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After a Decade, Digital Radio Still an Also-Ran In UK

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the played-out-in-advance dept.

Government 200

beschra writes "Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) was developed as early as 1981. After launching in the UK 10 years ago, only 24% of listeners listen on DAB. The article credits a good part of the delay to the fact that the technology was largely developed under the Europe-wide Eureka 147 research project. How does government vs. commercial development help or hinder acceptance of new technology? From the article: '"If Nokia develops something, they'll be bringing out the handsets before you know it," [analyst Grant Goddard says]. "Because DAB was a pan-European development, you had to have agreement from all sides before you could do anything. That meant progress was extremely slow." But this alone did not account for the hold-up. The sheer complexity of introducing and regulating the system was also a major factor, Mr. Goddard adds."'

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eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32858862)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Re:eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859054)

Lick my pud and suck my balls.

Hmm, I wonder (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858868)

It couldn't be something to do with the fact that the cheapest DAB radio I can find right now is £35 (£60 if you want something portable), whereas you can get a portable FM receiver for under £5? Nah, it must be to do with the regulations and standards!

Re:Hmm, I wonder (4, Insightful)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858882)

And also that FM is more tolerant of bad reception.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (0, Redundant)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858954)

And also that FM is more tolerant of bad reception.

If DAB was blasted out at typical FM powers, you wouldn't have bad reception. Not that I'm in any way supporting DAB, but FM is just obsolete.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (2, Informative)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858992)

DAB is really, really inefficient to transmit. You need far higher power with DAB over FM. DAB is around 30% efficient in transmission, whereas FM is about 90%.

DAB is already transmitted at far greater power than FM, yet we still have trouble with reception on receivers.

It's a technology that needs to die before it really takes off.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (5, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859106)

DAB is around 30% efficient in transmission, whereas FM is about 90%.

Please define "efficiency in transmission".

DAB is already transmitted at far greater power than FM, yet we still have trouble with reception on receivers.

You really need some documentation for that statement. In Denmark the important FM transmitters are 60kW (a few are 100kW), whereas the main DAB transmitters are 2kW. Coverage is only marginally worse with DAB.

It's a technology that needs to die before it really takes off.

I don't disagree, but don't make it worse than it actually is. FM is obsolete even as an analog technology (radio amateurs can do better quality in less bandwidth even without going digital). Let us just hope that we replace FM with something sane.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859244)

OTOH many here seem to be quite displeased with power consumption of DAB receivers (and we all know that FM ones can be made to consume minuscule amounts of battery) - could it be a bit (also? etc.) a case of, more or less, a balance between power consumption of transceivers and power consumption of receivers?

I'd say minimizing the latter at the expense of the former is, in case of radio, desirable; the point, really.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859702)

Which radio amateur mode is better quality than broadcast FM? No mode that I'm allowed to use! As for FM being obsolete, please define your version of obsolete because it sounds like a new one. The only reason for getting rid of the FM broadcast band is purely commercial.

Charlie, M0WYM

Re:Hmm, I wonder (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859064)

FM's anything but obsolete, it's simple, effective and extremely robust, DAB's simply not good enough to replace it.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859120)

FM is simple, but who cares when you can have a DSP for a few cents these days? FM isn't robust, just drive in a built-up area and the multipath interference kills reception on a regular basis. FM isn't effective, it's a horrible waste of precious bandwidth.

But yes, even as lousy as FM is, DAB barely beats it.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859180)

Battery life cares, I guess. Several posters in this thread mention pathetic times of DAB receiver operation on battery power - even when those are fairly large devices with a place for few AA cells.

I almost don't see any impact of FM reception in battery life of mobile phone, in which FM receiver is practically "free" (hell, probably one of the least expensive mobile phones with FM radio, Nokia 1616, seems to be cheaper than any DAB radio - but with a mobile phone thrown in for "free"; 5030, not much more expensive, has also a loudspeaker)

Re:Hmm, I wonder (5, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859290)

FM is simple, but who cares when you can have a DSP for a few cents these days

  1. Initial system cost at receiver and even more so at transmitter end: DAB is basically Arqiva trolling every radio listener for profit, raising the bar for entry into the transmission market;
  2. Upgrade timeframes - AM radio: a good century; FM radio: 40 year old commercial receivers going on fine, stereo addition is backward compatible; DAB: about 5 years as complex imperfections are persistently tweaked and old codecs become obsolete;
  3. Power requirements: the limit of lack of power requirement is the AM crystal radio receiver which is powered by nothing more than the radio waves themselves - there is nothing inherently more efficient about demodulating a DAB signal, so it will always cost more to power a DAB radio because of the complexity of equipment. Currently it's at least 5x more;
  4. Longevity: harder to say - even assuming that transmitters fix on a backwards compatible standard for decades, does the analogue and digital circuitry in a DAB radio last so long? My experience with DAB radios has been an increase in bubbling/no reception over time.
  5. Degrading and fixability: And when this happens to an analogue radio, it may be fixable - meanwhile, operation tends to degrade rather than die completely. You have very little hope fixing DAB. This becomes significant when considering disaster broadcasts (and two way transmission, of course). People today assume there'll be roses and sweetness across the world for until the end of time. I'm not sure why. Maybe they're young, or maybe they're idiots. A system which doesn't require a chip fab to replace is essential.

Please define "efficiency in transmission".

Signal out / power in. For example, SSB is more efficient than AM because AM (full modulation) transmits half the power in an informationless carrier and doubles the information in each sideband. I don't know much about the power efficiency of DAB's modulation methods, though.

FM isn't robust, just drive in a built-up area and the multipath interference kills reception on a regular basis.

Yes, DAB is better here as long as you're not travelling too fast ;-).

FM isn't effective, it's a horrible waste of precious bandwidth.

Why the obsession with quantity over quality? Five hundred low bitrate stations pumping out shit is a horrible waste of precious bandwidth.

