apps in the App Store *must* function correctly in an environment that has only IPv6.

        5. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: There are plenty of reasons NOT to use IP

          "2) multicast is your friend"

          and the router bandwidth that it would require is NOT. Just sayin'.

          On a related note, about 30-something years ago (in the USA) the AM band was almost dead. NOBODY listened to music stations on AM. There were attempts at AM stereo, but it doesn't address the fundamental problems. Quadrature detectors in AM receivers help a LOT, but you still get a lot of noise. Yet, just about every car still has an AM radio. Why?

          Well, AM was basically saved by the news/talk format. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, MIchael Reagan, Dr. Laura, Glenn Beck, and many others [including local talk hosts and nighttime shows like 'Coast to Coast AM'] basically re-opened the AM band with shows that people could listen to while driving, working, or whatever. For drivers, there are the frequent traffic updates. And so AM is still "a thing" around 100 years after the first radio transmissions.

          As for FM, digital exciters can improve the quality on the modulation side, and digital music playback in the studio gets rid of the pop/hiss/scratch of vinyl. FM quality is extremely good (at least here in the USA).

          This is all because AM and FM broadcasters (including the PBS and college stations) need to compete for an audience, here in the USA. I'm not sure about how the BBC is set up, but it seems to me that there isn't a significant amount of competition for them on radio. That's probably the driving force for 'change' even when 'change' isn't for the better. You know, like what Micro-shaft did with Windows "Ape" and Win-10-nic.

          (I'm quite happy with FM radio quality and AM programming out here on the left coast of the USA, and the fact that ancient radios can still receive it)

          /me wonders how you can teach electronics to a kid when crystal radios no longer receive anything?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But the car has its own Wifi"

      My car was built in 1998, and I've got good reason to assume it will carry on for at least another 5-10 years. It isn't going to get wifi.

      1. Toltec

        "But the car has its own Wifi"

        Do you have a smart phone?

    4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

      Lee D.: how do you buffer live radio?

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

        Live radio is already buffered.

        Seven-second delay to cut out obscenities, etc. when they have phone-ins.

        Literally just delay it by a few seconds (okay, you'll have to adjust the clocks in the studio but I imagine they already do).

        Nothing important ever happens quickly enough that you can't afford even 20 seconds of delay, and if you do it properly (it being broadcast) you won't even notice (just say it's the 10 oclock news at 9:59:40). This then gives all receivers 20 seconds to gather packets and retries in order to keep the buffer full so that it play seamlessly for you.

        Honestly not rocket science, and already in use (which is why people have to turn their radios down if they are phoning in - the safety delay lets you hear 7-second-delayed feedback).

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          Lee D. Live radio is buffered at the transmit end, not the receive end.

          It's not delay I'm talking about - it's the fact that vast tracts of the country don't have enough data coverage to do a Google search, never mind live streaming. The train journey from Ipswich to Liverpool Street has 10-15 mins of no data coverage - and no signal at all at Shenfield (Vodafone). You can't buffer that. I was in North Norfolk two weeks ago and spent hours with no data.

          1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            > I was in North Norfolk two weeks ago and spent hours with no data.

            At least you could tune into North Norfolk Digital

            1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

              Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

              No data, no phone, bugger all tv signal and even Norfolk FM is dire ... what hope has North Norfolk got if they go DAB or IP?

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          Radio 4 isn't buffered for obscenities - who can forget the Today programme when Jim Naughtie accidently referred to Jeremy Cunt the culture secretary? And Andrew Marr making the same slip an hour later when referring to his colleague's gaff?

          Anyway @Lee D to answer your question as to why DAB want built with buffering, it's because solid state memory was expensive in the nineties. It was present only on the higher end portable CD players to mitigate shock-induced read errors. It was standard on MD players - it had to be because a recorded Minidisc might not playback in the order it was originally recorded (users could split and reorder tracks by altering the Table of Contents) - but this required less storage per second because MiniDiscs stored compressed ATRAC audio. Pricier models offered 15 seconds of Electronic Shock Protection over the standard 3.

          Some DAB radio sets do offering buffering, but it isn't a part of the standard.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            "

            ... to answer your question as to why DAB want built with buffering, it's because solid state memory was expensive in the nineties.

            "

            Nope. It's because DAB is one-way with everyone receiving the same data stream. Therefore if you get corrupted data, there is no way to tell the transmitter to re-send that data, so buffering would be pointless. Same is true of multicast - it's inherently one-way so error correction is not possible.

            It would be possible to send two (or more) identical streams of data separated by a few seconds, so if you miss a bit during a fade the chances are you can get it on the second stream a while later, but that will of course require twice the bandwidth. You could also send blocks of data with PAR blocks appended that allow the receiver to correct errors provided it has received enough PAR blocks - but again that's a massive increase in bandwidth (and also needs some hefty CPU power in the receiver - which equals low battery life).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          Live radio is already buffered.

          At source, not the same thing.

          Buffering it in the receiver so you can surf through dead spots is easy but means 20-30s of "buffering..." silence every time you change channels.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            "

            Buffering it in the receiver so you can surf through dead spots is easy but means 20-30s of "buffering..." silence every time you change channels.

            "

            And of course two-way communication with the transmitting station so you can request the bits you missed to be re-transmitted, which is only possible via cellphone data which will cost you money.

            You can do that right now, you just need to point your smartphone to a suitable online radio station. Of course, mobile phone coverage might be even worse over a particular route than DAB coverage

        4. tfb Silver badge

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          'Buffering as necessary' works if you have a single stream arriving which you then relay around in some hard-real-time way (for instance as analogue signal). If you, for instance, have a radio (well, device) in the kitchen which is buffering and something in another room which is also buffering and you want to listen to the same station in both rooms, then, well, it's not fun.

          Multiple sources of the same content need to be in sync to within whatever the human perceptual limit is, which I guess is more than 1/100s but well under 1/10s. Obviously this is not achievable if your house is large enough (30m separation means 1/10s delay and there's nothing you can really do about that), but if your house is that large you have other problems, like where to store the servants.

          This is a soluble problem (if the devices have a good notion of time via NTP say, and there is time code in the data they're receiving then they can agree to a common almost-always-OK buffer time), but it's not actually solved.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            Multiple sources of the same content need to be in sync to within whatever the human perceptual limit is, which I guess is more than 1/100s but well under 1/10s.

            It depends on the application. I used to work at a radio station and some (not all) of the on-air talent would refuse to monitor "off air" from the transmitter that was fed by a NICAM link because it "phased in their head". Given that the studio and racks were entirely analogue, and they were perfectly happy monitoring the other, analogue-fed transmitter, that implies that the 1ms delay of NICAM is about where problems begin.

            Where I work now we've recently invested in a digital mixing desk and "snake". The manufacturer makes a big thing of the end-to-end latency of the system (i.e. analogue in on the stagebox, through the desk (digitally), gain, EQ, compression, routing, back to the stagebox and analogue out) being less than 1.1ms

            The ITU has guidelines which state that 1ms is as much delay as is acceptable for many digital microphone applications (PDF (see p4))

            In a large house, the delay due to distance will be masked from otherwise perfectly-in-sync separated receivers because the closest one will be loudest. The delay will just seem like a bit of reverb. But we're not talking 1 or 2ms with digital broadcasting. It can be many seconds in some cases - take the example of Radio 4 analogue against Radio 4 on digital satellite. LW and FM are as near as possible "live" (digital transmitter links aside). The satellite signal has to be encoded, multiplexed, sent to the uplink station, uplinked nearly 36,000km to the satellite, downlinked another 36,000km to your house (this trip alone adds at least a quarter of a second) and decoded by your box. You may then have a fancy AV amplifier which adds its own processing delay.

            I think, where I live, it's DAB that's the worst. I wouldn't be surprised if this is because it rebroadcasts a signal received via satellite. Put it this way, just last week I was listening to something on DAB and FM at the same time, and there was a good 4 or 5 second delay; enough that the kids moaned and I had to turn one of the sets off.

            I'd love to think that all equipment could be forced to output audio at exactly the correct moment, to within 5ms perhaps, but getting everyone to agree to do that?

            M.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

              Would have been interesting to try adding a ~1msec analog (sorry, analogue for you guys) buffer on the non NICAM feed for comparisons sake. I suspect that the lossy compression was a much bigger factor than the delay (assuming the 1msec delay is accurate).

            2. tfb Silver badge

              Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

              Well, 1ms corresponds to a positioning error of about 30cm: if you move one of the sources by that much, or walk that far, you've changed the timing by that much. So that's pretty clearly not something you need to aim for for a domestic audio system. But as you say the time skew you often get isn't usefully measured in ms, it's measured in whole seconds, and that's not anywhere near OK.

              I've just bought a new vehicle which has a radio which does FM and DAB, and has a fancy 'station-following' feature so it knows that it can follow a given station from DAB to FM and back when the DAB (usually) signal goes away (obviously only for stations which exist on both). After a day trying to listen to this strange disjointed mess that it turned radio into I worked out how to turn it off.

        5. PickledAardvark

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          "Nothing important ever happens quickly enough that you can't afford even 20 seconds of delay..."

          Maybe Big Ben can be tweaked during its current refurbishment to deliver buffered bongs.

          1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            Buffered clapper - more of a 'bouff' than a 'bong' ..

        6. Multiscat

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          @Lee D

          "Seven-second delay to cut out obscenities, etc. when they have phone-ins.

          Literally just delay it by a few seconds (okay, you'll have to adjust the clocks in the studio but I imagine they already do)."

          This might surprise you but in 25 years of professional radio production I have never seen or had to work with any delay mechanism. That includes working time served at some of the largest BBC networks, commercial broadcasters, local radio, and with some big-name presenters. We rely on producer judgement, quick fader action, and when need be, apologies.

          But actually I can count on one hand the number of times punters have behaved in such a fashion that we'd need it - the reality is it just doesn't happen. Probably because We Have Your Number.

          I can also assure you the response we'd get from engineers if we asked for a special clock mode that set them back seven seconds...

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

            in 25 years of professional radio production I have never seen or had to work with any delay mechanism

            That's odd, because back in the 1990s when I worked in ILR, having a delay was part of the licence conditions.

