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MP3 Transmitters Now Legal In the UK

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the yay-listening dept.

125

SilentOneNCW writes "From December 8th, it will be once more legal to own and operate an MP3 Transmitter in the UK, primarily used to convey music between an MP3 player such as Apple's iPod to your home or car stereo. The device was originally banned because their transmissions can override and interfere with legal radio stations, which is prohibited by the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949. Strong consumer demand for the devices and pressure from Liberal Democrats were among the primary motivators for the amendment."

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125 comments

mp3 transmitter? (0, Flamebait)

tpgp (48001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970264)

Can I use it with other music players? /rhetorical

What about the Vorbis files, insensitive clods? (1, Insightful)

Myself (57572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970760)

<cranky>I've learned to just sigh and say "the general public is so confused" when I hear mainstream media talk like the iPod is the only portable music player. I sort of expected Slashdot to be a bit more savvy than to use a term like "mp3 transmitter". Who edits this stuff?</cranky>

Re:What about the Vorbis files, insensitive clods? (4, Funny)

linuxci (3530) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971288)

I've learned to just sigh and say "the general public is so confused" when I hear mainstream media talk like the iPod is the only portable music player.


I hate it too, I mean sometimes they just act like the iPod nano and iPod shuffle don't exist :(

Re:What about the Vorbis files, insensitive clods? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972480)

<cranky>I've learned to just sigh and say "the general public is so confused" when I hear mainstream media talk like the iPod is the only portable music player.
The BBC are the culprits, they are in love with apple, they even hosted the ipod video launch party. Apple product annoucements always receive a high position on the running orders.

Here in the US (4, Insightful)

Mazin07 (999269) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970268)

I believe that in the US, only devices that broadcast over a certain range are regulated and need licenses. Was it different in the UK?

Re:Here in the US (3, Informative)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970324)

That's the point; they broadcast on a frequency that can be picked up by your car radio. But the power is so low that it's unlikely to travel far outside your car.

Re:Here in the US (1)

Tempest429 (1024249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970928)

Also because the power output is so low, you need to turn the volume up quite a lot(ie max) to get a decent signal. This is fine if you buy a unit that also charges the battery but if you don't own an iPod you're pretty much screwed in that respect.

Re:Here in the US (1)

MaxInBxl (961814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971556)

Well actually you're both wrong. The i-pod's volume has absolutely no incidence in the type of signal your stereo will be receiving. You can test this quite easily by simply puting the volume on 0 and still getting the signal. This is actually a good thing re: i-pod battery. What's more, the transmitter that I own is plugged into the i-pod's cable port and the transmitter itself has the same port available so that you may charge the i-pod (via the transmitter). Finally the reason you'll get crap reception on a car stereo is that you need to sync. on a frequency that has abs. no signal there already and when you're travelling hundreds of miles you won't find a frequency that is ALWAYS full of static (and hence useful) over any stretch of time / space.

Re:Here in the US (2, Informative)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971804)

The volume of your ipod doesn't effect the loudness coming out of *your* transmitter precisely because you are using the line out that is built into the dock connector input on the bottom of your ipod which has a constant volume regardless of how you have the volume of the headphone output set. You can actually use a transmitter connected to the headphone out and have the headphone out set lower than the line out would have been thus using less battery power than you would using the line out. So on this point you are in fact wrong.

Re:Here in the US (1)

MaxInBxl (961814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972748)

Indeed I am in fact wrong. Point taken. Now what I'd like to understand is what exactly goes on with such a device hooked in to the line-out. I know nothing about radio broadcasting but surely you can't broadcast such information as volume can you? I'd be willing to beleaive that such as transmitter could read a volume setting and transform that into signal-strength... but still.

Re:Here in the US (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972850)

The line out on most devices generally puts out the same thing as the headphone out (sometimes with an impedence difference) just with a set volume that whilst having a high gain avoids clipping the input on whatever it's hooked up to. In the case of an FM transmitter, the transmitter takes this input and converts it internally to an FM signal and broadcasts this so that your radio can pick it up.

Re:Here in the US (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972378)

This is fine if you buy a unit that also charges the battery but if you don't own an iPod you're pretty much screwed in that respect.

Most rechargeable devices seem to be capable of charging from USB power, so I don't see why you'd need an iPod to be able to recharge, as that's a standardised interface.