Finally, you might want to see just how much more spectrum efficient DAB isn't. The capture effect wat any radio ham kno offsets even the reusability argument.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859374)

@5 - that seems mostly natural, and for many species (in their way), not just us; probably often a competitive edge (it's just that we aren't so readily & rapidly regulated out of "living the dream" by other species / pressures of surroundings; the luxury of high adaptability). How many people really saw Civil War, WW1, WW2, great famines or pretty much any such turmoil? (with its full consequences)

Well, and it's only as long as you're reasonably fine already, of course - I'd venture a guess that a lot of people throughout the world, also today, don't quite see it as "roses and sweetness"...at least not the same kind of it. I suspect they still do, in a way; hell, large portion of the planet thinks there will be "roses and sweetness" actually after the end of time and/or after they'll....die; or smth.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (2, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859470)

FM is better quality that most DAB stations. Many now broadcast in mono at 96kbps or less. It has nothing to do with bandwidth or anything like that, the DAB management simply charge too much for stereo streams at a reasonable bitrate.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859688)

That's the most obvious problem today, agreed - even the casual listener is turned off.

But the danger is that people will believe, "Just pay for another new radio with a better codec and it'll all be perfect!"

False.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859510)

Why the obsession with quantity over quality? Five hundred low bitrate stations pumping out shit is a horrible waste of precious bandwidth.

Five or six stations just isn't enough anymore. If we don't increase the number of stations, listeners will switch to the Internet and then the FM network will be too expensive to run. The power requirements alone are horrendous.

Degrading and fixability: And when this happens to an analogue radio, it may be fixable - meanwhile, operation tends to degrade rather than die completely. You have very little hope fixing DAB. This becomes significant when considering disaster broadcasts (and two way transmission, of course). People today assume there'll be roses and sweetness across the world for until the end of time. I'm not sure why. Maybe they're young, or maybe they're idiots. A system which doesn't require a chip fab to replace is essential.

Our modern power distribution network is dependent on integrated electronics, and our current FM network depends on that... Either way that's a lost cause, in 30 years only radio amateurs will use analog, and switching the FM network off won't annoy the radio amateurs.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (2, Informative)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859618)

If we don't increase the number of stations, listeners will switch to the Internet

Assuming ubiquity of the Internet - driven a car recently? Assuming that people will choose one of 50 crap channels rather than one of up to 20 [londonradi...ions.co.uk] (5 or 6? what is wrong with your network?) good quality channels.

The power requirements alone are horrendous.

So horrendous that FM pirate stations exist all over London and even the government recognises that the FM spectrum would be useful to legitimate local stations once - they hope - the big boys have moved off it.

(Number of DAB pirate stations: 0, of course. But there are other obstacles before they have to
worry about power.)

Our modern power distribution network is dependent on integrated electronics

If only there were other ways of generating power from household to industrial scale. Curse you, Nature, giving a monopoly to The Man!

Either way that's a lost cause

Yawn. Lie down and welcome the relentless march of tech, no matter how much worse.

in 30 years only radio amateurs will use analog

As above - this isn't even the government's plan. Also pilots. Also vocal cords. Must.. introduce.. unnecessary.. complexity.. to body also.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859336)

FM obsolete? Hardly. If it were obsolete people would be eagerly looking to replace their FM receivers. The main problem with DAB is that FM works just fine. It's widely deployed, highly fault-tolerant, and it gets the job done. It ain't broke, so it shouldn't be a surprise that "fixing" it with a digital replacement hasn't gone all that well. (The only problem with the governmental way it was done is that it's taken so long to demonstrate that there's no demand for it; a market-driven "conversion" would've shown that more quickly.)

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859562)

If it were obsolete people would be eagerly looking to replace their FM receivers.

It's simply hanging on because of network effects. Until recently there was no competition at all. If we don't switch to digital radio, the Internet will kill off FM, it will just take a bit longer.

The really big question is whether radio can sustain the cost of a separate network at all. Hopefully it'll just move to DVB, which ought to keep operating costs low. Or DRM+ where you don't need a network, so each local station can pay its own costs.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859572)

"It's widely deployed, highly fault-tolerant, and it gets the job done." ...and it's tuned to the same station in my bathroom, my kitchen, my cellphone, my car and my office.

So why should I change it in 1 place.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (4, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859028)

I think reception is a major DAB killer. I live in London, and still can't get a usable DAB signal. The 24% of the country listening on DAB are probably pretty much the 24% who can receive DAB. DAB is a looking like a failed technology at the moment. I use internet radio at home, and there's no real alternative to FM in my car.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

SuperDre (982372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859656)

Yeah, that's something I'm always wondering about, let's say we get some real static in the air (due fallout from some meteor storm which hit earth, or some stupid country going around throwing nukes) I wonder how we can communicate using digital radio as with analog even bad reception can be heard/seen but digital can't...

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

yabastaaa (877550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858884)

I was thinking that - DAB sets may've been released 10 years ago, but when I was looking for a hifi 5-6 years ago, DAB was hugely expensive. All in all, 24% seems high!

Re:Hmm, I wonder (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858904)

I didn't look too hard, but Argos sells a portable DAB receiver for £20 [argos.co.uk] . As I said below, the problem is not regulation or standards, but simply that there is no well defined use case for DAB. Other than 'woo, digital!' it isn't actually better than the alternatives in any way. Without that, economies of scale don't push the price down at all because hardly anyone is buying the devices.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (2, Informative)

HRH_H_Crab (1746502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859018)

Other than 'woo, digital!' it isn't actually better than the alternatives in any way.

I believe that compared to FM the sound quality is actually worse.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859066)

Depends. A clean FM signal is actually pretty good quality, but a clean FM signal is pretty rare. DAB uses 128Kb/s MP2, which is terrible quality. DAB+ uses 64Kb/s AAC+, which is good enough that cheap speakers are going to be the cause of poor quality in a lot of circumstances, but still not actually good. 128KB/s AAC would definitely be better than FM in most cases, but this doesn't seem to be an option for DAB.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859114)

I don't know. FM might be considered to be of "good quality" in a lot more places than those where it has "clean signal" - it degrades quite gracefully, for a large part of that process still sounds pleasant. No such thing with DAB.

I have here a simple alarm radio, in a place near the edge of reception areas / in the middle between transmitters. Toying with the placement and antenna is required, but generally one can still get almost perfect reception (I wouldn't held much hope for digital), even after my damn cat shortened the antenna to a fraction of its length (well, much more toying required, a bit more static...but still pleasant)

Re:Hmm, I wonder (4, Interesting)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859784)

My friend's house is in the country and sits in a natural dip. He can still listen to FM (all be it a little bit hissy at times) on any cheap set without any extra aerials, however he can't listen to DAB at all as he gets about 3 or so seconds of airplay followed by 10 or so seconds of total silence, and this is with a good quality receiver and a roof Ariel.