            We just had to have one. It didn't have to be in-circuit and we didn't have to use it, but the consequences of not using it when necessary could be difficult (it happened once, just before I started, Adrian Edmonson I believe, and we were required to hold on to the logging tapes for a while). We had one of the early units that could "stretch" audio (almost) imperceptibly in order to build up a 7 second buffer without the presenter having to do clever things with a 7 second jingle.

            It had a large yellow button on the front labelled "DUMP", which amused my childish friends...

            M.

        7. wondermouse

          Re: Pips all over the place!

          (okay, you'll have to adjust the clocks in the studio but I imagine they already do).

          That's proved to be one problem too far for the BBC radio boffins. After trying various schemes to get the pips to match exactly on Radio 4 on FM, DAB, Freeview and Sky/freesat, they gave up saying it was just too difficult. Therefore the pips are correct on FM, and slightly delayed on Freeview, a tad more on DAB and a fraction more again on satellite. Try running them all simultaneously and see!

          It's particularly effective just before 6pm with the chimes of Big Ben! As far as I'm aware, no one has complained about the pips being wrong.

      2. Chris 125

        Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

        TuneIn buffers live radio.

        "Live" in that it's being sent out directly to transmitters rather than recorded in sections for editing later. The difference, for example, between the BBC News on TV and an episode of EastEnders.

        Nothing is actually live - either delays for naughty words, or just the inherent process of throwing it out of some aerials across the country will add between milliseconds and wholeseconds.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

          Tune-in is too frustrating to use in my work location. I get so tired of hearing stuff repeated every few seconds, an occasional buffering is ok but repeated and often? forget it. Mobile data is NOT a substitute for broadcast signal. There are areas here that have no no mobile signal and even FM is sketchy

          DAB may have its fans, but for many of us its a white elephant. Too many people have inadequate or zero DAB coverage for it to be a substitute for FM

    5. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Still haven't worked out how...

      Because, back in the late 1980s when European broadcasters were first considering how to upgrade radio to digital (this was around the same time that NICAM was being rolled-out and that actually worked very well) there really wasn't an IP infrastructure to speak of. They could have based it on ATM, which would have been... erm... interesting.

      Because back in the late 1980s Musicam (later MPEGI audio Layer II, or MPEG2) was the only realistic game in town for lossy digital compression that didn't also require huge amounts of processing power to decode.

      Because back in the late 1980s, 95% (I'm guessing) of radio and TV was consumed "live" and so the primary aim was to recreate the existing FM / AM situation. You can still set your watch by the "pips" on LW, but DAB does actually introduce delays. Like digital TV it introduces variable delays - there's a delay at the broadcaster because of encoding, but then different receivers take different amounts of time to decode the signal, particularly if they are processing it in any way.

      Because IP needs a "back channel" to ask for packet re-sends and that was pretty much impossible back in the 1980s and would be a huge waste of resources even today, for "broadcast".

      You can buffer DAB, and FM, and AM. All you need to do is to have a circular buffer. Some radios do offer it as a "trick play" mode, like digital TV receivers (actually, just gone to look, and can't find a current model that does that from Pure or Roberts, and I know that both of them used to do one). What you can't do, without the back channel, is ride over dropouts. You will go into the tunnel and play out your 10 second or 20 second buffer, and then it'll stop. And then it'll have to recover when you get to the other side.

      Listening live is far from "dead" - it's easily the best way to get the news (turn the radio on at something o'clock and listen for three minutes), but on-demand is definitely a much bigger share of the market than could possibly have been predicted back in the 1980s when we were all still astounded that our Spectrums could say "GHOSTBUSTERS".

      A DAB ensemble, and a DTT multiplex are very appealing concepts to a socialist; shared resources, all working together for a common good. Even the single frequency network idea with a slow symbol rate was specifically designed to make mobile reception robust, particularly in the face of reflections. Done properly, DAB could be better in a built-up environment than FM. As usual, what lets it down is the capitalists looking for "return on investment". As with broadband or cable TV or mobile phones, you cannot hope to get 100% coverage because that last 5% or 7% or even 10% just isn't worth it financially, no matter how many 64kbps stations you squeeze onto each ensemble.

      DAB/DAB+ would give a much better experience overall with a few more "fill in" transmitters, and the main transmitters allowed to increase power a bit.

      Ain't gonna happen.

      Then again, on demand is all very well, so long as you don't mind paying for the data. Give me free mobile data for listening to Radio 4 on my mobile and I'd agree with you, but pay a quid(*) for every hour I spend listening to streaming radio?

      Ain't gonna happen.

      M.

      (*)based on 5p/MB PAYG, a 64kbps stream for an hour is about 23MB or £1.15. I think I've been generous both with 5p/MB and 64kbps.

      1. Multiscat

        "Because back in the late 1980s Musicam (later MPEGI audio Layer II, or MPEG2) was the only realistic game in town for lossy digital compression that didn't also require huge amounts of processing power to decode."

        I would urge anyone who has even a passing interest in this kind of thing to read "How Music Got Free" by Stephen Witt. It's an utterly compelling telling of the story of the creation of MP2, MP3, and digital music. It is a much better read than you would expect for such a subject - it revolves principally around three individuals: the creator of the MP3 format; the head of a major record label; and a prominent music pirate. You'll never listen to Suzanne Vega the same way again.

        1. Dave559 Bronze badge

          Tom's Diner

          Thumbs up for the (implied) Tom's Diner reference! :-D

        2. Paul

          my amazon wishlist contains "Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio" by Tom Lewis, which looks good.

          https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0060981199

    6. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      it's also "listening live" that's dead, rather than "listen on demand". People don't want the waffle and adverts and talk-overs and the "most popular" song on constant loop. They want to listen to what they want to listen to.

      Except that after a while you realise that you don't have any new music, because you're only listening to the stuff you bought & ripped years ago. The one big advantage of the waffle etc. from a radio station is that occasional moment of "hey, I like that, who is it?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] is that occasional moment of "hey, I like that, who is it?"

        On Classic FM you are likely to find that the DAB text is just referring you to their web site. Even when the text is giving a title it always omits the performer's name. Even a piece's title is often reduced to several symbols of (n) where 'n' is a track or movement number.

        FM seems to be able to carry small amounts of text - so why don't they at least send the same text that way?

        Within easy reach of London - my terrestrial TV reception stopped when they switched off the analogue service. DAB quite often burbles and even cuts out for periods - yet the same radios then have no problem with the FM signal.

        The radio in the bedroom is played at low volume. If it is switched to DAB then an internal fan automatically starts - and that is noticeable in the quiet environment. Presumably Sony found it necessary because of the extra heat generated in DAB mode.

        Four DAB/FM receivers in the house. They were all bought second-hand - the DAB was incidental as FM proves to be the preferred mode.

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        How did that gobshite get on [the airwaves], is he never off the air....?

        Except that after a while you realise that you don't have any new music, because you're only listening to the stuff you bought & ripped years ago.

        I found, not long into my thirties, I didn't really care for 'the new music', Never been a radio user. Might be the odd track when I tune in while driving, but the next song, or the song after that will inevitably make me want to either re-tune, turn-off or rip the stereo from the dash and fling it out the window in disgust.

        My tastes are far too obscure for radio to cater to (even today with a million and one channels on the internet, I can still find nothing I don't want to nuke, irradiate and sow the ground with salt on after a couple of tracks).

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      DAB

      epitomises the saying "A solution looking for a problem".

      The reception is shit, even when FM/AM get a bit wobbly you can still listen and understand whats being said / played. Not with DAB.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DAB

        I too could never understand the appeal of DAB, IMHO yet another audiophile scam.

        1. tfb Silver badge

          Re: DAB

          All the audiophiles I know listen to FM on their Leak Troughlines and sneer at DAB.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: DAB

            All the audiophiles I know...

            All the audiophiles I know, say that you're better off listening to radio on a digital TV or via the BBC's 320kbps AAC stream :-)

            M.

        2. Barrie Shepherd

          Re: DAB

          Hardly and "Audiophile scam" - the audio quality of DAB is far from audiophile.

          VHF/FM is far superior assuming you have a decent signal, and even a poor signal creates a better listening experience than the gaps warbles and glitches of a poor DAB signal.

      2. Steve 114

        Re: DAB

        Rubbish 'statistics' too: I 'own' two DAB radios but neither works well enough to use indoors. For the car, FM is fine for music - except that Radio 3 is now so infested with voiceover-Ads (for the BBC) that I prefer CDs.

    8. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Actually I'd say there are so many DAB stations that it's easily possible to avoid adverts or listen to the music/discussion you want, the difficulty is knowing the station/mux.

      You have to be kidding about data coverage, vast swathes of the country's mobile data coverage is too slow for decent streaming, although it's a lot better than it was. Just half a mile from my house, which is near but not quite in the countryside, mobile data is frequently at Edge level, despite that in the same locality fibre broadband is readily available.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "You have to be kidding about data coverage, vast swathes of the country's mobile data coverage is too slow for decent streaming, "

        ...and just imagine what happens to the available data throughput in a well served city location if everyone switches to streaming radio.

  4. Confused Vorlon

    Out of sync

    As I walk from my office to the kitchen and the bedroom, all my radios are perfectly in sync. I can even run one over by the cooker and turn on the radio by the TV (coming through the tv sound system) and everything will be splendid.

    If I switch to digital, then they all take different times to process the signal - and they're all out of sync. Having more than one radio playing means an annoying audio fight.

    It seems like this should be fixable; Broadcast a time signal, and timestamp segments of the radio stream. Tell players that they have X milliseconds to decode the stream and start playing it. Make X a constant across sets.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Out of sync

      When digital TV first came out, the BBC announced that they would no longer show a clock before, say, the news, as they could no longer guarantee how long it would take a digital signal to propagate end to end.

      If I listen to a radio station via a TV and them walk into another room and listen via, say, FM, I'm surprised at the difference in time between the signals: 2-3 seconds usually.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Out of sync

        I'm surprised at the difference in time between the signals: 2-3 seconds usually.

        It's the same with digital TV. Thankfully I'm not an ardent football fan or cheers from the pub next door, when it's world cup season and a goal is scored a couple of seconds before I get to see the shot, might take the shine off the experience.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Out of sync

          While it seems to be getting better, the worse aspect of digital TV was the perceivable lack of sync between sound and picture. WTF were the Muppets behind it doing without a ridged specification on synchronisation?