Low power signal (3, Interesting)

ning (763275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972678)

Yup. I've tried tuning in outside the car - travelling in convoy, and instructing the other driver to tune his radio to mine - but unless you're really tailgating the car in front, there's no way you can pick up that signal. You can tell how low the power is because 'proper' stations interfere with it if you accidentally stumble on their frequency. So there's really no incentive to try to create a 'pirate' station - it just won't get picked up.

So it's great news - a new piece of legislation actually 'for the people'. Brilliant!

Incidentally, you should retract your aerial if you want to improve reception - or get an FM modulator (that's wired into your aerial) rather than a transmitter. Or get a head unit with a line-in port (although that's more expensive).

Part 15 (4, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970334)

It's a power-level issue. The FCC allows unlicensed transmitters under Part 15; the maximum allowed varies with frequency. You can see the limits on this page [arrl.org]. For example, above 960 MHz, unlicensed devices can transmit a field strength of up to 500 microvolts/meter, measured at three meters from the radiating device. (Those units seem a little odd to me, but that's what the table lists.)

Re:Here in the US (1)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970648)

I believe that in the US, only devices that broadcast over a certain range are regulated and need licenses. Was it different in the UK?
no, they just needed time for the police to get the proper equipment to monitor the mp3 broadcasts on a massive scale. by next year owning a broadcasting mp3 player will be mandatory, and god forgive anyone who walks into Harrod's listening to Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing"

Re:Here in the US (1)

growse (928427) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970772)

I always thought it was a distance issue. If it could broadcast further than 30cm then it needed a license. Remember reading about that when looking at bike computers which broadcast a radio signal from the wheel to the handlebars....

Re:Here in the US (1)

jackhererUK (992339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971976)

Yes in the UK under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 the use of all FM transmitters in certain frequencies requires a license. Buying and selling the things however has always been legal, just using them without a license that was illegal.

Re:Here in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16972376)

Actually OFCOM were clamping down on selling them somewhat recently too, many stores e.g. Maplins stopped carrying them. (I think it actually was illegal to sell them if you knew the person intended to use it in the UK, which they tried to get around with disclaimers.)

This makes the fact they've finally developed some sense and legalised them like they should have been from the start a little more suprising.

That's Too Bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16970272)

These devices almost always use FM frequencies in the same range as public/college radio, and they almost always use several times more transmitting power than they're authorized to (in the US at least.)

Re:That's Too Bad (5, Informative)

ISurfTooMuch (1010305) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970328)

No, most all of them can be tuned to any frequency in the FM band. The ones like the Belkin TuneCast and the iTrip are within the legal power limits. Units made by companies like Ramsey (do a search for Ramsey FM10) are theoretically legal, as long as you don't use a transmitting antenna with too much gain. So, if you really wanted to, you could get one of these, add the proper (or improper) antenna, and easily exceed the allowed power output for an unlicensed transmitter. Not that I'm recommending this, you understand. I'm just saying that it can be done.

Part 15 (2, Informative)

EricJ2190 (1016652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970364)

In the U.S. these FM transmitters are allowed by Part 15 of the FCC rules. The power output of the transmitter must be very limited to prevent interference. I am not sure what other countries have equivalent laws.

other uses/yay! (5, Interesting)

entartete (659190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970502)

I'm thrilled about this and I don't live in the UK. I use fm transmitters like this to do audio installation art and performances of electronic music.I have a dozen tiny fm receivers and a few transmitters so i can route signals out from laptop/battery powered effects/violin/cheap mp3 players playing loops/home made gadgetry through the speakers that i can spread out through the place i'm performing, it's not particularly loud but i use the electronics to augment not replace the sound of an acoustic instrument usually. It's cheap, highly effective and portable, i can turn any place i like into a performance space, since a lot of places with interesting acoustics often don't have electricity available and aren't suitable for running a bunch of cables around for a large multichannel system this opens up a lot of performance opportunities to me. (also the far away radio transmission sound works for the music I do and the interference between transmitters is fun to exploit as a sound source, especially when i use a couple receivers to feed the output back into the system. people's movements within the space i'm performing change the behavior of the system as well which can be nice as well, makes the whole space responsive) and now I can do this sort of thing in the UK as well. yay!

Re:other uses/yay! (1)

Ross D Anderson (1020653) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970806)

To be fair, I don't think theres a single case where police have actually prosecuted where there is a legit reason to use a device such as this. (If there is evidence against, I would be interested to read it, however.) It's one of those odd laws that were made too general to begin with, and as technology has evolved, its become sort of anulled. Besides, the title of this post is wrong anyway, it's not "legal" to use them already, it's legal from the 8th of December. And Ofcom had more of a part to play than the Lib Dems.

