Feeds

Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

Beyond the bubbling mud

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

One of the main reasons why GCap Media chief executive Fru Hazlitt labelled DAB as being "not an economically viable platform" was due to its high transmission costs. DAB+ is up to three times cheaper to transmit, because multiplexes can carry three times as many stations. The cost of conversion to DAB+ would be minimal as well, because DAB+ stations would be transmitted on existing DAB multiplexes, so there's no need to build an expensive new transmitter network.

A licence to deceive

Despite DAB+ solving DAB's numerous problems, Ofcom has scuppered any hopes of seeing it anytime soon. Channel 4 has made a serious investment in digital radio, and wanted to use DAB+ for stations on its national DAB multiplex, due to launch later this year. But light-touch regulator Ofcom wouldn't let them, and Channel 4 was ordered to use DAB instead.

However, which format is used on the Channel 4 national multiplex may have become a moot point, as it might not be launching at all - most of the broadcaster's executives are reportedly opposed to the £100m move into digital radio. Executives are aware that splurging on digital radio would make a mockery of the broadcaster's request to receive a share of the BBC's TV licence fee money, on the basis that they're supposedly skint.

What Ofcom is scared of is that if DAB+ stations were launched today there would be complaints from a few luddites who think technology should stand still forever. But the introduction of DAB+ would not lead to them losing any existing stations, or at least not for some time, and the irony is that DAB stations have been closing down left, right, and centre anyway.

Ofcom should simply have explained to consumers that their DAB radios won't stop working the moment DAB+ stations launch. A green light for DAB+ would also have forced the receiver manufacturers to convert their existing models to support DAB+, and that would have accelerated the transition over to the new standard.

But what Ofcom has actually achieved is giving an excuse for the receiver manufacturers to delay building new DAB+ models. The broadcasters have been misleading the public into thinking that DAB+ will never be used in the UK, so we continue buying non-upgradeable DAB radios that will all need to be replaced a few years down the line. No one seems to be able to grasp the nettle.

Future proofing the radio

There are a few DAB+ models on sale today, and the manufacturers will be releasing a wide range of receivers later this year in time for new markets in Australia, Switzerland, and Germany, who are all starting to use the new standard. But it's unlikely that there will be any DAB+ stations launched in the UK before 2010 to 2011, and even then it will take a few years to complete the transition. By which time DAB+ will be as outdated as DAB is today.

If the broadcasters want DAB to continue being the main digital radio platform, they could live to regret taking the slow route to DAB+, because listening to internet radio is set to grow quickly on the back of the iPlayer.

The BBC has finally said it's going to start using new audio formats - very likely AAC or AAC+ - for its live and on-demand radio streams in July and April, respectively. This means they should overtake DAB in terms of quality. The BBC has actually had the opportunity to use AAC+ for its radio streams ever since Real Networks added support for the codec to Real Player 10/RealAudio 10 in January 2004, and it wouldn't have cost the BBC a penny in licensing costs to use it.

Which begs the question: has the BBC actually delayed using AAC+ in order to give the failing DAB system a helping hand? We can but speculate, but it's a concern that the BBC's "all platforms" strategy and supposedly web-friendly mission has a blind spot when it comes to internet radio.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.