          However, a delay is inevitable in any bandwidth-efficient digital system as the performance of both lossy compression and forward error correction increase with allowable delay. Great for archive or non real-time stuff, a bit crap for live broadcast or radio mics for concerts, theatre, etc.

        2. Fred Dibnah

          Re: Out of sync

          Those cheers are unlikely if England are playing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Those cheers are unlikely if England are playing.

            That all depends on whether you are supporting England or "anyone but England"!

            Sorry, but when you live in a multi-country state and the state broadcaster keeps non-neutrally going on about "us" when for 3/4 of the countries watching that country is a "them", it gets very tiresome very quickly. If the broadcasters would only remember that fact and report on all of the home nation teams entirely neutrally and dispassionately, I'm sure some of us might even be willing to wish England well if/when our own team gets knocked out.

            (Ugh, you've just reminded me that some sportsball thing is coming up soon..)

          2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

            Re: Out of sync

            Those cheers are unlikely if England are playing.

            I heard a story of a school child in Wales being asked who they'd support in the World Cup as Wales didn't qualify. "Whoever England are playing" was the answer.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Out of sync

              "Whoever England are playing"

              That's been the standard around here for many years. There is a matching attitude, summed up by Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics in a BBC Wales 6 Nations trailer some years ago, as long as we beat the English, we don't care. That link isn't for the actual trailer, which I can't find online, but a trailer for a later 6 Nations round, again involving the Stereophonics, where a short excerpt of the song is played.

              M.

      2. Keith Oborn

        Re: Out of sync

        Look at the delay between SD and HD TV broadcasts - latter is several seconds behind.

        And let's not start on the ridiculous wandering audio sync: I have to fiddle with the "audio delay" setting on the TV almost daily, and it's not a question of each channel being different, it changes between programmes.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Out of sync

          "audio delay"

          Ah, so it's not just me,.... I got a new 'smart' telly in last year's black Friday sales,... and it has introduced a minor anomaly I never had with my old dumb Samsung,.... audio delay. I run an optical cable to a blurray which does 5.1, all was dandy with my old Samsung, but the new telly needed the delay tweaking as there was a noticable mismatch between the mouth movements and speech. New Telly is an LG. It does seem to vary a bit, but it's bearable.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Out of sync

            I got a new 'smart' telly in last year's black Friday sales,... and it has introduced a minor anomaly I never had with my old dumb Samsung,.... audio delay

            First thing to do is check that all the audio and picture processing is turned off. In my opinion, most of this actually makes things worse anyway, but whether or not you like the effect, complex processing does introduce delays. If the TV has a "direct" mode (for sound or picture or both), try that and see if it makes a difference :-)

            M.

            1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: Out of sync

              @Martin an gof.

              Cheers for the tip,..... new telly has a lot of settings to wade through, and erm,.... what's that rtfm? : -)

            2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: Out of sync

              @Martin an gof

              I waded through the settings, and found a delay setting on the Telly after turning off some auto sync effort (that clearly wasn't doing a very good job) and there was a little slider, so I slid it around and now the speech matches the lip movements.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Out of sync

        "When digital TV first came out, the BBC announced that they would no longer show a clock [...]"

        On Radio 4 they still do the pips and Big Ben striking. Compared to my MSF clock the DAB radio is several seconds behind - so the time signal appears to have lost its functional purpose.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Out of sync

        "If I listen to a radio station via a TV and them walk into another room and listen via, say, FM, I'm surprised at the difference in time between the signals: 2-3 seconds usually."

        Just try switching between BBC One and BBC One HD for an example of different processing times having an effect on broadcasts. The same channel broadcast by two different methods and there's a one or two second delay, and at the viewers end, the same equipment.

    2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Out of sync

      A complicated solution to a problem that is rarely actually experienced. Just turn off a radio if they sound different.

      1. tfb Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Out of sync

        Um, what? Really a lot of people have the radio on, on the same station, in several rooms if they're doing something that involves them moving from room to room. Like, for instance, housework.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can safely say....

    ...when I had a hire car with DAB, there is bugger all in Mid-Wales. If you do get a signal, you'll lose it 5 minutes later when you go round the "wrong" side of a hill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can safely say....

      that's the problem with DAB. Coverage where I live, on the coast in Cornwall, is crap. The main transmitter at Caradon Hill was enabled for Digital telly and DAB but if you live near the coast chances are you get your signal via a local relay that covers the shadow sector formed by the high cliffs, and they haven't been upgraded for DAB and we only get a handful of freeview channels too

  6. jzl

    Radio 4

    The only radio I listen to is Radio 4 and Kirsty Young would still sound amazing even at 8kbps.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Radio 4

      Spoken-word content doesn't need a super high bit-rate, so most people's mobile data allowance is sufficient. Failing that, much of it can be downloaded in advance. And of course the internet offers a far greater range of material than any broadcast system ever could.

      The Android iPlayer Radio app sometimes fails to download a programme - a bug that the BBC said they're aware of for a while. However, the Android app has the ability to set a BBC radio station as an alarm clock - something that can't be done on iOS unless the iPhobes screen is left on (i.e if plugged in to charge overnight) because of iOS permissions.

      The BBC's insistence that one must be logged onto a BBC account to listen to radio programmes ( something that doesn't require a paid licence) is just irritating, especially if you want to send a friend a link to a programme that might interest them.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Radio 4

        Have you tried the Radioplayer app? It plays pretty much any UK radio station and has an alarm function, and as far as I can tell you don't have to sign in to listen to BBC stations*. I started using it at work when it turned out the DAB radio I'd brought for the purpose received exactly two stations with moderate burble and nothing else and now I use it at home in preference to finding a radio. Not sure about downloads though, although most stuff I want to download on the BBC is available as a podcast with extra content anyway,

        *As in I don't remember having to do it but I'm not in the UK at the moment and BBC stations don't seem to like playing. Absolute Radio though, no problem.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Radio 4

          BBC podcasts I can just download as MP3s, but not all programmes are available (something to do with not letting the BBC hurt the business model of commercial audio book providers) as such. Instead, the programme has to be downloaded and played back within the iPlayer Radio app itself.

          Thanks for the suggestion!

        2. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Radio 4

          Yes, the Radioplayer app will give the streams, but not listen-again content or live-play pause/rewind. (Obviously for programmes that provide podcasts those can still be downloaded, but most don't.)

          The wisdom the BBC requiring an account to listen to publicly funded radio in the post-Cambridge Analytica world is questionable.

    2. Anonymous IV
      Unhappy

      Re: Radio 4

      Kirsty Young would pale into insignificance if Charlotte Green still worked for BBC Radio News...

  7. Wizardofaus

    The fact that radio is hands free sounds like a bonus...

  8. Bassey

    Test Area

    I worry that they will do as they did with Freeview and use us poor sods in the Isle of Man as the test for switch-over. We don't really have DAB yet, just as we didn't have full Freeview - only one of our two transmitters had been enabled for Freeview at the time they did the digital switch and even that was missing most of the channels. Imagine my relief when, six months later, we finally got an (almost) full digital TV service and it turned out I hadn't actually missed anything important.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Test Area

      I recall reading that they had to keep the Freeview transmissions at a lower power to stop them interfering with the analogue signal. Once they switched off the analogue transmitter in an area, they could ramp up the Freeview power (and also switch on more transmitters)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Test Area

        " Once they switched off the analogue transmitter in an area, they could ramp up the Freeview power (and also switch on more transmitters)"

        I had hoped that when they switched off the analogue service then the marginal FreeView signal would improve. In fact it became non-existent - possibly aided by the new block of flats that hadn't bothered the analogue reception.

        1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

          Re: Test Area

          I'm reminded of the Channel 5 test signal.

          Perfect clarity, then when it actually launched it was a mess of poor reception, watching spice girls through static.

  9. Pangasinan Philippines

    Never used DAB in Manila

    My Denon mini stereo has DAB. Was that counted in the survey as I bought it in Richer Sounds.

    BBC R2 and R6 comes in using internet radio or Apple TV.

    But Radio Paradise beats them all for music.

    1. Anguilla

      Radio Paradise ??

      Hi, Are you "Hull Exile" ?? Can't find "Radio Paradise" in the Pangasinan Philippines via my "RadioSure" player!

      But I'd agree with you that seeking more preferable music than the crap churned out in Hong Kong - is an essential feature of my listening pleasure almost every waking hour here on the North shore of the Commie riddled North shore of HK Island.

      My nowadays favorites : (Pirate) Radio London 266 & Radio Caroline flashback & many others via"RadioSure" !!

      I was sorry when British Forces Radio marched out in 1997! They were my ONLY option for Pop-Music - RTHK was, and still is crap !

    2. pxd

      Radio Paradise - yes!

      Thumbs up for the RP mention. pxd

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tried DAB a few times. Apart from the ridiculous latency, it sounds TERRIBLE compared to FM or Internet radio. Come on...we're using technology that's over 20 years old at this point. It's not even MP3..it's MPEG Layer-2 which is now over 25 years old. And even though it's capable of 320kbit, you're lucky to get 192 on DAB.

    Shame we can't just scrap the whole thing and start again with Opus...they'd get better sound quality in less than half the bandwidth, much lower latency, and royalty free..

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Lucky to get 192 on DAB

      It's 128K for stereo here in Ireland, which is an insult.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        @Mage Re: Lucky to get 192 on DAB

        RTÉ Lyric FM is transmitted at 160 kbit joint-stereo on DAB: Only BBC Radio 3's bitrate is higher at 192k, and other UK stereo services are 128k joint-stereo or worse.

        But even at 160k it's still not good enough in MP2, especially in comparison to the superb audio quality of the analogue FM signal. Lyric is proof that a lot of lousy radio quality is something the stations themselves do before broadcast: Lyric's FM signal always has superb dynamic range, with none of the "all loud, all the time" Optimod compression that makes other services tiring to listen to.

        There's also a DAB+ version of Lyric at 48 kbit, and it's actually pretty close in audio quality to the 160 kbit MP2 version, but still not as good as the FM.