Re:other uses/yay! (1)

shomon2 (71232) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972352)

Hi - your post is really inspiring as I do similar stuff, and there's people in bristol university who'd be really into it too - people doing programming on maxmsp or just with electronics, to achieve what I think you've done much quicker and cheaper using fm! Please get in touch - also mp3-fm players could be used by an audience, and participation in sound stuff is really my big interest...

skoria at gmail... see you soon!

Just what we need (5, Funny)

alunharford (810146) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970540)

I can't wait! I can just imagine the converstation on channel 16 when somebody releases a buggy one.

"Mayday Mayday Mayday. This is RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic. We are sinking. Over."

"When you walk through the storm,
Hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark ..."

(Or the (less interesting) equivilent in DSC)

Re:Just what we need (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973110)

"Mayday Mayday Mayday. This is RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic. We are sinking. Over."

"When you walk through the storm,
Hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark ..."

Well, I suppose the Titanic was registered in Liverpool...

As a UK resident (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16970632)

I find it bizzare that

1) I never heard of any law prohibiting these devices, not a whisper, not in the press or television or anywhere.

2) I never heard of any law reinstating the right to use them, not in the press or television or anywhere...

As a person who is generally interested in radio communications and someone who has built many of their own transmitters
and recievers as a teenager I find it utterly weird that I have to turn an American news site to find out
about what is legal or illegal in my own country! It appears our legislators and government are no more
accountable to the people than over there in the USA.

For all you know a law has been passed in the last 24 hours reversing this decision again.. I mean, who would know?
No intelligent and moral person can have respect for a system of laws that are secret.

Re:As a UK resident (1)

Duds (100634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971878)

You're blind. It's been covered on BBC News and Radio 1 more than once and a simple search on the BBC News site will prove it. In addition didn't you wonder why you couldn't buy them here?

Re:As a UK resident (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972954)

In addition didn't you wonder why you couldn't buy them here?

There are plenty of places that will sell you one here. You know, for use while you're travelling out of the country.

Re:As a UK resident (1)

Duds (100634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16974196)

As you'd have seen if you read TFA. It's only been legal to sell them very recently, when they started CEing them ready for this change in the law.

Until well into this year, you could only get them from foreign ebay sellers.

Re:As a UK resident (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16974446)

That's not what I meant. I know of at least two retailers in my local area that have been selling them for a couple of years or more. One guy who sells executive cars supplies such a device professionally fitted with them, for just a couple of hundred quid, and has been doing so for over a year.

To suggest that just because using something would be illegal you can't actually buy it in the country is naive.

Re:As a UK resident (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972816)

I find it bizarre that someone who claims to have an interest in radio communications and transmitters didn't know this.

Maybe you should be learning from this. Something like; I need to read more widely and pay more attention to the society and world about me.

Re:As a UK resident (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973574)

I find it bizarre that a person who claims to be "generally interested in radio communications" has never heard of the Wireless Telegraphy Act.

holy cow (1, Funny)

astram (826897) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970644)

you mean to tell me that the UK legalized something?!?

Re:holy cow (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16970666)

Actually, I was more impressed that Zonk posted something news related.

I think you'll find... (2, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971810)

... that in the UK, laws are generally less restrictive than in the US. Not only that, but unlike the US, where everyone blindly obeys every law no matter how ridiculous it may seem, in the UK we obey laws that are locally convenient, not too intrusive, and not plainly a bad idea. The rest are so commonly flouted that it's basically more trouble than it's worth to do anything about applying them.

Re:I think you'll find... (2, Insightful)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972036)

> we obey laws that are locally convenient, not too intrusive, and not plainly a bad idea unfortunately far too many don't have decent judgement when obeying those three rules. More and more people aren't stopping for amber and red lights, I note. :( Nevermind lane discipline, behaviour at roundabouts, etc :(

Re:I think you'll find... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972646)

When I had my 125cc bike I once waited at a red light for about 5 minutes in the dead of night.. eventually just decided to go. It's very tempting sometimes as well when there's no other traffic around. Also it's really weird to be sitting at a red light on a pedestrian crossing and knowing that you're only waiting for the light to turn green, when the person has clearly already crossed and there's nobody else around.