He also has similar issues with analogue/digital TV, unfortunately they will be turning off the analogue TV soon, so the only way he will be able to watch TV is with satellite dish and multiple set top boxes so there are no fights amongst his late teen children.

And also living quite a few miles from his local telephone exchange he can't get ADSL so no broadband internet so that isn't an option either....

All these things now have a negitive impact on his house value, where as 20 years ago when he bought the place none of these things were important and the isolation was a positive influence on the price.

Yey for the digital age!

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859162)

I had no idea DAB bitrate was so poor otherwise I wouldn't have bought one for my mum a couple of years ago. Still, probably better for certain things.. FM really sucks for classical music for example, the volume levels get so low that the music gets drowned out by static.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

lagfest (959022) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859328)

The DAB bitrate is variable, giving talk radio lesser bitrates, and classical music larger bitrates.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859228)

In Australia DAB Quality is a LOT worse. AM often sounds better.
Silicon Chip (The electronics magazine) reviewed the situation.
Teeny Weenie 64K channels, low power at best, is way worse than standad FM

The 64kbits/s DAB+ used by most of the Australian commercial stations, equivalent to 96kbits/s in DAB, is simply not good enough and nothing to be proud of.

80kbit/s DAB+, as used by ABC Classical, roughly equivalent to 128kbits/s DAB, is something they should be ashamed of, since the DAB+ audio quality is notably inferior to ABC Classical FM. ABC Classical should broadcast at 160kbits/s which will provide the audio quality deemed necessary by the BBC.

ref: http://www.siliconchip.com.au/cms/A_111891/article.html

Re:Hmm, I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859272)

Not that it is worse but it can be worse. Every so often a paper will print a letter who can receive FM but not digital.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859134)

When I said portable I meant as in an MP3 player sized device. £20 isn't bad, but it's still not FM territory.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

ninjakoala (890584) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859236)

I went all-out and bought a Pure Evoke Flow, because it had DAB (and luckily DAB+ which will soon replace DAB here) as well as internet radio, podcast support, uPNP playback, FM radio and so on. The last two places I've lived, DAB has had an advantage over the FM band.

The town where I used to live, local radio stations were transmitting with so much power that it drowned out the national stations unless you had a roof antenna in large parts of the town. DAB worked perfectly.

Now I live out in the sticks, but whereas DVB-T is an absolute nightmare, DAB gives me perfect reception of all radio stations, whereas the best I can get on the FM band is a few stations with a little hissing in the background.

So yes, the audio quality takes a hit in terms of bitrate, but in other areas it can be superior. It's also nice to have more stations to choose from that aren't crummy local stations with brainless pop-tunes.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (5, Informative)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859394)

There IS a case for what DAB gives you - more radio stations - but that is not a thing specific to DAB. The real problems with the roll-out of DAB stack up as follows:

1) DAB was promoted as being superior to FM in terms of quality, but then the broadcasters started to tinker with bitrates on order to squeeze as many stations into the available bandwidth, even transmitting some music stations in mono, so that the quality was clearly inferior to FM. This has created a big credibility issue for DAB because the quality angle is still pushed towards an audience that has evidence to the contrary.

2) DAB reception is patchy in many areas, especially indoors. This may be mitigated when (if?) analogue is switched off and DAB transmissions get more power, but at the moment, for example, I can only receive about 50% of the available stations on my DAB kitchen radio - and if the weather is bad the error rate rockets so all I get is a burble.

3) DAB reception on public transport, especially trains, is crap. Well-paid city commuters would snap up a decent, working gadget but only AM and FM work well on the move.

4) The original DAB radios were expensive and also butt-ugly, looking like 'Practical Wireless' projects from the 70s. Many were also mono, with only one speaker - you paid extra for an add-on. These wooden-boxed radios appealed to early adopters and the curious, but the general public were not so enthusiastic. Recent designs are more sensible.

5) Portable DAB sets - especially the shirt-pocket sized ones - really really eat batteries. I'm lucky to get 4-6 hours out of a pair of good quality alkaline AAA cells. In fact, I have just ordered some 1300mAh AAA rechargeables because the cost to feed the radio with normal cells is stupid - you could easily spend more on cells in 3 weeks than the cost of the radio.

6) Getting a DAB radio for a car at a sensible price is pretty much impossible - and those who have them don't seem to be impressed with the reception and performance.

7) The technical spec for DAB is out of date already, but to replace it would mean admitting that the original design was not well thought out AND would force all current adopters to scrap their current kit; and no-one wants to be the one to announce that.

8) Many people take their own music with them and can pick and choose what they want to listen to. Why swap this for something that sounds worse and doesn't play what you want?

9) The number of mobile phones with DAB receivers is (I believe) 1 - and it's only available on one mobile network (Virgin). Having a mobile phone with DAB would give the service a *bit* of credibility, but would probably screw up battery life.

10) Here's the kicker: FM and AM 'just work' and very few have problems with the quality - there is no public tidal wave of protest demanding anything better and this leads to a sense that DAB is being pushed onto the public - which instantly gets people pissed off.

The current way forward for the broadcasters and politicians seems to be a defensive 'do nothing' while half-heartedly championing DAB, and no doubt there will be some form of mad scramble to do something half-assed when the analogue switch-off dates are imminent. There is an analogue trade-in promotion at the moment and it will be interesting to see what the take-up is.

Very recently, a Government source stated that the FM switch off would only happen when there was little demand for the service - which is a change from the previous 'rock solid' fixed date, but unless there is some serious push to improve DAB reception and produce a portable set with a sensible battery life, I fear we are going to bump along the 'do nothing' road for a long time.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

monoi (811392) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858908)

You need to look a bit harder, like for all of five seconds: non-portable for £20 [argos.co.uk] , portable for £30 [tesco.com] . Of course, that's still pretty expensive compared to FM.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859126)

Heh, battery powered portable DAB radio, that's a good one, what's the battery life like?
Strangely, it's far more costly and energy consuming to produce extremely efficient chips to decode and process compressed digital audio streams than it is to receive and process an fm signal by simple electronic means, there's also no patent to pay on the fm solution, so it'll presumably be a lot cheaper for that reason too.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858912)

It couldn't be something to do with the fact that the cheapest DAB radio I can find right now is £35 (£60 if you want something portable), whereas you can get a portable FM receiver for under £5? Nah, it must be to do with the regulations and standards!