      2. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

        Re: Lucky to get 192 on DAB

        Honestly wasn't aware Ireland had DAB, any time I drive across the border I lose DAB around the Dundalk North turnoff, flick it onto whatever is strong on FM, usually TodayFM or 2FM.

        Back when car radios were crap the likes of Atlantic 252 used to do a great job on long journeys with no retuning. I think RTE now uses this frequency for their Radio 1 (which is like a mixture of BBC Radios 2-5)

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Lucky to get 192 on DAB

          DAB coverage in Ireland is pretty limited, but the North-East is one area that is actually well-covered (as this map, from back in 2008, shows: https://www.rte.ie/digitalradio/images/DAB-map-large.jpg ).

          The reason you're losing coverage at Dundalk is because your car radio is still trying to find the service on the UK-labelled multiplex you were listening to while in NI, and is ignoring the Irish multiplex entirely. Either that, or the presence of DAB+ programme streams on the Irish multiplex is confusing your radio (but any car radio after about 2013 should support DAB+).

          Assuming your radio works with DAB+ streams, you may be able to get it to swap over by either changing channels, bringing up the "all channels" list, or performing a rescan, in order of driver annoyance.

          RTÉ still uses 252 kHz AM at 500kW (100kW at night) for its Radio 1 service, but that's on borrowed time: it was supposed to close in 2014, then 2017, and now closure has been put out to June 2019, and this time I think it will go for good. Service to Irish ex-pats in the UK (the bulk of 252's listenership) will be achieved by renting space in local UK DAB+ multiplexes and the existingAstra satellite service.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      It really doesn't matter how you broadcast it if it's on my radio with its 2 inch mono speaker, or in my car competing with tyre, wind and engine noise. 128 or 192 is more than enough. It's the convenience I like.

      If I want better sound quality at home I use my phone and stream radio to a BT speaker. It's not perfect but it's more than good enough.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        In car

        I have to turn mine up quite a bit over the

        Tyre, engine, transmission, wind, suspension, hydraulics, noises

        But I can still tell how good the source is like over companded and different CDs

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: In car

          You can tell, but those other intrusive sounds mean there's no significant advantage.

    3. Spanners Silver badge
      Alien

      better sound quality in less than half the bandwidth, much lower latency, and royalty free

      Do you really think that "free" has the least attraction for the decision makers? To people far enough up the ladder, "free" and "low price" are actually disincentives.

      I would question how much they listen to the product too. They will get analysis on their iThings but "listen to it?" seems unlikely.

  11. Chewi
    FAIL

    Avoid VQ radios

    The reception in my house is fine but my VQ Christie radio is the buggiest piece of crap I have ever had the displeasure of owning. There's practically nothing good I can say about it except that it looks nice. I complained and they sent a replacement but it was just as bad. I should have got my money back while I had with chance. I would entertain you with all its crazy quirks but I don't have the hours to spare.

  12. MJI Silver badge

    Cars are priority

    Main usage of radio is in cars.

    When I was young we had independant local radio, small stations for your local area with local news, music and staff.

    Then the big merger.

    Last time I used them was on a motorway trip 5 radio stations all with different DJs playing the same songs.

    Most channels now have inane DJs so now prefer chat radio to music.

    BBC local OK in morning, but on trip home, recently replaced chat with old people music. Music from 60s and 70s for people old then.

    Tried R4, it is either listenable or instant turn off. When something important is happening good, otherwise now lots of inane drivel. They once repeated the same article 3 times in a row with no gaps, was probably more but by then a CD was playing.

    My biggest hate though is misuse of traffic announcements.

    Listening to local news or traffic and traffic for London starts sprouting off and I cannot remember how to disable without manual. And I have to keep disconnecting battery while doing suspension repairs, (It has had 4 in last year, 2 to go), otherwise it could crush me*

    * air springs and level sensors

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Cars are priority

      Although many people do listen in cars, according to the latest Rajar data, 60% of listening is in the home, 24% in car, and 16% in the office.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Those RAJAR figures

        The RAJAR release for the 2018 listening figures [1] actually says things like

        "‘Live Radio’ listening hours are dominated by traditional AM/FM and DAB Radio sets (AM/FM Share = 44% DAB = 39%). Can't remember what the car numbers are (link below if you want the RAJAR report).

        Listening to radio via a Smartphone, TV and Desktop/Laptop have a share of 4%.

        Wifi Radios have a 2% share. Listening to radio via a Tablet or Voice activated speakers have a smaller share (1%). "

        And so on.

        IE what RAJAR actually says is that 83% of total listening hours for live radio are via traditional broadcast-reception devices using the traditonal broadcast transmission network.

        Meanwhile, the oriiginal concept of "independent local radio" needing lots of FM channels has largely vanished without trace, as today's commercial stations are mostly not independent, mostly not local, and mostly just global records and adverts (some ads global, some ads local). The commercial output frequently barely resembles their original commercial licence proposals.

        And yet for some reason BBC 6Music still isn't on FM; the best way to listen to 6Music and find out what's on still requires internet access, a personally identifiable BBC logon and an Android device, preferably with something decent for the sound output. What's that all about?

        If one of the BBC's most popular channels is not going to get a listen-anywhere-in-UK FM slot, why isn't the iPlayer Radio or similar capability (TuneIn Radio etc don't really count) more widely available on TVs, media gadgets (Roku, etc)?

        Confused? Absolutely.

        [1] RAJAR release for the 2018 'MIDAS' listening figures: find via

        http://www.rajar.co.uk/

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cars are priority

        "Although many people do listen in cars, according to the latest Rajar data, 60% of listening is in the home, 24% in car, and 16% in the office."

        Those figures don't add up. Or rather they do but leave nothing for all the vocal diarrhoea DJs that seem inescapable in shops etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

      Does DAB in the UK have a widely available (in DAB terms) equivalent of RDS yet? IE something which the receiver can use to auto switch to 'local' traffic news when it is broadcast, like UK BBC FM stations have been doing for decades? Or is 'public service broadcasting' just a hip name for a band these days?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

        Does DAB in the UK have a widely available (in DAB terms) equivalent of RDS yet? IE something which the receiver can use to auto switch to 'local' traffic news when it is broadcast, like UK BBC FM stations have been doing for decades? Or is 'public service broadcasting' just a hip name for a band these days?

        Yes it has all the same stuff plus more, mine does that, it switches to "local" stations that might be 2 counties away as well as dsiplaying the current radio station, programme details and currently playing song and artist. It also receives TMS data for the satnav and does auto route suggestions.

      2. Keith Oborn

        Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

        RDS is a total pain. I always disable it.

        1: Information is usually way out of date

        2: It's usually not "local" at all

        and

        3: Idiot broadcasters who press the "RDS announcement" button and then forget to turn it off. So suddenly, the debate I'm listening to is interrupted by a short traffic announcement and then a stream of DJ wibble that can only be turned off by - disabling the RDS on my receiver.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

          Or pressing the cancel button.

        2. Chris 125

          Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

          That's not RDS. That's Traffic Programming, a feature of RDS.

          RDS is the facility that displays station names rather than frequencies, and allows a station to be tracked across different frequencies. It can also deliver traffic information to a compatible satnav, silently.

          TP is the interruption when there's a traffic announcement. There are supposedly fines for stations who misuse it - either triggering it early or leaving it switched on. It should only be used for the announcement itself, and I think they're allowed an announcement beforehand ("Here's the traffic news on Radio Titwaffle" or whatever). A friend worked in local radio and once forgot to turn the TP off, he was hauled over the coals with the suggestion being he'd cost the station thousands of pounds. Either that or he was a shit DJ and they wanted a reason to sack him.

          TP can be disabled without turning RDS off.

          1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

            Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

            Is that why TP now kicks in too late?

            ".... and motorists are asked to avoid the area."

            What area???

      3. Gerry 3
        Boffin

        Re: Cars are priority, but what about DAB?

        Yes, it has something far better: TPEG. Conventional traffic info is old hat. You're likely to be stuck in the jam before you hear the warning, and most of the bulletin will refer to places you're not going. It also ruins the programme for the majority of people who aren't affected.

        A satnav with TPEG is the answer. It receives info from Digital 1 every minute or so and, best of all, will re-route your journey to avoid the jams. Usually no subscription is needed, it's just a one-off fee built into the cost of the satnav.

    3. Aspie73

      Re: Cars are priority

      "They once repeated the same article 3 times in a row with no gaps"

      That wasn't the article on Groundhog Day on the PM program was it? If so, I guess you didn't "get it".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    57 channels and all the same things on

    "when it comes to digital radio it feels like sound quality is secondary to content, "

    Sound quality is secondary to advertising quantity. More DAB channels doesn't mean more choice for The Listener, it does mean more space for advertising. Who gives a **** about sound quality.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: 57 channels and all the same things on

      "13 channels of **** to choose from..."

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lies, damn lies and statistics

    "more than half of Brits now access radio digitally"

    I'm willing to bet that means 'people who listen digitally at least once a week', and notably 'digitally' is not exclusive to DAB - e.g. through tune-in or online, as well as DAB. Indeed DAB may be only a small proportion of it.

    It also does *not* mean that those 50.9% only listen to radio *exclusively* digitally. I would bet that if you asked the same group whether they had listened to conventional FM within the same period, the percentage of FM users by the same measure would be much more than 50%.

    I have an FM radio in my phone, my kitchen, my lounge, my stereo and built into the facia of my car. A couple of those have DAB but frankly the interface is more hassle than its worth and the sound quality is not noticeably better on small systems.

    In particular I'm not changing my car just to get far inferior coverage so that the government can sell off airwaves that are far more useful to us all as a public utility...

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Lies, damn lies and statistics

      DAB is by far the biggest component of digital at the moment - 72% of it. But as some of those other figures show, online listening is growing, especially table or smartphone. That particular element has doubled in size in five years.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lies, damn lies and statistics

      "I'm willing to bet that means 'people who listen digitally at least once a week', and notably 'digitally' is not exclusive to DAB - e.g. through tune-in or online, as well as DAB. Indeed DAB may be only a small proportion of it."

      Don't gamble on it, don't assume, when the source is reasonably easily available (though it doesn't Fit In A Twit).