Re:I think you'll find... (2, Insightful)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972930)

I always think of it as removing a decision I have to make from the otherwise possibly very complicated business of moving a 1 ton block of metal around in a place where soft squishy people might be. Light is red - I stop. End of story.

I feel the same way about safety margins. Sadly, too many people seem to think that safety margin means, e.g. "Ooh, I can get there a bit quicker/be a bit closer to that car, and it's still safe."

Re:I think you'll find... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973206)

I don't know what these safety margins are that you are referring to, and I do always stop at red lights, and yellow if I'm not already at the lights. Anyway, imagine sitting at a red light at 4am, when you can clearly see there are no other cars around. I'm just saying the idea itself is rather silly, that you are only waiting there for some computer or timer to decide it's time to go. Thankfully a lot of traffic lights these days detect if there is traffic waiting or not, but that can also be a problem if you have a very small vehicle, as I mentioned with my motorbike. I think I went eventually and just as I did it changed, possibly from the extra heat, or heat in the correct area.

Re:I think you'll find... (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973232)

I don't know what these safety margins are that you are referring to, and I do always stop at red lights, and yellow if I'm not already at the lights.

It was just a general point - wasn't having a go at you specifically or the scenario you describe :)

Re:I think you'll find... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16972952)

Ya but on the roads is the only place people can express any kind of freedom :)
all the other fun things have got banned :(

Re:holy cow (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972926)

you mean to tell me that the UK legalized something?!?

Yes, but it was the liberal democrats who made it happen. They also want to legalize [libdems.org.uk]:

  • Peaceful protests outside parliament
  • Not being sent to the US if a US court thinks maybe it might have some flimsy evidence that wouldn't stand up to getting a US citizen sent to face trial in the UK, because US congress hasn't ratified the treaty (and probably won't, it being *stupid*) while UK parliament has
  • The right to free assembly without police interference
  • Letting people who are suspected of terrorism-related offences out of their houses once in a while
  • Public interest whistleblowing
  • The right to silence
  • The right not to be convicted on hearsay evidence


I mean, is that kind of thinking insane or what? ;)

Re:holy cow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16974346)

Maybe this will help disspell the notion that any vote for a third party is a vote lost in first past the post systems.

It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16970892)

At first I thought this was something for transmitting MP3 files around, but it's just a low-power FM audio transmitter to transmit to nearby FM radios. Those things have been around for decades, all the way back to 8-track players and drive-in movie theaters. All the TVs at my gym have one, transmitting on different frequencies.

If you're in a major metropolitan area where all the FM broadcast slots are in use, you may not have much success with one of these things.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (4, Interesting)

linuxci (3530) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971262)

In the UK we're phasing out analogue [google.co.uk] radio and TV (including FM). Radio will be replaced by DAB [google.co.uk].
Therefore as far as I know there's no new permanent FM licenses granted, altough the occaisional short term licence may be granted for special events.


This means that in the UK you're unlikely to be in a place where the FM range is full. Even in London you can find a few gaps. Although I didn't know of any drive in cinemas in the UK. Because of the law mentioned in this article, gyms tended to not transmit on FM either, I've seen two solutions to the problem, some gyms have headphone sockets on the pieces of equipment and others have special receivers that transmit on a different band, they give you a receiver when you enter the gym so you don't need your own. This is why FM radio is not exactly a big selling feature on MP3 players over here (well it's not in the US either considering the popularity of the iPod, but in the UK if someone launches a device with built in FM the first response is 'what no DAB?')


It will be a while before FM disappears entirely, their first priority is getting analogue TV off the air. Why is it the government is forcing this? I don't know, it should be up to the market to decide.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971468)

It will be a while before FM disappears entirely, their first priority is getting analogue TV off the air. Why is it the government is forcing this? I don't know, it should be up to the market to decide.

Actually, that's a really interesting question. We have similar regulations going in place here in the US, although they've pushed back the deadlines time and time again. I can't fathom what stake the government has in this.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973444)

Simple: Rake in literally billions and billions and billions and billions by auctioning off the freed up part of the spectrum.
It already happened with UMTS (3G) in Europe, where governments made tens of millions.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (3, Interesting)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971700)

Good points about the FM transmitters. As far as TV goes, there are a couple of reasons they're forcing the migration to digital. At the moment, the analog TV (and a little more from analog radio) takes up a LOT of the most useful frequency spectrum, plus its very vulnerable to interference. Most digital TV transmitters are broadcasting at very low power (around 4%) so they don't swamp the 5 analog channels. Digital can give better broadcast quality, can fit in many more channels in the same bandwidth, and much more resistant to interference. The fact that it works at all, given the tiny power budget and spectrum its squeezed in round the analog channels is pretty impressive.