Don't think it is, no. Where do most people listen to radio? In their car. It probably has more to do with the fact that DAB radios haven't been standard equipment in most cars until only about a year ago, and not even an option in many of them until not long before that. Most car manufacturers seem to have waited until the digital switchover was announced (currently scheduled for 2015, I believe) before offering them.

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

risinganger (586395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859216)

It probably has more to do with the fact that DAB radios haven't been standard equipment in most cars until only about a year ago

Are you sure about this?

from the linked article:

and the government says it is working with car manufacturers to make digital radios standard in cars by 2013

(bold part is my emphasis)

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858914)

...and for some time now integrated "for free" in many mobile phones, at least as far as FM is concerned.

Generally, what's this "free market & Nokia to the rescue"? Nokia doesn't do like it's being described, not with technology of such scope - think GSM (pure 2G), "2.5G" (GPRS, EDGE), 3G & "3.5G", and now LTE - this is the kind of technological scope we're talking about here, not some new minor feature in handsets. Each step took many years, too.

Even when the progress in the area was, evidently, highly desirable by people. DAB OTOH isn't nearly as attractive - if anything, first versions of DAB were brought to the market too soon, when available codecs weren't very optimal yet (hence quality suffered). All the while FM is mostly good enough with quality, and DAB doesn't go near AM where that one is strong. It just...doesn't really give much value. No wonder people weren't quick with adopting it.

Developing under agreement is a good thing here - not only in place where many different regulatory bodies almost overlap in area (as far as radio goes), this also has the effects of commoditizing the equipment & making the technology cheaper (what played a large role with tech from GSM association). Prices could be much worse...

Anyway, people just don't listen to the radio the way they used to anyway (that could be also an argument for why such system was a waste of time - it would be better to wait 2 decades, give the spectrum to cellular technology and provide any radio, if anybody wants it, via IP)

Re:Hmm, I wonder (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859492)

And that I have 5 FM radios playing around my house at the moment.

They are all in sync, so I can wander around the house without missing anything.

DAB is expensive to use, and in many ways less good.
I even own a digital radio. It is unplugged in the bottom of a drawer.

DAB does have more channels - but it doesn't compete with the internet on that score.

It is a doomed intermediate technology with many disadvantages compared both to the existing technology (cheap, effective, huge installed base), and compared to the next technology (the internet)

Nonsense (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858894)

You've been able to buy DAB receivers cheaply for ages. Psion used to sell them, and they haven't been around for a while - I remember seeing their DAB receivers for about £20 back in 2001 and now I imagine they're even cheaper. The problem with DAB is not government development, it's that it's a solution with no corresponding problem.

FM radio is good enough for most people. DAB uses a fairly poor compression system, so doesn't give noticeably better quality than FM (unlike FM versus AM). It requires new equipment, but my father still has the FM receiver he bought in the late '70s - it still works fine and gives good audio quality, so the only reason to upgrade would be if they turned off the FM or if there were radio channels that he could only get on DAB.

I don't actually own anything that can receive broadcast radio. I listen a lot to Internet radio stations. DAB can't really compete with the available content there - there simply isn't enough bandwidth available to broadcast every Internet radio station. The only advantage DAB had over Internet radio was that it worked while mobile, but the most common place where people listen to the radio while mobile is in cars. DAB receivers in cars are not that common, and DAB reception in a moving vehicle tends to be pretty poor even if they are.

Now, with mobile phones starting to include data plans, any mobile can stream a 64Kb/s AAC Internet Radio stream from anywhere in the world and get similar sound quality to DAB. DAB uses 128Kb/s MP2, which is pretty poor quality. DAB+ (which requires another equipment upgrade if you bought a DAB receiver) uses 64KB/s AAC+. The radio station that I listen to most often provides 64 and 128KB/s AAC+ streams, so if I am at home I get better quality than DAB, if I listen on a device where bandwidth is more limited then I get the same quality (and, unlike DAB, the non-local station is actually available). Unlike radios, people upgrade their mobile phones every few years, so if a new, better audio CODEC comes out, you can deploy it immediately on the server, watch people slowly switch, and turn off the old one in a few years. When was the last time you saw an Internet Radio station using MP2?

If Nokia had introduced a digital broadcasting standard, they'd have had devices on the market, but who would have been transmitting? People who bought broadcasting equipment from Nokia? Would the BBC have bought into a single-vendor solution like that? Absolutely not. And if they'd got other companies on board, they'd have needed a similarly long standards process (see WiFi) to get them all to agree and to avoid incompatibilities between implementations.

Re:Nonsense (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858928)

DAB receivers in cars are not that common, and DAB reception in a moving vehicle tends to be pretty poor even if they are.

Which is odd, as one of the design goals for DAB was that the receiver should be able to move freely throughout the broadcast area and always get a signal, automatically switching to the strongest available transmitter whenever it changes.

Re:Nonsense (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858972)

In theory, that's great. Unfortunately, being digital, it doesn't degrade gracefully. You either have a clean signal, or you pass the threshold that the error correction can handle and have nothing. When you're driving down winding country roads, you frequently fall into signal shadow. With FM, this means that you just get a lot of static over the radio as you go around a corner or in a dip. With DAB, it means that you get silence, then the station returning a second later. The latter is a lot more jarring and distracting.

If I were making a DAB receiver for a car, I would add a white noise generator and have it fade into that when the signal got near the threshold for dropping out.

This is something Internet radio does a lot better. If you are using a stream over HTTP, dropping out of signal range for a few seconds just means that a few seconds of the audio get buffered in various routers, or at the sending end, and retransmitted when you return. Set your buffer size large enough, and you just have a short delay when starting, but no loss of audio during the drive.

Re:Nonsense (1)

johnw (3725) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859094)

When you're driving down winding country roads, you frequently fall into signal shadow. With FM, this means that you just get a lot of static over the radio as you go around a corner or in a dip.

And not even that these days. Since car radios started incorporating automatic re-tuning, I find I can drive across the country with never a drop-out.

The point which all the pundits fail to address is that DAB is simply pointless. It provides a worse service than exists already, at greater cost. Only those with a vested interest are pushing it (which unfortunately includes the government because they see the opportunity to make money by flogging off the frequency spectrum currently used by FM).