      The RAJAR report does actually address the topic of hours spent listening on different classes of device. Have a look, it's available to the public, no registration required. Start at www.rajar.co.uk and work from there.

  15. Warm Braw Silver badge

    If you have an older car and don't want to upgrade the stereo...

    It's pretty hard to upgrade the "entertainment system" on cars these days - their CAN-extended tentacles are wrapped around too much of the vehicle's fabric. Gone are the days of just slipping the unit out of its DIN slot...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: If you have an older car and don't want to upgrade the stereo...

      At least modern cars usually offer a 3.5 mm AUX in. Some models such as the Ford CD 5000 don't always have it present, but a cable kit can be had for £5 of tinternet.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: If you have an older car and don't want to upgrade the stereo...

        This may depend on your phone having a 3.5mm socket on your phone.

        As I will not buy a phone without one, I'm fine but anyone with an iThing is not and they are unfashionable with many manufacturers of more adult oriented phones too.

    2. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: If you have an older car and don't want to upgrade the stereo...

      Try upgrading the radio in a 2000s Saab with it's proprietary fibre optic system!

  16. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The DAB+ standard offers some hope as it uses the far more efficient HE-AAC encoding

    Yeah. The broadcasters see the hope of cramming even more channels in.

  17. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Batteries and Delay

    Quality is less an issue for me than battery drain. DAB battery radios last a few days at most. My Ferguson transistor radio lasts weeks on a PP3 and the Cossor radio in the bathroom lasts for years (at 10 mins a day) on a zinc pp9 - and I mean years.

    The delay is only a problem a the cricket. You can't listen to the commentary on a DAB radio because it's too far behind. When the last LW valve goes life is going to get a lot worse.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Batteries and Delay

      I have an old Roberts Gemini, more than 10 years old. It has in-situ rechargeable AAs and it will play for more than 24 hours on one charge. That translates to weeks of use.

      Newer radios are much better than this, Roberts EcoLogic 7, 150 hours on one charge.

  18. tiggity Silver badge

    out of context

    "more battery hungry than a traditional tranny"

    Maybe not all users will be aware tranny meant as abbreviation for (typically portable) transistor radio AKA analogue radio - certainly distracted me for a second or 2 reading that line

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: out of context

      Well, indeed, context is everything. But surely everyone knows E6 slide film doesn't need batteries?

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: out of context

        Maybe they were talking about the Ford Transit van?

        Or the fetish photographer's absent minded moment? "Damn, I left the trannies of the tranny in the tranny because I was listening to the show on the tranny"

  19. Nigel Whitfield.

    Radio as a gateway drug

    One of the things I think would be a big loss if we went all digital - though somewhat outside the scope of the article - was the way that radio, for me at least, was a gateway into many other things, and especially learning about electronics.

    I can still visualise the crystal set I made, using an OA81 diode, a variable capacitor, and a load of wire wrapped round a toilet roll, all housed in a plastic ice cream tub, and a long wire strung down the garden as an aerial.

    The novelty of building something like that, which needed no batteries, got me interested in tinkering more. It led to a powered version, with a speaker, on which I first heard Hitchhiker's Guide.

    I don't much like the thought that kids won't be able to do something as simple as put together a crystal set in an all-digital future

    1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Radio as a gateway drug

      Maybe the kids of the future will use a Raspberry Pi zero with an LED display, and get into electronics / computer science that way?

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Radio as a gateway drug

        Maybe, I'm not sure it's the same hands-on electronics learning experience though. Ferrite coil, piezo earpiece, diode, tuning capacitor, quite a cheap kit, and each component can be taken apart, it's fairly easily understood how they connect and operate together. Vs, have a raspberry pi, connect it to some pre-wired radio module that somebody has built, install a library or two that do something then try to get it to work. It's still teaching something, but not the same lesson.

      2. tfb Silver badge

        Re: Radio as a gateway drug

        I think there's a huge difference between making something out of a tiny number of active components (in the limit, one diode) which you can understand the physics of and playing with a machine containing the best part of a billion transistors, with multiple layers of caching, virtual memory &c, and millions of lines of OS between you and the hardware.

        The Pi is a great thing, but using one is nothing like the experience of using, say the BBC micro, and using that was nothing like the experience of building a radio out of bits.

        (Note I am not implying that one of these things is better than the others, just that they are not in any way the same thing.)

        1. H in The Hague Silver badge

          Re: Radio as a gateway drug

          "I think there's a huge difference between making something out of a tiny number of active components (in the limit, one diode)"

          I seem to remember that if you had a crystal earphone that would serve as the diode. But memory hazy. I once had a 1920s or so book where the instructions for making a crystal set started "Go to the chemist's to buy .... bishmuth ..., melt together, break up, select a likely looking fragment for use as the detector crystal." (Stupidly threw that book out a decade or two ago when moving house :( ).

          Agree that a crystal radio set was a perfect introduction to electronics. And a PDP8 with punch tape was the perfect introducion to IT (had to manually load (using 12 front panel switches) a short piece of software first so that it could recognise the tape reader). Guess that makes me an official old f.....rt!

    2. spinynorman

      Re: Radio as a gateway drug

      @Nigel Whitfield. My dad was (on and off) a TV Service Engineer (remember them). That's where my interest in all things radio / TV / electronics came from. I still remember building my first crystal set, closely followed by the purchase of a red spot transistor from "Pitts" in Picton Street, Bristol, to make the sounds a little louder ... using drawing pins and a piece of wood! I couldn't try a piece of coal, because we lived in a smokeless zone, so had to use coke for the fire, so an OA81 it had to be!! I am hopeful that medium wave a/m will continue for many years to come, but think the simplicity of something like a crystal set is lost on most of today's youngsters with their sparkly 'do everything' digital possessions. Sad.

      1. Steve 114

        Re: Radio as a gateway drug

        My first radio had a red knob connected to a sprung brass pin which you used to select the best 'point' on the crystal. My father taught me that this process was, in the days of his own youth, called: 'tickling the cat's whisker'.

  20. wyatt

    Nigel! Great to see/notice an article from you, I've not read your blog page for a while so will have to catch up with what I've missed (still a Toppy owner!).

    My previous Mondeo had a good DAB radio, my current one not so good. I've noticed some spots without coverage on the M40 now have coverage (near Banbury), Wales still isn't so good. I'm not a massive fan of DAB as I was happy with FM. Life does go on though and technology changes, I'd just like something that works.

  21. Steve Graham

    Psion Wavefinder

    I bought the Psion in about 2004, when it was a failed product and was being flogged off cheap. The software supplied was rubbish, but there was a (free? shareware?) suite which was better: it could even save the MP2 streams as files. I still have recordings of John Peel and R3 from back then.

    That was when I lived in an area with coverage. I moved house last year, from a remote, rural location to a small, seaside commuter town. Now, if I turn on a DAB radio, all I get is a burbling sound. I have to use a DVB decoder to listen to BBC R3 & R6.

    (Actually, we don't even get full Freeview here. Almost every house has a satellite dish.)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Psion Wavefinder

      Hehe, the Wavefinder, from back in the days when not including a DAC would save a considerable amount of money.

      Heck, a decade earlier my first DAC (not including those built into CD players) cost a couple of hundred quid - a Gravis Ultrasound.

    2. Chris 125

      Re: Psion Wavefinder

      Blast from the past! I had a Psion Wavefinder for the same reason - I think I paid about £20 for it. Never did get it working as I think the drivers were outdated or for an older version of Windows by the time I bought it.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Psion Wavefinder

      Have an upvote for mentioning John Peel. Him and Bob Harris and to a lesser extent Nicky Horne on Capital (before they went crap) were my must listen programmes when I was a student.

  22. Chris 125

    I used to listen to Team Rock on DAB - for me, the only station worth listening to on any ensemble purely for the lack of adverts, and no news or weather bollocks.

    The costs of DAB transmission were so high they decided to go streaming-only back in 2016.... and this may be one of the reasons they no longer broadcast at all (either the reduced audience from dropping odd DAB, or the fact that not being able to afford a DAB licence was a sign of bigger money problems)

    But out of that, Primordial Radio was born. Still streaming only, but set up by four ex-TR guys to explore better ways of getting rock and metal music to your ears. They'll never go on DAB, they swear far too much for that, but in all other respects it's a proper, professional "radio" station. Music. Presenters. Competitions. Phone-ins. Requests. NO ADVERTS. (It's really good and if you like rock and metal music, you should check it out).

    The point is, these guys have been going a year and they're seemingly making a living out of it. Mobile data is not the massive expense it once was, and now most cars and homes have some sort of Bluetooth capability it's pretty simple to hit a button and hear music. I'm pretty sure a better option is to leave FM in place, turn DAB off, and if anyone wants more than FM provides then there's the internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to listen to Team Rock on DAB - for me, the only station worth listening to on any ensemble purely for the lack of adverts, and no news or weather bollocks.

      Team Rock was awesome man. We listened to it in our small office behind closed doors because some of the songs scared the s**t of other people. Our boss would sometimes stick his head in and ask "How can you work with this on? Is it not making you angry?!".

      After they shut down we streamed it for a bit to external speakers and after they completely went offline we switched to Planet Rock which was (and still is) just "meh".

      1. Chris 125

        www.primordialradio.com - there's a free trial (as it's a paid service) but it's everything Team Rock was, and more.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thumbs up for Primordial.

      And double thumbs up for not pushing your everyone gets one code :-)

      No adverts, presenters that pay attention to their audience and most of all available pretty much anywhere you can get a signal on your phone.

  23. Flicker

    The economics??

    One topic that's missing from this discussion is the economics - how much does it cost the BBC and other operators to lease capacity on DAB vs. their other distribution channels? My guess is that although renting capacity on all of their options (DAB / FM / AM / DVB-T(2) / DVB-S(2) / Internet) in parallel must be eye-wateringly expensive with a combination of OFCOM Spectrum Licence fees and carrier costs, they are probably equally wary of being backed into a monopoly supplier corner - certainly given that Arqiva are now in complete control of most of the terrestrial broadcast options.

    Anyone any idea how much it actually costs the BBC to broadcast on DAB vs. DVB-T vs. FM vs. their Internet bandwidth?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: The economics??