DAB radio is in much the same boat. The complaints about getting a signal and low quality would go away if DAB could crank it up, spread out a bit and not worry about overriding FM transmitters.

With the analog channels off, the digital transmitters can boost the power (i.e. better range) and use some of the huge amount of freed bandwidth so they don't have to compress so much (i.e. less blocky artifacts). Even better, they can start broadcasting the free-to-air HD channels over freeview, which they just don't have the free bandwidth to do now. Regions are switching over to digital TV only from 2008 to 2012. I for one can't wait. TV signal with good reception, lots of channels and HD to boot? Given I live in the wilds of Dorset, my analog signal is barely watchable, and I only get about 2/3 the multiplexes. Improving that has got to be good.

Oh, one last thing. The public owns the airwaves, thus the government gets to allocate their use on the public's behalf. Given digital TV is so much better, and they can't really coexist, its a choice between digital or analog. It's not one the market can decide, as you'll just end up with a bunch of legacy equipment that won't go away for 30 years and stops the new equipment working properly, while private companies profit excessively at the cost of the public. Just look at the huge mess having two systems of weights and measurement has caused.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971958)

DVB uses the same band as analogue TV so there is a concern about interfering with analogue stations on the same channel some distance away. However DAB uses a completely different band to broadcast FM at just over 200MHz so there is not the same concern there. Of course, there may be other users of that band in other countries that have to be taken into account.

I'd say DAB coverage seems to be quite good in the areas where it is rolled out. It's just a shame the sound quality is so poor. They should use OGG/Vorbis instead ;-)

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972062)

DAB quality is poor because it uses such a low bitrate. This isn't a design feature , but rather the result of trying to cram far more stations into the given bandwidth than was originally devised. DAB might in theory have better quality than FM but in practice the reverse is true for this reason so for myself I'm sticking with my analogue gear for the forseable future.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16972106)

It's just a shame the sound quality is so poor. They should use OGG/Vorbis instead ;-)

Well, at least they are going to add AAC+ to the DAB standard... :)

http://www.worlddab.org/upload/uploaddocs/WorldDMB Press%20Release_November.pdf [worlddab.org]

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973758)

Doesn't the "+" mean that they only sample at 24KHz and try to reconstruct the last octave?

All the "+" formats I've heard sound kind of phoney, at least the ones that do this trickery.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

ahillen (45680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16974318)

AAC+ (or aacPlus, or whatever) seems to be some kind of enhanced AAC (apparently additional algorithms to further reduce the bit rate while hopefully maintaining quality):

http://www.codingtechnologies.com/products/aacPlus .htm [codingtechnologies.com]

They claim "Excellent quality stereo down to 24 kbps". That may be optimistic, but I don't see anything that suggests that you are restricted with the bit rate.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16972718)

DAB does not broadcast on the same frequencies as FM radio. You blatently know nothing about this subject and therefore should not be pretending that you do!

In fact DAB uses the old VHF TV frequencies (which TV stopped using in the early 1980's when 405 line was switched off).

Check your facts!!!!!!!

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973556)

Digital can give better broadcast quality
But doesn't. MPEG artifacts are painful, just look at some high stress images (multiple flash guns at a press conference for example), it's laughable.

Of course, while many people working for UK broadcasters don't see the difference between 4:3 and 16:9, we're bound to be technically screwed. Still, at least DVB-T as implemented in the UK is better than our DAB implementation.
can fit in many more channels in the same bandwidth
Yeay, more quiz shows and reality TV.
The complaints about getting a signal and low quality would go away if DAB could crank it up, spread out a bit and not worry about overriding FM transmitters.
Current DAB radios tune in to Type-III FM, ~200MHz, nowhere near the FM band of 87.5-108. Quality is crap because it's 1980's compression and hideously low bitrates, which are being lowered furthur to fit more crap channels in.
With the analog channels off, the digital transmitters can boost the power (i.e. better range)
This is essentail to get at least one mux to 99% of the population.
and use some of the huge amount of freed bandwidth so they don't have to compress so much (i.e. less blocky artifacts). Even better, they can start broadcasting the free-to-air HD channels over freeview, which they just don't have the free bandwidth to do now.
Yes, they can. Or Brown can sell off the frequencies for whatever he spends the enoumous amount of money he steals from the population.
Regions are switching over to digital TV only from 2008 to 2012. I for one can't wait. TV signal with good reception, lots of channels and HD to boot?
You wish, you'd be better with FTA satelite.
Given I live in the wilds of Dorset, my analog signal is barely watchable, and I only get about 2/3 the multiplexes. Improving that has got to be good.
 