Re:Nonsense (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859464)

Only those with a vested interest are pushing it (which unfortunately includes the government because they see the opportunity to make money by flogging off the frequency spectrum currently used by FM).

The really funny thing is, when they come to sell the FM space, no one will want it as no doubt the pirates will take it over.

There are millions of FM receivers in this country, and at some point they will all be purposefully obsoleted at once. People will inevitably step up to fill this void, and suddenly the radio waves will be full of stations not wanting to listen to regulators.

And I can't wait. The playlist-format that dominates radio stations these days make listening to them very annoying - the same records over and over. Hell, the same stations all over the dial - the other day I was waiting for a mate in the car, and was bored, so skipped through FM 0.1MHz at a time, to see what pirate stations were around. At least 3 different frequencies were exactly the same station, all with different RDS names. And even the independent places all play the same shitty pop-music.

Fuck the commercial radio stations, bring on the pirates! DAB may well be the best thing that happens to UK radio in years, but not for the reasons the DAB crowd want it to be.

Re:Nonsense (1)

andyh-rayleigh (512868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859842)

Which is odd, as one of the design goals for DAB was that the receiver should be able to move freely throughout the broadcast area and always get a signal, automatically switching to the strongest available transmitter whenever it changes.

In fact it was designed so that multiple transmitters could broadcast the same signal on the same frequency without multipath problems.
Which is great - except that the regulatory authorities require each transmitter to uniquely identify itself which means they cannot broadcast identical bit streams and thus that mechanism just doesn't work.

Re:Nonsense (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858964)

>>The problem with DAB is not government development, it's that it's a solution with no corresponding problem.

The two issues are not unrelated.

Re:Nonsense (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858998)

Because non-gov entities don't present such kinds of solutions? (and no, market isn't guaranteed to not fall into them - look at, say, SUV uptake some time ago) BTW, ever heard of GSM, by far the most popular cellular standard on the planet (or so I've heard), also spearheaded by administrative activities? Or DVB-T?

Re:Nonsense (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859720)

GSM's a bad example. The system was developed "by the government", but only in the sense that the government owned the industry that developed it at the time (this was during/slightly before the big wave of privatizations.) Specifically, GSM started off as a France Telecom project, and was subsequently adopted by the EC/EU after it had already gotten to a point of being clearly a good idea. At that point, it was developed by a consortium of industries, including significant involvement by private groups like Nokia and Ericsson.

This isn't to say that I don't disagree with the ridiculous Tea Partyish crap in the article summary. The US system, HD Radio, is entirely privately developed, and is a big piece of crap that virtually everyone who's tried it has no desire to stick with. As others mention, FM is a highly robust system whose sole disadvantage over the digital systems is frequency use. But that "disadvantage" brings us signals that don't drop out in areas with slightly poorer reception.

The US also has Sirius/XM, Satellite radio systems that, like the digital radio systems, have proven to be wildly unpopular. Again, these systems were not developed by any governments. The developers/operators of the two systems have had to merge just to keep afloat, and last I heard more people were using them over the Internet than via the airwaves.

Personally I think a system that permits more radio choices is a good thing, but the digital systems thus far are not particularly good. It's not that they were developed by governments.

my DAB radio lasted 13 months... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32858906)

We were told that you got no interference, you could listen to anything anywhere, it was the wonder radio of your dreams. Load of bollocks as usual. You can't pick it up in cars, they need an external aerial fitted. You get bad reception in a building, the DAB radio has to be near a window. When reception is bad, you don't get silence, you get clunky chunky blocks of noise which makes it un-listenable.

And, I have FM radios that are over 20 years old and working fine. My new DAB radio (£30), bought in May 2009, broke on Monday. I'm not buying a replacement. It's bollocks.

Or people don't think it's worth it. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858924)

I can buy an FM radio for £2.99. A cheap digital radio costs 10 times that and doesn't offer any significant advantage - Most people want to listen to BBC or just have some background music where there's adequate choice wherever you are. To them, digital means they have the additional benefit of 6 Music and Jazz FM. A few years ago these were even more expensive. Also, radios last a very long time. They pretty much never go wrong. The only moving parts are the buttons, tuning control and speakers. So they don't get replaced very often. And prices have plummeted in recent years. Last time I looked you couldn't buy a DAB radio for less than £49.99. 25 years ago I could buy a radio for £10.

Is government regulation anything to do with this?

And we have a standard. It's a decent enough widely adopted standard that is popular with a lot of manufacturers. DAB adoption is now entirely in the hands of the private sector. It's not like DVB-T was a flop, and that was largely in the hands of state broadcasters as well.

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858946)

The BBC news article I saw seemed to imply that Freeview had done comparatively well, where as DAB had floundered. I think the difference is in what it provides and what people want. As you said, the main benefit for DAB is the odd radio station that some people might listen to (6 Music, etc), where as Freeview gets you about 10x the channels, better teletext, and things like the "Red Button" on BBC that lets you pick various looping broadcasts of news or different views of sports events etc. Comparatively, it's a no brainer - Freeview gives you something of value extra, where as DAB costs more for a radio and doesn't gain most people very much (and radio probably isn't as important to most people as TV anyway)

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (3, Interesting)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858976)

The stupid thing is that DVB-T (which Freeview uses) is perfectly capable of transmitting audio at somewhat better spectrum utilization than DAB. Now they want everyone to switch to DAB+, when there are perfectly good DVB networks ALREADY OPERATING in most of Europe.

The only non-DVB-T digital radio standard worth considering is DRM+, because that makes local radio stations possible. DAB can't really broadcast a station to less than a few million people. Technically, DRM+ is probably the best digital radio standard, but it has a problem with market penetration and that may kill it. Local radio might be better served over the Internet these days anyway. DAB and DAB+ have no reason to exist and just need to die.

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859034)

Another big difference: Freeview (which flopped initially) is a replacement for analogue TV, while DAB is an extra service. They've turned off the analogue signal here now (apparently, I'm that guy from The Onion), so you have to either use DVB-T or become that guy from The Onion. With DAB, they're still using the FM spectrum for FM and there isn't even the general indication that they might reclaim it. To make things worse, DAB is being replaced by DAB+, so consumer experience indicates that analogue radios will last longer than digital ones.

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859812)

I can think of one gigantic difference:

I have one TV. Even in larger households, most people have only a handful of TVs.