      Actual figures, no, but there are some pretty strong hints in the BBC strategy documents about value for money:

      "The BBC’s duty to ensure value-for-money in its distribution activity sometimes reveals trade-offs. For example, further expansion of the DAB network or delivering every regional variant of BBC One in HD via broadcast should only be implemented if and when the costs are proportionate to the audience value they would deliver. In the context of an audience-led transition to internet-delivered services, the BBC will deprioritise investment in technologies that it is confident will be superseded."

      There was a report produced a few years back that did compare the figures, but the version available for download has them all redacted. Looks like I may need to get someone drunk...

      Incidentally, in the redacted report, there's also a note about Long Wave:

      "Long-term ambition to transition from long wave to DAB. There will be no new investment in LW radio, and current kit will be allowed to fail."

      1. Flicker

        Re: The economics??

        @Nigel W - Yes, I saw the announcement foretelling the death of the remaining R4 LW service - a real shame as it's just about the only thing you can receive pretty much anywhere. I don't really buy the arguement about the cost of keeping the transmitters going - I bet there's people with some high-power output valves squirreled away who would be only too happy to donate or sell at a reasonable cost to keep the service afloat.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: The economics??

          I bet there's people with some high-power output valves squirreled away

          I doubt it, there's not much call for paired 500kW transmitter valves outside of professional & perhaps military broadcasting. Still, I'd be surprised if it weren't possible to have some made if necessary, they aren't particularly complex items. 500kW medium- and short-wave transmitters are catalogue items from the large RF manufacturers and could no doubt be adapted for long wave if a total replacement were required.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: The economics??

      Also a sub £10 USB stick can pick up DTT, which has better coverage than DAB.

      DTT could use better quality, here in Ireland, the RTE DTT radio audio (98%+ coverage) is same poor bit rate as the 45% coverage DAB.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: The economics??

        From what I understand Team Rock were paying close to £1M a year for the DAB license. One reason why they were in so much trouble (that and the fact they borrowed the money to acquire everything, much like how Man Utd went from being one of the richest to one of the most in debt clubs overnight when they were bought by the yanks).

  24. Zebo-the-Fat

    If a radio station (digital or analogue) has adverts interupting the program I just turn it off

  25. peterm3
    Go

    broadcast is here to stay

    Broadcast media, i.e. not needing a paid-for service from a telco is here to stay. DAB+ as used exclusively in Norway and soon Switzerland is superior to DAB and FM. If a better technology exists, why stick with the obsolete one? In Germany they made a switch to DAB+ only and it was a wise decision as the codec is much more efficient. An argument here was the power consumption of all the FM transmitters, digital radio is green radio. Simulcasting everything is surely not a good idea.

    Germany also changed over to DVB-T2 with H.265/HEVC which meant viewers had to buy a new decoder after a short 3 year changeover from DVB-T. Simulcasting SD also ended, which is a far more efficient use of bandwidth. Perhaps consumers there are more willing to accept paying for better technology than always keeping the legacy option.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: DAB+

      DAB+ isn't used to give better coverage or quality in many cases, but to double the number of stations at same quality.

      DAB+ simply saves some money.

      Ergonomically ANY sort of Digital radio is poorer than FM & AM. It's not driven by consumer needs or quality or technology, DAB & DAB+ are political decisions that benefit national broadcasters and multiple channel State broadcasters the most.

      Digital radio isn't green either if there is genuinely the same quality and coverage and also the receiver power is considered.

      1. dmartin

        Re: DAB+

        Indeed DAB is not green. Look at the power consumption of DAB (portable) radios compared to FM.

        And second, not green is by forcing me to ditch at least 8 FM portable radios around the house etc which get used for various purposes regularly.

        But even FM is outclassed by a long aerial and a crystal and totally free radio reception, long live AM !!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: broadcast is here to stay

      "An argument here was the power consumption of all the FM transmitters, digital radio is green radio."

      Does that include the power consumption of the many receivers (DAC vs demod) as well as the few transmitters?

  26. Mage Silver badge

    49.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2017 to 50.9

    But that is NOT 50.9% listening to Dab.

    They conflate streaming/Internet which needs fragile instrastructure, has privacy issues and isn't broadcast.

    They count DAB sets (home and car radio) even if entirely or mostly used on FM.

    Where are the phones with DAB? Or DAB sets with AM for outside of local reception (esp at night?). Or the DAB sets with +200 hrs battery life (even 1939 battery radios had 24 to 240 hours run time depending on size). How many DAB portables even manage two days?

    Also bit rate is too low, to save money.

    RTE Irish DAB an even bigger waste than UK.

    DAB & Digital Broadcast benefits National stations.

    There wasn't ever to be a true Analogue Switch Over, just closure of larger FM stations and keeping smaller ones, because there is no-one for Ofcom to sell the spectrum to and DAB is too much coverage (even though it's worse for big stations) and too costly for small stations.

    Norway has made a bad mistake.

  27. MMR

    Meh

    I started to listen to DAB about 10 years ago and I really enjoyed it but the service failed to expand in a reasonable manner. What made it worse was when BBC Radio 6 sacked Bruce Dickinson. Bruce effin Dickinson! You don't sack the lead singer of Iron Maiden. No, no.

    Ditched DAB and moved permanently to internet in 2014. I can listen to anything I want and pretty much anywhere I want.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      Last digital radio programme I listened to (via Freesat) was his final show

  28. Keith Oborn

    DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

    FM is almost useless, 3/4G mobile drops out if you move your heard - never mind the car.

    DAB has the odd blank spot on the road, that's all, but never garbles.

    DTV is messy: lost BBC4 HD in March, and it looks like the only way is an even bigger aerial.

    Of course, this may be because I live in a very out of the way place called Basingstoke (someone has to)

    I can *see* the local transmitter (Hannington) that FM, DAB and TV comes from.

    BTW, El Reg: "FM already uses MPEG audio" (I paraphrase for brevity). WTF??

    DAB is not perfect, and it's always a problem when you are an early adopter as the BBC was, but for the vast majority of current use it does seem to beat the others.

    1. ChrisC

      Re: DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

      "BTW, El Reg: "FM already uses MPEG audio" (I paraphrase for brevity). WTF??"

      Mmm, it took me several parses of that paragraph before I think I figured out that what the author was trying to say is that choosing to use an established technology (DAB's adoption of MPEG audio) isn't necessarily a bad thing, with FM radio then being mentioned as an example of something (specifically something relevant to the context of the article) still in use today which also uses a long-established technology.

      So for "There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that – FM has used the same technology for decades, after all.", try re-reading it as "There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that – the technology used for FM radio has remained unchanged for decades, after all."

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

        Indeed, yes, that was the point I was making. Stable tech - especially for something as important as radio - has many advantages over the long run. You can take a 50+ year old valve set and it'll still work with FM signals today, even though there are clever things like stereo and RDS bolted on.

        Once things start to get digital, however, there's a tendency for that sort of longevity to fall by the wayside.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

          You can take a 50+ year old valve set and it'll still work with FM signals today,

          One of the memorable experiences I had working at a radio station was the News Editor (Andrew Jones) bringing an old valve radio in for repair. There was nothing much to repair, to be honest, other than a couple of capacitors (IIRC) and some re-wiring where the insulation had crumbled off. Best AM sound I have ever heard, and FM was pretty good too, though it did stop at 100MHz. In the News Editor's eye this was a bonus, as our local FM transmitter was on 103.2MHz :-)

          Oh, and it had a "live" chassis. Ouch.

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

            "Oh, and it had a "live" chassis. Ouch."

            Turn the mains plug round so neutral is connected to the chassis.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: DAB is the only thing that works reliably here

              Turn the mains plug round

              Neutral to the chassis is still very much "live". In proper electrical parlance, both conductors are "live conductors". It just so happens that in most of the world, Neutral is tied to Earth (the real, physical Earth) at some point. That point may be at the service cutout (so N is never more than a very few Volts away from E), or back at the substation, delivered to the house usually as the metal sheath of the cable, in which case it might float a bit higher. In some installations there is still an earth rod involved at the house end, so the return path is through the bulk of Mother Earth and there can be tens of Volts between the Neutral (earthed at the substation) and the actual Earth you are standing on.

              Thank goodness (these days) for RCDs.

              M.

  29. DrXym Silver badge

    Simple answer

    Sunset DAB. Give it a definite end-of-life, e.g. 5 years and shift onto something better. Frankly this should have been done a long time ago. Same now goes for MPEG2 on DVB-S/DVB-T.

  30. zaax

    Why not just use 4g systems and then that whole fequency could go

  31. Hairy Spod

    or we could just use fm

    seriously..

    If it aint broke dont fix it.

    There's enough space to fit 6 music on fm as for the rest of the 'choice' a grand total of about 300 people will miss them and loosing it will save everyone a fortune.

    Mobile listening on DAB is crap batteries only last a few hours at best whereas an old tranny can last weeks on a few D cells.

  32. Airborne Cigar

    Where does DRM / DRM+ fit in to this brave new world?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      I originally intended to do a section on that too, but I only had so many words to use up. I'll ask the nice man if he wants a separate piece on it (Digital Radio Mondiale, for those who are worrying about copy protection on their wireless).

  33. Dwarf Silver badge

    Complete failure

    Got two Pure radios about 10 years ago and got the kids a hi-fi's each for their rooms, could never get decent reception on DAB on any of them, even with external aerials so they generally stay turned off or tuned to FM where they work fine - in the odd case when they actually get switched on.

    The whole thing is a complete failure, once again driven by commercial gain rather than what the consumer actually wants. Net result - several lost customers and two of the next generation that don't listen to the radio and instead use Spotify. OK, so we no longer get local news, but hey, thats life.

    Agree with others that this should just be turned off - to make space for a better technology. IIRC, that was the whole reason why it had to happen in the first place.

  34. Alien8n Silver badge

    Reception

    My biggest gripe with DAB is reception. I live in Oxfordshire and my journey to work is a Russian roulette as to whether I can listen or not. Usually I get about 5 miles out and then it gets patchy, some days I can't even get out of my street before reception goes. Not an issue with the BBC stations, only the commercial ones. I get a better reception switching to the radio app on my phone.