Oh, one last thing. The public owns the airwaves, thus the government gets to allocate their use on the public's behalf.
You really believe that the government acts in the best interests of the public?

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16974570)

"With the analog channels off, the digital transmitters can boost the power (i.e. better range) and use some of the huge amount of freed bandwidth so they don't have to compress so much (i.e. less blocky artifacts)."

Yeah, but be realistic. Will they do that, or will they just add 20 more shopping and phone-in-quiz channels? I'm guess the one with more money in it for them :(

I don't see OTA HD happening for a while either, considering there are basically no HDTVs out there. The chicken-and-egg problem here might be broken by HD disc media.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

igb (28052) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972298)

There are no plans to move FM radio off 88-108MHz. I think the penny dropped that (a) DAB car radios are almost unheard of, even as factory-fit on new purchases and (b) unlike Televisions, for which set-top-boxes are perectly plausible, for radios there are just so many of them, most of them portables, that it's politically unacceptable. And ~3m isn't as useful a band as UHF TV anyway.

The government is forcing the UHF TV shutdown because it thinks it can then auction the spectrum. The theory is:

  1. Spend millions promoting shutdown of analogue TV
  2. Spend millions providing free STBs to the poor, photogenic and otherwise tabloid-friendly.
  3. Lose a few marginal seats as locals find that their TVs don't work.
  4. Put spectrum up for auction, saying ``it'll be as valuable as 3G licenses!''
  5. ???
  6. Profit! To spend on a war that no-one wants.
You know how politicians live in the past? Brown's lot still think that Wired is pretty damn edgy, and are getting their financial advice on technology from Kevin Kelly.

ian

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972690)

I thought DAB radios were still way more expensive than FM receivers (which you can get for about £5 in supermarkets). Most people have normal FM receivers in their car too. Maybe for new expensive devices you could be justified in saying 'what, no DAB?', but there is stil a large market for analog. Won't someone please think of the poor people? Yes I can afford to buy a new radio for my car, but I don't want to right now, I have other things to do with my cash. I don't watch TV much (only if someone else has it on) but I guess freeview boxes are cheap enough, so if I wanted to watch it then I could afford digital TV fine too I guess. It would be kind of unfair to just stop broadcasting analog signals though if all the equipment is in place, and since smaller stations probably can't afford to get the local digital transmitters either! Just because London has something doesn't mean the rest of the UK is ready - it's taken years for decent broadband to propagate..

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

UnxMully (805504) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973254)

This is why FM radio is not exactly a big selling feature on MP3 players over here (well it's not in the US either considering the popularity of the iPod, but in the UK if someone launches a device with built in FM the first response is 'what no DAB?')

I knew there was a reason why I didn't care that the Zune has an FM radio built in. That and the generally poor selection of music on UK FM Stations.

Re:It's an FM transmitter, not an MP3 transmitter (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972862)

If you're in a major metropolitan area where all the FM broadcast slots are in use, you may not have much success with one of these things.

There's no such place in the UK. Ofcom are fairly tight about licensing, and always ensure they leave some spectrum available. Generally, you won't get a license for broadcasting on a slot that's in use in a neighbouring area, even when that signal isn't detectable with standard equipment in your area, simply because they don't want the potential of malfunctioning equipment disrupting other broadcasts. Therefore, you'll never find anywhere where all the slots are in use.

That said, I'm not sure if there are any slots that are used nowhere, and most of these devices seem to have fixed frequency. Mine is fixed at 107.5, which does fail in the vicinity of Bristol.

"But Officer..." (1)

Dersaidin (954402) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971564)

"...This isn't a transmitter for MP3 encoded media, this is a transmitter for foobar encoded media - which incidentally has exactly the same encoding, etc."

Re:"But Officer..." (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972010)

> This isn't a transmitter for MP3 encoded media, this is a transmitter for foobar encoded media - which incidentally has exactly the
> same encoding, etc."