It can be - and indeed is - converted with a cheap box (well, cheap relative to the cost of replacing the TV)

Radios - let's see. I've got the one built into my receiver, I've got one in my car, I've got one on my bedside, one in a cheapie mini system, my wife has a portable radio/CD player, we've got a cheap battery-powered radio in the bathroom. None of these can be converted with a relatively cheap box, and most are in regular use.

The car one's mildly awkward because I'm not prepared to lose my steering-wheel remote controls. So that limits my choice, and I'm relatively lucky. On many newer cars you have to take much of the dash to bits to replace the radio.

The receiver is the central part of all my home audio - plugs into freeview box, DVD player and Wii and automagically switches between everything. I'm not even sure I've got any suitable inputs left on it - though if push comes to shove I can use the freeview box to hear the radio.

The one on the bedside is an alarm clock radio. Fantastically cheap, simple piece of equipment, all it needs to do (apart from the radio) is display a clock that's bright enough to read in the dark without being so bright as to disturb my sleep - however this seems to be too much to ask of many newer bedside clock/radios.

The bathroom radio needs to be battery powered for obvious reasons, and either damp-proof or cheap enough that I don't care too much.

Most of these radios spend all their lives tuned into the same one or two stations, and FM gives perfectly good reception. So the "more choice" and "better quality" arguments don't wash. You're asking me to spend a fair bit of cash in order to replace something that there really is nothing wrong with. And right now, the economy's in the shitter, I can't remember the last time I had a payrise and I'm not sure I'm in a particularly strong position to ask for one anyway.

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859156)

Freeview also allows broadcasters to overcompress signals to the point that any motion breaks the picture into blocks, ITV are a fan of this technique though, tbh, that doesn't really impair the viewing experience, if anything it's an improvement. The idea that the red button "lets you pick various looping broadcasts of news or different views of sports events etc" is absolute bollocks, it was once the idea but now we're down to a single channel to host BBC red button content, it's woefully inadequate, though i suppose they may be diverting resources for freeview-HD, who knows.
The difference between TV and radio is that the people to whom radio is important are capable of seeing the limitations of the new platform, those whose lives revolve around TV have trouble not drooling into their coco-pops while they watch jeremy kyle, they'll buy into anything that's new and shiny without question, especially if itv launches an interactive multi-angle bastard cam to watch jez belittle people on.

Re:Or people don't think it's worth it. (1)

andyh-rayleigh (512868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859802)

"Is government regulation anything to do with this? "

Not really, it is more that the bundle of "intellectual property" licenses you need to build a DAB radio is a significant cost.

At least until very recently it was about £10 a unit ... it must have come down a bit or they couldn't make a £20 set (unless there is some sort of kick-back in operation)

Just think of it as a Philips tax :-(

The rest of the world is proud of them (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858930)

I mean if you switch on a UK soap opera and you see a radio in the background it's a DAB one. The sets are widely distributed, everybody has seen one.

For example I was on a geek tour of a German radio station once. The guide asked who had a DAB radio. None of the people present had one. DAB is just dead in Germany.

Re:The rest of the world is proud of them (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859072)

if you switch on a UK soap opera

Why would you even consider doing that?

Re:The rest of the world is proud of them (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859082)

1. Because the show you want to watch starts a few minutes after that and you want to make sure your equipment works.

2. Have you ever seen German television? Even the worst programming in the UK is _way_ better than the German average.

informaTive bitc4bitch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32858932)

Else up their asses BitToorent) Second,

Presentation time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32858934)

Can you get a reasonably priced DAB receiver that, even if it requires some external (but again, reasonably easy/cheap to implement) clock signal, can synchronise its audio to other such devices that may be switched on around the house?

Re:Presentation time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859212)

No, not without locally rebroadcasting a delayed FM signal to match.

If that were the case... (1)

cardpuncher (713057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858938)

... then how can the relatively-fast delployment of DVB-T be explained in Europe (something which had to pass through much the same process).

The problems with DAB are technical (poor bandwidth utilisation meaning that, in the UK, at least, the quality of DAB is mostly worse than FM; insufficient transmitters; poor propagation), economic (cost of building additional transmitters at a time when commercial radio is declining), lack of demand and lack of suitable receivers (at a reasonable price, not eating batteries at an enormous rate, not requiring regular reboots and installed by default in cars).

It's the perfect example of a poor technical solution to an imaginary problem.

Re:If that were the case... (2, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858990)

It's the perfect example of a poor technical solution to an imaginary problem.

The lack of radio bandwidth isn't an imaginary problem. In fact, there is a chance that the scarcity of FM channels will affect the next election in Denmark, because politicians have decided to rearrange channel allocations and that has been angering some people.

The solutions are DVB-T, DRM+, and the Internet.

Digital radio? Pardon me (1)

Artem Tashkinov (764309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858944)

There are zero digital radio tuners being sold in my region. So, again what's the issue?

You guys never get bored of this anti EU BS innit? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32858952)

Anyone want to argue a private British company could have developed a new radio standard and get it adopted all over Europe in less time? And provide cheap receivers too? No? Thought so.

A lot of Europe (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 4 years ago | (#32858996)

Uses DAB+, which is far superior (makes better use of bandwidth, has a better quality etc.).
I think uptake would be better if people went for the current tech (DAB+) rather than rely on the dated and poor quality DAB.

Re:A lot of Europe (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859078)

DAB+ was only standardised in 2007. You're telling people who bought a digital radio in 2000 - 2007 that the lifespan of digital radio technology is under a decade. Meanwhile, FM radios bought in the '70s still work (and work well). Sounds like a good reason for avoiding digital radio altogether. Or, as another poster suggested, using DVB-T instead of DAB, since there's already a large installed base of DVB-T receivers, and a lot of them are connected up to HiFis for audio output.

Yes exactly that (2, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859298)

So relatively few people have them that the cost to society of abandoning DAB and finding something that works properly is negligible. Do it. Do it now. Don't let people buy into a failed experiment.

Re:Yes exactly that (3, Informative)

PybusJ (30549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859662)

The UK was quick out of the blocks with widespread DAB deployment and despite the complaints in this story that it hasn't caught up FM, there are many millions of receivers in use which only only support an 80s era codec. Moving to DAB+ codecs will be hard in the UK, and while DAB+ would be more efficient, taking away bandwidth from DAB to broadcast in DAB+ for a cross-over period means reducing the number of broadcast stations. This will upset people who were sold DAB on the basis of the channel choice; witness the recent outcry when the BBC proposed to close the digital-only station 6music.