    1. peterm3
      Angel

      Re: Reception

      Are you going through the Chilterns by chance?

      As Johnson / Cameron once said "'My faith is a bit like Magic FM in the Chilterns, in that the signal comes and goes."

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Reception

        Nope, but I have noticed much worse reception in Abingdon and surrounding villages.

  35. Deej

    I'd be really intrigued to know some demographics of the people who are commenting on this article; they all appear to be audiophiles with old radios that you could take to the South Pole for 37 years without needing replacement.

    To add a very small bit of balance, I have DAB in my car and one bedroom receiver, and in these environments where I'm either concentrating on the road or trying not to wake up, they're fine; I've not felt the need to switch to FM on either of them for as long as I can remember.

    In between refusing to get up and driving places, I listen to music on my Sonos speakers, where I stream radio (mainly from California: KOST 103.5 is pretty good for feel-good chart music), play digital audio files or Amazon 'Stations' depending on what mood I'm in.

    So, all my music listening is "digital" in this sense, but not all of it is broadcast radio.

  36. Rakkor

    A couple of years ago, while on holiday in Portugal, we were walking through the village where we were staying, when we heard a burst of cheering erupt into the night, a couple of seconds later there was another, followed by yet another a few seconds later. Portugal had just scored the winner in the Euro Finals and I reckon it propagated from Terrestrial UHF to Terrestrial Digital to Satellite TV with the least lot being a good 10 or 15 seconds behind the first to know

  37. Spanners Silver badge
    FAIL

    iPlayer Radio

    Several people here have commented on the iPlayer radio. Because it asks for me to sign in before it will allow me to use it, I don't.

    iPlayer on the TV is getting ever more enthusiastic about signing in too. If it makes it mandatory, I will stop using it as well. I am in the UK. It is quite detectable by my IP address that I am in the UK. I cannot think of any other legitimate reason they need to check.

    1. Gerry 3
      Big Brother

      Re: iPlayer Radio

      > I cannot think of any other legitimate reason they need to check.

      I can.

      They're trying to catch people without TV licences who watch BBC programmes via the iPlayer. Of course, it would be far easier to use the TV Licence number as a paywall password, but the BBC are petrified that would see the licence fee being replaced by subscription !

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: iPlayer Radio

        I don't think this is the major reason. About all they can actually do is check that you haven't registered with an email address that you have used to tell them you don't need a license. The license payments (capita I think) and the iplayer accounts aren't linked up. As licenses apply to premises rather than people it's a bit tricky to do anyway (and has weird corner cases, and radio doesn't require a license, and and and...)

        What it's actually about is worse. The BBC have long been pushing myBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/entries/77bdafd0-20b3-414d-aa53-48786b194543 they want to know exactly what you're watching and reading on the BBC to build up customer profiles, it's an enormous personal data grab. It didn't take off on its own, but making accounts mandatory for access to (the highly successful) iplayer may have done the trick. There's no oversight of this strategy outside the BBC.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: iPlayer Radio

          I only access iPlayer on Chrome browser. Everything else uses Waterfox - including the BBC news site. The iPlayer sign-in will only relate to my infrequent viewing ofTV programmes. No way are they going to correlate it with the BBC News articles I read.

  38. Gerry 3
    Stop

    One big scandal seldom reported is that many big supermarkets (e.g. Tesco) and stores (e.g. Curry's) are still selling obsolete DAB radios that can't receive DAB+.

    It's just a scam to make the Great Unwary buy twice.

  39. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    The reasons for the low uptake may indeed hinge on naff quality, but the acronyms are not helping.

    "DAB". "DAB+". Might as well call it "LAAAAAAME".

    And "RAJAR"? By the rules of naming stuff from initials it should be "RJAR" or "RaJAR" (You only get to make the "make it work" letters big if it is an awesome world-changer like RADAR.)

    This whole fiasco conjures up visions of pipe-smoking, balding, middle aged men in brown tweed jackets c/w leather elbow patches sitting round a table wasting hours of time in "brainstorming" sessions.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buying a DAB radio does not mean it still works

    I have bought two DAB radios in the past. Both seriously overpriced for a radio. Both only worked if positioned very carefully. Both had poor sound quality. Both died and put in the WEEE bin.

    Any digital radio I listen to comes via Freeview.

  41. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Whatever you do ...

    ... just don't get stuck with a license-encumbered system like HD radio (in the USA). Costs (to the broadcasters) are high and some have dropped their extended programming and gone back to analog FM.

    With DAB, there are SDR receivers (some open source) available. And it wouldn't surprise me to see high end kit designed with upgradable firmware. So when you make a protocol upgrade, you just flash the receiver with a new app.

  42. JohnFen Silver badge

    First they killed broadcast television

    How true this is apparently depends on where you live, but where I live, the digital switchover of television pretty much killed broadcast TV by making it impossible for large swaths of the population to receive more than a channel or two of it at best.

    I guess now that broadcast TV has been neutered, it's radio's turn.

  43. batfastad

    I like DAB

    No wait, I got that wrong, I meant I like the sound quality of a potato. Underwater.

  44. Grant Fromage

    In The first days of this nonsense I was still working for Auntie beeb and on loan unoffcially as a pair of golden ears was not welcome at detecting Dab every time by "ambience modulation" on classical music. String quartet= FAIL

    They had Nicam which worked beautifully and I could not A/B tell because the engineering was solid, based around real research into how how we hear things and it worked.

    Why was that not used in DAB Doh!

    If you do not take your music viscerally then you may not get this. some bits of music have a complex interaction that gives people who are sensitive to it physical responses, the most common is a sensation of ice down the spine or just a a sudden unfocussed uplift.

    We are all different, there is a chunk in the Who`s wont get fooled again and Rory Gallagher playing bought and sold live that does this for me and it is a useful metric, I used this to asses MP3 encoders and decoders. The fraunhoffer codecs preserved the tickle at half the others rates. .

    I should probably get my coat.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      They had Nicam which worked beautifully and I could not A/B tell because the engineering was solid, based around real research into how how we hear things and it worked.

      Why was that not used in DAB Doh!

      Very simply, because standard TV broadcast NICAM used 768kbps of data. I believe a DAB ensemble/multiplex is 1.2Mbps? You'd not even get two radio stations onto one multiplex, and then you'd still have people complaining that it was 32kHz sampling and only 10 bits of real data from a 14 bit sample. With MPEG (even layer II MPEG) you get theoretically better numbers, but it only sounds better if you use enough bitrate. For most people on most normal receivers I'm sorry to say that 128kbps is just about enough, but even at 256kbps - where I've never heard anyone reliably claim to be able to tell the difference between MPEG II and direct audio - you could still get a lot more radio stations into DAB than you could with NICAM.

      M.

  45. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    And another thing

    With FM radio you get the advance warning of increasing background noise before the signal actually fails, so if you're moving and really want to hear something (breaking news?) you'll usually just lose the odd word or two, and there's no catch-up/re-initialise issue. DAB just throws the toys out of the pram.

  46. David 45

    A con trick

    DAB was the most appalling bit of skull-duggery foisted onto the unsuspecting British public in many a year. CD quality? Just who are they kidding? I was an early adopter with a Technics tuner and it all sounded fine initially, but quality has slowly gone down the pan, mainly due, I presume, to the ever-decreasing bit-rates, not to mention the ever-present audio butchering caused by compression and/or processing. Sounds like the dreaded Optimod is still in there somewhere. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere in the mists of time that the original DAB spec. might have included user-adjustable compression. Anyone else got that in the memory banks? If so, it never happened - obviously. ANYTHING might be better than the absolutely appalling sound quality from FM these days. I hardly ever listen to radio, as I find it pretty painful on the ears. Even internet and satellite radio seem to use excessive amounts of compression. All the stations are desperately trying to sound more punchier than the others, with the result that they ALL sound as grotty as hell. Flat as the proverbial pancake. No dynamics - flat-lining. Why the Radio Authority (as was) ever allowed this to happen is beyond me. I have reel-to-reel recordings off FM from many years ago (bearing in mind the upper audio limit is about 15 khz. and they sound brilliant. Today's transmissions are a travesty.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    Sucker for the power to scroll

    My main beef about DAB and DAB+ is that useless screen draws so much battery power it reduces listening time to a novelty. i have to run my devices on mains power or via motor vehicle where the power is generated via the alternator and it will be too bad if I have an all electric vehicle in years to come.

    What a waste just to scroll the song details, and tell me repeatedly the same info the announcer has just done.

    If many devices had the full image on the screen capability, intended for song and album covers, radio stations would push advertising at yo 24/7 with their show or music.

  48. silks

    Streaming

    Surely the future is streaming over fixed line and mobile internet rather than digital broadcast radio? Maybe keep FM for "legacy" users (simple tech, fab coverage & great battery life) and ditch the DAB.

  49. Paul

    I recommend people have a play and build a TVHeadend server.

    * listen/watch live

    * set up timed recordinds

    * keep your recordings indefinitely

    * transcode recordings to other formats

    * install minidlna and stream recordings across your LAN to various devices which support DLNA

    * install Samba and make available over file shares for laptops and desktops

    * set up a tool which scans directories and makes a podcast feed and then you can take your recordings with you on your phone/tablet etc.

    of course, don't do any of the above if it will violate copyright. ahem.

  50. A K Stiles
    Coat

    AM ? Luxury!

    Some of us can remember listening to "Longwave Radio Atlantic 252" with a signal to noise ratio on a good day of approx 1:1.

    Not old enough for Radio Caroline though!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AM ? Luxury!

      "Not old enough for Radio Caroline though!

      Radio Luxembourg on 208 meters was a favourite for many in the 1950/60s. The BBC was limited in the amount of music it could play - so Luxembourg was the "go to" for pop music. They also had various game shows (with varying cash prizes) that eventually transferred to the Independent TV stations eg "Double Your Money", "Take Your Pick", and BBC "Have A Go". The space serial "'Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future" had a listeners' club for youngsters - and also merchandised toys.

      The Luxembourg signal was only received strongly in the UK after dark - so was subject to much fluctuation in the early evening until the F layers of the ionosphere came fully into play.

      As a teenager in the early 1960s I earned occasional pocket money by repairing radios. Especially "uneconomical" transistor ones that had been dropped out of windows, into baths, off motorbikes.