So? The story on Slashdot mentions iPods and MP3 formats, but it's unlikely the law will.

Re:"But Officer..." (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973616)

The story on Slashdot mentions iPods and MP3 formats, but it's unlikely the law will.

Of course it doesn't; the law is solely concerned with the licensing of FM transmissions and transmitters.

I own one of those (and live in Europe) (1)

MaxInBxl (961814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971624)

Indeed, the i-pod store where I puchased my i-pod told me that such FM trsnmitters where illegal in Europe for a number of reasons. So I simply asked my sister to send me one from Australia. The one I have plugs into the i-opd's cable port. The device lets you select an FM frequency and if you have a stereo set to that frequency in the close vecinity it will play what your i-pod is broadcasting. Here's what I think of the device:
  • As I mentionned in another post, the i-pod's volume is of no incidence to the broadcast (i.e. that's good for batteries).
    • The thing is pretty useless in a car for long trips as you need to synchronise with a frequency that has static (i.e. nothing is currently being aired on that frequeency) and these frequencies change a lot when you're driving long distances.
      • The device will not transmit far at all. Maybe one metre at most. This thing is VERY useful for stereos that don't have a line-in. How I use this the most: when I'm outside and want some music (for sports for example): all I need is a small stereo cpable of picking up FM and my i-pod. No big battery-guzzling stereo with line in / DC / Cassette support, just radio.

Dang (1)

giginger (825703) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971830)

That's another law I'm not breaking now. It was a stupid restriction in the first place. Didn't stop anybody from buying one of the things.

Re:Dang (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972224)

Maybe not, but they're not all that common in the UK because it stopped a lot of places from selling them.

You'd be amazed how many people don't hit the Internet and buy something from abroad and just hope it gets through Customs if it's banned in their home country.

Re:Dang (1)

giginger (825703) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972270)

Part of the stupidity was though that you were able to buy them but it was illegal to buy them. A bit like the law allowing us to buy Marijuana seeds but not germinate them. That's probably a UK only law. We're stupid like that.

Re:Dang (1)

igb (28052) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972318)

They're also shit. Why don't you just buy a Dension Icelink? That way you can select playlists with the CD changer buttons, have the display work, have RDS TA work properly to interrupt (and pause!) your tunes, have the steering wheel controls work properly and generally behave like a proper music system.

Also, for a lot of people, cassette-shell adapters are a better choice. They don't pause the tunes when you get a traffic announcement, but they do at least allow the TA to come through.

ian

Re:Dang (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973582)

Why don't you just buy a Dension Icelink?

Because I have a finite supply of money. Besides which, my car stereo doesn't have a CD multichanger port so I'd still have to replace it.

Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 (1)

DNX Blandy (666359) | more than 7 years ago | (#16971842)

The main point in there being "1949". Yeah, it was over 50 years ago when that was done, time to GET WITH THE TIMES me thinks :)

Re:Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 (2, Funny)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972896)

The main point in there being "1949". Yeah, it was over 50 years ago when that was done, time to GET WITH THE TIMES me thinks

Because, of course, the fundamental nature of radio interference changed in the 1980s.

Pedantic (1)

jackhererUK (992339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972044)

Perhaps i'm being a pedant but it is not "once more legal" to own a ipod fm transmitter and the devices were never "banned". As with any FM transmitter they were simply always illegal to operate with out a license. The law made no distiction between high and low power transmitters.

Phew! (1)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972060)

I didn't even know the one i used in my car to link my garmin to the car radio was illiegal?!

Gosh and to think of all the people must of anoyed within a 2 meter radius of my car by the awsome 50mW transmitter over ridding BBC 2 Radio. :-p

Legal at last (1)

markh1967 (315861) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972296)

I've been using one of these for a couple of years now to listen to mp3s on my car radio so I'm glad it's finally legal, not that there was really any chance of being prosecuted for using an illegal device.

I did have one other use for it though; last summer my neighbour would listen to Kiss FM radio (bland dance music that I hate) very loud while gardening. We tuned the trasmitter to the frequency of this radio station, waited for the current song to end, then started broadcasting over his signal, initialy with songs that could appear on that station but slowly moving towards our musical tastes. Within 30 minutes he was listening to Captain Beafheart none the wiser that he wasn't listening to the radio anymore. We considered making up some fake news-flashes but decided against it because we wanted to continue listening to our music choices rather than his and, to this day, he still doesn't know what we did.