The article mentions that 24% of listening is digital; if that were DAB that would be pretty impressive. Unfortunately, in an article about DAB, the BBC is rather lax in the statistics it quotes by not breaking down "digital", which includes DAB plus radio over DVB-T, satellite TV and internet streaming. The last is quite popular with hours spent online streaming BBC radio vastly ahead of the more frequently trumpeted video iPlayer services.

Battery life is the problem (5, Insightful)

Frekja (982708) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859002)

The real problem with DAB isn't price or features. It's battery life. My FM/LW radio lasts over a month of regular use. A similarly sized portable DAB unit manages about 6-8 hours. Why would I 'upgrade'?

Re:Battery life is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859146)

also DAB in the UK is a first-gen technology when better 2nd-gen tech is available. We should scrap the existing system and start afresh

Re:Battery life is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859204)

No, the *real* problem is that DAB sounds crap can't doesn't work well when moving at more than a jogging pace.

funny summary (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859004)

I find the free market plug kinda funny in that instance: if you let the free market decide, you don't get Nokia nor the Euro GSM standard, you get the US mess of incompatible operators and standards, with each company trying to push their agenda, their patent-encumbered techs... How would you like your radio to work in the UK, but not in Ireland ? Or to work on the public channels, but not with some private ones ? Or to work only with tailor-made, more expensive sets ?

Re:funny summary (2, Insightful)

Xemu (50595) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859190)

Patents are just another form of regulation. There is no true "free market" when companies can artificially stop competition using lawsuits. Or alternatively, there is just as much free market in Europe, where there is a GSM standard. Regulation either does or doesn't eliminate a free market. You can't have it both ways.

Re:funny summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859496)

Funny example, seeing as Nokia mostly developed GSM (with other handset manufacturers) based on NMT (developed mainly by Nokia and Ericsson).

Even better use for digital radio . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859012)

I used to work for a major electronics retailer in the UK, and we didn't even sell DAB radios in my store. Customers would ask if we had them, and my response was one of just a handful of "we don't have/do that" answers that I often gave.

I have to ask, though, what's the point? The BBC has a spectacular online presence in the form of podcasts and iPlayer, so anyone wanting to listen to "digital" radio can probably just as easily go online and listen or hook their computer up to a stereo. Speaking for myself (as I listen to a copy of yesterday's morning show on my computer) I have zero use for a radio, DAB or not--I can listen to BBC streams on my computer at home or work or on my iPod touch, both within Safari and in a stream player application. No need for another 20 quid appliance that will break.

Re:Even better use for digital radio . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859138)

Obviously the point is that 'Internet radio' requires an internet connection. Even fairly low bitrate stations, 128kbps? = 50MB a minute, which is going to eat up a good chunk of an ISPs basic bandwidth package. DAB is free over the air.

Re:Even better use for digital radio . . . (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859188)

Or - without the need to leave space for DAB. rest of the spectrum could be reshuffled so that universal cellular transmissions could have more bandwidth. There are also multicast transmissions possible via IP networks, BTW.

Re:Even better use for digital radio . . . (1)

bigjb (725336) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859242)

128 kilobits per second is approx 15.6 kilobytes per second, less than a megabyte a minute, but close to 50 MB an hour. Perhaps that's what you meant? If you were listening 8 hours a day, 7 days a week you might be hitting close to 11 or 12 gig a month, but I don't see many people doing that.

Re:Even better use for digital radio . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859646)

One hell of a lot of people listen to the radio all day, everyday. Or at least just have it on in the background.

And why not? Analogue radios use little electricity, the radio is a listening medium, so it doesn't interrupt as much as TV..... There are also loads of radios out there, so if you go into the garage for half an hour, you can listen in there. You can in the bathroom, the bog, the car....

To listen to internet radio, you either need a computer on all the time (which non-geeks don't do), or an appliance (much more complex, expensive, and power hungry than a simple radio). And you need to not have to worry about download limits. Most people don't know about bits and bytes and kilobytes, and know they don't know, so when something is complicated by arbitrary limits they will avoid things completely. Most ISPs have download limits, due to the monopolistic business practices of BT (essentially they charge ISPs by the byte), and then the wonderful "market" meaning anyone who does install their own kit in exchanges will probably just charge and/or do what BT does.

Unless you have a premium ISP package, listening to the radio 8 hours a day over the internet will probably put you over your limits! There is no chance the radio will be usable in the same way to what people are used to if using a mobile internet service.

My ISP's most expensive package allows 40gigabytes to be downloaded in a month, before they start charging by the meg for data transferred, on an 8megabit line. A 512k line can transfer (IIRC) 160gigabytes in a month, so when the ISP says up to 8megabit on their ads, in reality it is more like 128kilobit average. So enough to stream a radio station 24/7 for a month, but do nothing else.

If you are on a shit ultra-consumery ISP like BT, then you are boned!

eons pass, creators newclear power remains unused (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859046)

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"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

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Who wants radio? (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859100)

When there's spotify, itunes and some slightly less legal services to provide all the music you could want; podcasts to do shows and, if you can stand the news, it's on your phone, your laptop, your tv and probably a load of other devices. It's hard to see what a non interactive audio service offers.

Non-interactivity is *the point* (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859154)

Really, people value the non-interactivity, it's a benefit. Sometimes you just want to fill the background with good enough music / etc. while doing something else (I suspect also not wanting something great - not wanting to be hooked too much); with scheduled short news service every hour a nice bonus (also one you don't have to actively follow, but still be certain that important news will reach you)

This blog post covers it quite nicely [gnomefiles.org] :

the vast majority of the radio listeners don't listen to music. They hear music instead. There's a difference. They put the kids on the SUV, and drive them to school, and turn on the radio in the meantime. Or, they're stuck in traffic, pissed off, and need to listen to "easy" music to pass the time. Or, they're sitting on their sofa, reading a magazine, and have the radio ON as a background.

Very few people actually drive somewhere in order to turn on the radio and listen to music. Or sit on their sofa, closing their eyes, and listen to just music. Normal people instead, are so busy with their lives, their problems, the quick pace of this civilization, that simply don't have the time to discover new music. Listening to unknown kind of melodies, or new kinds of sub-genres altogether, takes them out of their comfort zone. Listening to something like Dan Deacon instead of Lady Gaga, for example, while the kids shout at each other at the back of the car, makes it difficult to level your head. Not only you have your problems, but you have this new 'annoying' music playing instead of the music (or kind of music) you already know so well.