      In every case the owners appreciated that I adjusted the MW tuning tracking for optimum performance on 208 metres. Being at the end of the MW range the factory setting was never that good.

      On my family transistor portable I temporarily moved the front-end tuning to above the superhet oscillator frequency - giving me coverage of the 160 metre amateur band. For that band's small frequency range the "wrong way" tracking didn't matter. With the ferrite rod aerial it made a good D/F receiver.

    2. Flexdream

      Re: AM ? Luxury!

      In it's day Atlantic Radio could reach a car radio where other bands just couldn't go, even if it sometimes seemed to move about a bit.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AM reaches the parts other technologies cannot reach.

    I'm not a radio tecchy but I was led to understand that AM "bends" which is why radio HAMS can make contacts and get their QSL cards from around the globe, the down-side is it's bandwidth hungry. For those in and around relatively flat London a figure like 98% coverage sounds great. For those beyond it's crap. And I guess that the coverage figures are frigged to suit those wanting to flog off bandwidth for other purposes - maybe they relate to inhabited areas not the entirety of the UK land surface. I often encounter poor or no signal of FM and DAB while driving even in cities because there are hills. When I lived in Neasden I stopped listening to Radio 3 when it came off AM because the FM signal was rubbish, it may have been better quality for those with a good signal but I was screwed for their benefit.

    AM can also be picked up with very basic kit, come the nuclear holocaust I may even be able to knock up a crystal set receiver - doesn't even need a battery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AM reaches the parts other technologies cannot reach.

      [...] may even be able to knock up a crystal set receiver - doesn't even need a battery."

      You can make a crystal set quite literally. The original "Cat's Whisker" was a metal wire probe against a galena crystal - exploiting its semiconductor properties.

      A long aerial is usually needed - for medium/long wave several hundred metres is optimum.

      Metal oxides often act as semiconductors. It is said that the BBC Droitwich 200KHz transmissions could be heard emanating ethereally from nearby rusty wire fences.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I was led to understand that AM "bends" which is why radio HAMS can make contacts and get their QSL cards from around the globe, the down-side is it's bandwidth hungry."

    A big subject - but here are a few pointers from memory and Googled links. Apologies in advance for errors and omissions.

    The range of Long Wave transmissions and daytime Medium Wave transmissions are limited by the extent of their ground waves beyond the line of sight.

    Radio signals from about 1MHz to 30MHZ are also reflected by the ionosphere. There are considered to be several ionospheric layers - the higher the transmission frequency the higher the layer that naturally reflects it. That's why Short Wave transmissions have a potentially longer range than Medium Wave transmissions.

    All the ionosphere reflections vary by day, season, and sunspot cycle. Medium Wave changes between daylight and darkness. The higher Short Wave frequencies vary by sunspot cycles.

    Above 30MHZ can be considered line of sight. However exceptional atmospheric conditions can produce longer ranges by low level ionospheric reflections.

    Those higher frequencies can also bend round the contours of the ground to reach further than the predicted line of sight.

    Hills and buildings might cause multiple reflections that affect the received signal's quality - even a digital one. Hence the UK demonstration proof of concept of RADAR was by the flutter effect caused by an aircraft interacting with a transmission.

    LW/MW/SW transmissions are narrow bandwidth - purely because the overall available space for many channels in their part of the spectrum is quite small. Therefore there is a limit to the highest audio frequency they can carry. Once you get to FM and the TV bands then the bandwidth that can be made available for each station is much larger.

    AM (amplitude modulation) signals suffer distortion from noise spikes. FM (frequency modulation) is relatively immune to noise spikes until the signal has become quite weak. The wider an analogue FM station's bandwidth - the better the audio quality.

    The old VHF 405 line TV pictures and sound in the UK used amplitude modulation. Both suffered when a passing car ignition system generated noise spikes. The picture signal "peak white" showed the noise as white spots.

    Changing TV standards to FM for the sound - and making the AM picture signal "peak black" - alleviated those problems. Black spots are less noticeable in a picture. Car ignition systems also became better suppressed.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      A big subject - but here are a few pointers from memory

      Thanks for that. I was pondering how to reply, but now I don't have to :-)

      M.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      A big subject - but here are a few pointers from memory

      Actually, just thought of something you didn't specifically cover but which is probably relevant to the AC; it's that people often don't understand the distinction between "AM/FM/DAB" and "MW/LW/VHF" etc.

      The AC says

      I was led to understand that AM "bends"

      whereas, as you have explained, it isn't the "AM" as such (the modulation scheme), it's actually a property of the radio waves at the frequencies typically used to broadcast AM.

      Or to put it another way, if we used a digital modulation scheme at LW or MW frequencies, you could receive a single DAB ensemble right across the whole of the UK, atmospheric conditions aside.

      This is the principle behind the previously mentioned Digital Radio Mondiale. It has several ways to broadcast, but the simplest to explain is probably the one where you replace a single AM station with a single DRM station. The DRM station would have essentially the same propagation characteristics as the AM station, but would provide (if I have read the specs correctly) somewhere around 20kbit/s of error-protected digital data, which is enough for a decent quality speech programme, less susceptible to fading than the analogue station was, though I suspect probably still vulnerable to the "digital cliff" :-)

      M.

  53. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

    CD quality!?!?

    >Radio 3 doesn't really have a high enough bit rate to provide the best quality sound – it runs at 192Kbps. Most other BBC music stations are at 128Kbps.

    *splutter* *wipe tea off wall*

    192!?!?

    CDs deliver 1,411.2bps (stereo), just to put that in context. And even THEY are noticeably clipped vs raw audio.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: CD quality!?!?

      192!?!?

      You are not comparing like-with-like.

      CD delivers uncompressed (in the data-reducing sense) audio. Essentially a WAV file. Pretty much all other formats compress the audio in some way, from lossless compression such as FLAC, which can usually achieve somewhere around 4:1 reduction in data, to lossy formats such as the MPEG audio used by DAB which can achieve a lot more, and can be "tuned" to trade off file size / bitrate against "quality".

      In proper A/B/X tests, most "normal" people fail to spot the difference between uncompressed audio and compressed audio at somewhere between 160kbps and 192kbps for MPEG II and between 128kbps and 160kbps for MP3. Note that the BBC is now streaming radio using AAC, which is more efficient and "transparent" than either of those, and is doing so at 320kbps.

      Musically-trained or sound-engineering-trained people (and perhaps some "golden ears") need slightly higher bitrates for MPEG II and 3, but only slightly. Realistically, no-one can tell the difference between 320kbps AAC and the original audio.

      And the golden-eared brigade often kid themselves that they can hear the difference. We had a commercial director at the radio station who claimed to be able to tell the difference between 7½ips tape and 15ips tape, regularly "cleared his sinuses" by sniffing marker pens and took massive doses of vitamin C, but was perfectly happy to take submissions "down the line" using ISDN and a Musicam codec. It was new digital technology so it must be at least as good as the high speed tape.

      Just in case you aren't aware, Musicam is a forerunner of MPEG layer II audio (as used in DAB) and ISDN2e has a fixed bitrate of 128kbps (2x 64kbps B channels).

      M.

      1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: CD quality!?!?

        >like with like...uncompressed...compressed

        true, but:

        >In proper A/B/X tests, most "normal" people fail to spot the difference between uncompressed audio and compressed audio at somewhere between 160kbps and 192kbps for MPEG II and between 128kbps and 160kbps for MP3.

        , every single bit of research I've seen (of non-risible quality) says precisely the opposite. That essentially everyone can hear the difference (on good speakers -- remember, MP3 etc are deliberately designed not only to bullshit the human ear by fitting in with known psychological/humanphysical biases, but also to play to the limitations of the intended/expected speakers: earbuds and bookshelfs).

        Certainly, the difference between CDs and 320k MP3s on my home system is stark. It's like a thick blanket being dropped over the speakers. Muzzy. Granted, mine's an audiophile system picked up for a song (eg Klipsch Reference speakers), so is high quality. But there's no mistaking an MP3 for a CD.

        I keep meaning to buy a record player. I'm very aware of how much CD-encoding clips out of the original; I'm interested to see if/how noticeable the difference is. Certainly, you can pick sharply the differences between Live and CD versions of the same piece. Again, like a blanket smothering it.

  54. G7mzh

    Book-cookery

    Yet again, this is the BBC being economical with the truth. The 50.9% is not digotal radio listening, it is DAB+TV+internet.

    If you refer to the RAJAR document, it's quite clear that digital radio listening is just under 37%.

  55. Flexdream

    Has DAB radio been a con?

    Was the purpose all along to free up bandwidth to sell?

    Years and years of propaganda about the wonderful sound quality of DAB - still not delivered. That muffled underwater sound, and reception is variable. Even in a small area covering Edinburgh the reception is inconsistent. The price of radios has come down, and I use my DAB radio in the kitchen often, but really I think the internet and wifi makes DAB obsolete for most listeners.

    Early adopters who believe the hype are punished again. Smart meters anyone?

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Has DAB radio been a con?

      Was the purpose all along to free up bandwidth to sell?

      What bandwidth? Even if you sold off the entire FM spectrum you would only have 20MHz to sell (88MHz - 108MHz) which is just about enough for one single 54Mbps WiFi channel, or two digital TV multiplexes (one TV channel being 8MHz). And you couldn't sell it all off because you'd want to keep some for "community" radio or RSL (short-term licence) radio.

      Yes, you could get a few mobile phone conversations into 20MHz, but not a whole lot, when you consider having to build a cell network with it. I suppose you could use it for femtocells, but 100MHz VHF is a long way from the 800MHz+++ UHF that mobile phone radios (and aerials) are usually designed for.

      The situation at MW and LW is worse. The entire broadcast MW spectrum covers just over 1MHz (525kHz - 1606kHz) and the LW broadcast spectrum covers just 140kHz (148kHz - 283kHz) which isn't even enough for one European standard FM broadcast (needs 75kHz either side of the centre frequency).

      You're right to ask the question though - and I've been asking it for some time. The spectrum isn't really useful for anything much else, so why do people seem determined to switch off (particularly) FM? I suppose it would save a little bit of money...

      M.

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