Re:Legal at last (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973664)

Next time, hook up a white noise generator. Then you can watch him waste hours trying to re-tune his radio.

They're awesome, my mate's got one! (1)

Terminus32 (968892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972324)

And he links up his turntables/iPod to it & broadcasts tunes to all the cars parked at our local skate park, it's like having one big sound-system. Awesome!

re: (1)

TheAlmightyChimp (939529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972504)

the fm transmitter I have operates on a choice of 4 diffrent channels all 88.* FM never had a problem with interference from any other transmitter.

What about line-in ports? (1)

codonaill (834165) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972620)

If car stereos just had line-in ports as standard, we wouldn't need these FM Transmitters - but they don't, but why not?

Re:What about line-in ports? (1)

jd678 (577145) | more than 7 years ago | (#16974142)

They did, many years ago when standalone CD players were very expensive and not a conflicting business to the radio manufacturers. Then the price of player components started dropping it then made sense for them to start making CD-changers. Removing the line-in port meant to get CDs playing in the car [1] you had to buy their expensive changer rather than use a slightly cheaper standalone player made by someone else.


[1] Nobody really went for in-deck CD players back then as it was before the days of cheap CD-Rs and tape was the only way to make your own compilations. There were also issues with damping that changers handled much better, now solved with large electronic buffers. There was also more fear back then of damaging CDs, hasn't gone away but we're more used to it now.

Only some of them will be legal! (2, Informative)

HuskyDog (143220) | more than 7 years ago | (#16972732)

As it says in the BBC article [bbc.co.uk], only some devices will be legal.

Now certain FM transmitters, which can be tuned to spare frequencies, will be legal from 8 December.

However, many devices currently on the market will remain illegal as they do not meet the legally required technical specifications and could interfere with radio broadcasts.

All approved transmitters will carry a CE mark indicating approval for sale in the European Union.

So, as I see it, legal transmitters will not only have to meet strict power limits, but also be tunable only to certain spare frequencies in the FM band. I spent some time searching the Ofcom web site to try and find exact details of the regulations (e.g. which frequencies exactly), but without success. If anyone else can find them then I for one would be interested.

Detach car antenna for better reception (2, Informative)

mrb000gus (696332) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973022)

My FM transmitter broadcasts on 88.2-88.9. Driving between midlands and London, in the UK this is Radio 2's regional frequency range, so throughout the journey Radio 2 kept kicking in and forcing me to change the FM transmitter's frequency and adjust the car radio.

One way to fix this is to detach the aerial from the roof of your car, it should still receive your FM transmitter's signal but not get interference from FM radio stations.

Too much interference (1)

CottonThePirate (769463) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973112)

As a constantly annoyed US listener, these things overpower legit stations all the time in my area (Washington DC MEtro area). There are a few programs on PBS that I like and I honestly can't make it on a trip without hearing howard stern or rap or other peoples music 3 or 4 times. (The PBS station happens to be on 88.1, the default that many of these are tuned too)

Re:Too much interference (1)

MyNameIsEarl (917015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973568)

You hear Howard or O and A because the Sirius and XM transmitters were made too powerful and were not within the guidelines of the FCC. They have since gotten in trouble and XM has gone so far as to announce they will remove FM transmitters from their car kits. Who could listen to that transmitted signal is another story however, I tried it with my SkyFi setup and couldn't stand the static and the station bleed. Living in NYC where almost every FM station is used makes it hard to find a clean channel anyway. Line out into the car stereo is the way to go and I believe more stock car radios are having an aux port as a standard feature now more for the iPod than Sat. Radio, but at least it is a standard port.

It has never been legal (1)

dapprman (98246) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973358)

It has never been legal to broadcast on radiowave in the UK without a licence (AM, SW and LW included).

The main reason was to prevent emergency and millitary channels being interefered with (remember in the UK in the last 40s, early 50s radio was still wired in to the home, not broadcast). To broadcast on across a frequency range, approval had to be sought (in part so the authorities could check there were no conflicts), then registered. At the time there were no thougts about power as incredibly short range devices were not about.

As a side note, to broadcast on a radio frequency you also have to be licenced and certified (I assume the new act to allow the short range MP3 device transmitters will negate this as well).

Re:It has never been legal (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16973756)

(remember in the UK in the last 40s, early 50s radio was still wired in to the home, not broadcast)

Wrong. So wrong I don't even know where to start. [wikipedia.org]

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