Basically, commercial radio works as a kind of a depressant for the masses. At first, it feels like music is exactly the opposite: an excitement that is, but in reality, in the large scheme of things, as far as FM radio is concerned, it's nothing but one of the ways that helps you kept in check. No, this is not a conspiracy theory, it's just how things work. Listeners want it that way too.

That's also BTW why any possible benefits of DAB are probably irrelevant - people are happy with very few stations already. For anything more there are ways you mention.

Just to chime in (2, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859110)

As many people have already stated, DAB Digital Radio has a plethora of issues.
The radios themselves aren't that cheap, especially portable ones. There's no real benefit to owning one, you get a couple of extra stations that you probably wont listen to and the reception is terrible in most places. For years, I've wanted the technology to take off and be good, a bit like Freeview OTA Digital TV, but it never happened.
Now, for me, technology has moved on. I have a pretty decent android phone and use an app called Streamfurious. With this, I can listen to thousands of radio stations from all around the world, including just about every station you'll get on digital radio, in better quality and over 3G as well. It works surprisingly well, less cut outs than I ever did get with DAB.

Re:Just to chime in (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859246)

With this, I can listen to thousands of radio stations from all around the world, including just about every station you'll get on digital radio, in better quality and over 3G as well.

And you have a 1,000 monthly phone bill?

Re:Just to chime in (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859340)

My "unlimited" internet has a 1000Mb fair usage policy and with heavy usage I barely use more than 400Mb a month.

Re:Just to chime in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859730)

Every time people like you justify the greedy behaviour of ISPs by stating how high the limits are compared to your usage, you are making the whole market worse for everyone (apart from the ISPs).

At some point, you will start using more data. And the limits will sooner or later come to cost you, just like they are already costing many people. The limits are there because the industry knows that sooner or later they can be used as a stick to get more money out of customers.

The crazy thing is, I routinely pull over 400megabytes a day, and I only have a 512kilobit package! No fake download limits (aka "AUP"), so it will do 160gigabytes in a month. And upload another 80.

No doubt the ISP apologists will line up to deride me for piracy, but even the "legal" stuff like the iplayer can really add up.

right eye fractal fields not just for the birds (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859186)

they just have no reason to block them out. check it out. probably would never rank with 'stuff that matters' 'cause there's no 'product' attached.

Overtaken By Events (2, Informative)

niks42 (768188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859240)

I agree with posters above that non-interactivity is good - it reduces cognitive loading, as Bruce Sterling would say. You just want something to tune into, that respects your style of music, stretches your boundaries slightly and gets on with the job in the background. DAB could have been good; however, they failed to move quickly enough to get the receivers out there at prices competitive with FM. It would have to be pretty dang competitive for me, since I have two excellent Home Cinema receivers with FM, a kitchen radio with FM, a bedside alarm clock with FM, a a Hacker Black Knight in the shed, one for when I do DIY and don't mind it getting paint-spattered, several vintage receivers including a bakelite Ecko, one for when I am out flying kites, one in each car ... so anyway before I digress, DAB took too long, so it itself is obsolete against Internet radio, iTunes podcast downloads Sky radio stations and a myriad of other more modern solutions. The Germans are letting it die on the vine also. Why do we not do the Capitalist thing, and let the consumers determine its fate. Oh wait, we already did. LET IT DIE.

DAB had loads of negative press (2, Informative)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859294)

In the UK at least, there was slow take-up of DAB because of all the issues surrounding it at the beginning that the popular press picked up on - namely poor signal coverage, lack of decent car receivers (where I believe the majority of people listen to the radio anyway), and overly compressed streams that made anything but ClassicFM sound awful. There were alternative sources of music and people just wouldn't pay the high costs for little perceived benefit - ie the initial outlay for the receiver, the running costs, and reduced portability.

Now that the costs have come down, DAB is potentially doomed by switch-off and replacement by DAB+. Many older receivers (many of them were still on sale a few months ago, probably still are) cannot be upgraded to receive this, which has been further highlighted in the press and further puts people of buying.

only 24% !!???? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859316)

one in four, that's sounds like heavy enough adoption to me, millions of units!!!

It's rubbish (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859368)

It's lossy low bitrate audio. The reception is dire and when you have a weak signal you get garbled choppy annoying sound instead of a bit of hiss and crackle.

Would be better streaming from the internet.

Cost of DAB car radio (2, Interesting)

r0ball (1848426) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859376)

I don't have reliable stats to hand, but I would be willing to bet most radio listening is done in the car, certainly among younger people. I recently bought a new car (Volkswagen Golf Plus [volkswagen.co.uk] ) and the DAB option was £175! To put this in perspective, the reversing camera costs £165. To put this in perspective, the carpet mats cost £75....hmmm....

You don't get it by default. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859500)

Here in the states when you buy a car you have 2 choices, AM/FM or AM/FM + satellite, now I am sure someone can find somewhere you can get digital radio standard in a car but it is uncommon at best. Seems the car companies have a deal with the satellite radio vendors. For me, the only time I listen to broadcast radio is in the car, I am not going to spend money to replace the built in radio in my car with an aftermarket one that does not fit like the stock one.

Doesn't work in my house (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32859508)

The only place it works in my house is in the glass-walled conservatory, and even then it goes wrong if someone stands in the wrong place. Inside my house, it doesn't work at all. And I am not in the back of beyond: I am five miles from a major transmission aerial in southern England, but there is a hill in the way. Why should I buy a DAB radio?

In the rest of Europe it's fare worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32859514)

And this story is about the UK, the most successful country for DAB by far . Apart from a few other countries like Denmark, DAB is pretty much dead and buried in most of Europe. In the Netherlands it's more like 0.1% of the population listening to DAB instead of 24%. The Dutch Public Broadcaster started to roll out DAB in 2004 until 50% of the land area (70% of the population) had DAB coverage (only the public stations). Nothing has happened since then. Officially the commercial stations are obliged to invest in DAB, but until this has actually resulted in stations being on air, I pretty much doubt we will see any results from it. DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) is even worse still. There are an estimated 10000 DAB radios in The Netherlands, but I doubt there are that many DRM receivers worldwide.

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