back to article Force listeners onto DAB by killing FM

The Digital Radio Working Group, set up in November to work out why no-one wanted DAB, has issued an interim report that suggests FM should be switched off by 2020 if only the punters can be convinced. The DRWG is comprised of representatives from the BBC, Ofcom and commercial radio stations as well as a few other hangers on, …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "selling off the frequencies"

    This may be a dumb question, but who is going to pay money for them? Clearly the traditional broadcasters aren't 'cos they've all moved to digital in this brave new world, right? Who else is likely to be interested?

  2. John Colby

    So they want me to ....

    Spend more money on buying new radios at home and converting the car to listen to the same stuff? So i have more choice - but when I listen to no more than two radio stations the vast majority of the time (Radio 4 and ClassicFM) and thatm most of my listening is done in the car I relly start to question the benefit. FM is sometimes a little crackly - but my car is no hi-fi studio so I'm unable to appreciate the finer nuances of each broadcast.

    DAB is a technology that has been shown to have problems - why is this inferior and more complex technology being foisted upon us.

    However if they had something like Dave on DAB then that may be worth looking at (or listening to, at least)

  3. Gordon Pryra

    Good luck

    Good luck getting anyone to buy a shitty DAB radio and then the poor sods actually getting decent reception.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Deluded A--holes Brigade

    Here I am in Scotland, less than 30 miles from Edinburgh. I can get DAB - I can get BBC Radios 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/1Xtra/Asian Network and World Service. However I can't get BBC Radio Scotland - or in fact any commercial stations - what a great selling point that is!

    Even when I do get it, it's awful sound quality - I'm old enough that I can remember when FM stereo used to be turned on and off by the BBC - DAB is mostly a return to that world with additional warble (the warble that Radio 3 used to give when you had too strong a signal). It eats batteries on a portable receiver about 3 times faster than an analogue set so presumably something similar is true of it's mains consumption.

    So to recap - reduction in choice, quality and energy efficiency - wow! where do I sign up?

  5. Paul Stephenson
    Stop

    DAB as standard for cars

    The key to this would be getting DAB as standard in cars, as let's face it, unless it starts to happen in cars there's no way the general public will allow FM to be switched off. I certainly wouldn't be happy about being forced to upgrade my car stereo right now, just for the same of listening to the one radio station I use in the car. I'd give up on radio and just stick to my iPod probably unless Vauxhall start shipping the radio's dirt cheap after market :)

  6. dervheid

    The only bit of this that makes any sense...

    is when you get to the statement "for Ofcom to start selling off the frequencies"

    Once again the prols will get (and take) a shafting so someone somewhere can make (another) fast buck.

  7. druck Silver badge
    Stop

    Analogue Cars

    So who is going to pay to have the highly integrated proprietary manufacturer's head unit in my car upgraded to DAB when they switch analogue FM off? I won't be, so I guess I wont be listening to any radio whatsoever after that, as that's the only time I do at the moment. The 6 disc CD changer might get a bit more use, or perhaps I'll just enjoy the sound of the engine instead, its often better.

  8. David Gosnell

    "I wouldn't start from 'ere"

    DAB's currently mp2 based in the UK. That's really not going to cut it in the long term, is it? Enough people whine about it already. So the 17-point-whatever who've signed up are going to be kicked in the teeth when they need new radios too...

  9. Oli
    Flame

    but I *don't* want DAB -

    Digital is being forced on us - I for one don't want it.

    and just to be clear - FM audio performance is *better* than DAB - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    the real question is why is it being forced on us, and by whom. No doubt it will be money related, but perhaps also there is a more sinister reason....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    But..

    DAB IS shite - coverage is crap and unless you've got a good signal you get nothing. At least with FM you can get a signal even if its noisy. Given that some commercial "national" radio stations can't even get nationwide FM coverage sorted out (Classic FM being a prime example... but then again they seem to be DAB mad so I guess giving people shite FM reception with excess audio compression is just them trying to force us all to DAB) what hope in hell do we have getting DAB sorted out.

    Of course the problem with cars is that manufacturers went down the integrated system route and now its not practical to replace a radio in car because you loose all the things like the display in the dash board and the use of the controls on the steering wheel.

    Even if there were units that worked when I plugged them into my Saab 93 (and integrated with the Saab CD multichanger and the third party Ipod controller) why should I be forced to spend a lot of money upgrading because the government want to get their greedy little paws on the revenue from selling off the old FM spectrum.

  11. Iain
    Thumb Down

    Analogue radio - just kill it already!

    "FM should be switched off by 2020" good grief - why wait so long? It's this procrastination that's leaving the public dissinterested. Announce the complete analogue switch off in 2012, change to DAB+, get the car manufacturers on board and make sure the reception coverage is up to snuff and watch the public move over in droves. This procrastination drives me nuts. Sure there will be some backlash (not least from those with non upgradeable DAB radio's - which includes me) but that's just tought titty. Get on with it!

  12. hey_may
    Paris Hilton

    Satellite Radio

    I'm wondering if anyone really gives a rats ass about this because it won't be too long until the UK gets Satellite Radio. Perfect for the car and bound to take-off at home (no pun intended) because of the higher quality* and greater choice* (*err, wasn't this supposed to be DAB?)

    Paris Hilton, because even she doesn't like a puddle of mudd.

  13. James Pickett (Jp)

    Internet Radio

    My DAB radio only picks up Radio 1 (I had it before recently moving house). So improving the coverage would be good for starters. FM works beautifully.

    I suspect that by 2020 everyone will have gone to internet radio (in whatever form it is by then) as the current crop of Wifi radios are great and can't be far from appealing to the masses! (Rather than just gadget freaks like me!)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    In theory, good - in practice, bad plan!

    A few years back, I bought a (good) DAB radio to listen to on my way to/from work on the bus. Took me all of two minutes to realise that DAB is not at all good on the move!

    Every now and again, I get the thing back out and give it another shot - every time, I've put the iPod on before I'm even two minutes up the road!

    OK, so perhaps living in the Granite City has something to do with the piss-poor reception too - but still, if DAB won't work on the move in all environments and all weather conditions, and do it at least as well as FM then shutting down FM will effectively shut down radio... Bad plan folks!

  15. Keir Snelling
    Thumb Down

    Great.

    Experience digital sound quality, the DAB promos shouted.

    Well, if by quality they meant an over compressed media stream using a lossy format, then they were correct.

    With many radio stations storing their music in already compressed form on hard drive libraries, and then re-compressing during broadcast for DAB, the sound quality quickly drops to terrible levels.

    One reason I'm in no hurry to get a DAB player.

  16. Niall

    Komplett.ie

    According to a rep on boards.ie the Irish one is staying open and expanding to include and pickup point in Dublin. But I think these closures will make people nervous of doing business maybe causing a knock-on effect.

  17. Barry Tabrah
    Flame

    Missing the blindingly obvious

    There are many simple reasons that don't require a degree to figure out.

    1) The units are too expensive. The cheapest DAB units start at fifty quid. You can buy a regular radio for under a tenner.

    2) The average person doesn't want the extra channels. We like BBC and local radio. And we can get the regular channels on our good ol' analogue radio.

    3) Most people who might want the extra channels can listen via the internet or their TV. They don't need to spend fifty quid on a radio.

    The only way you can get people to switch is to knock the price down by at least half. You can't tell me that the manufacturing costs of DAB radios massively exceeds that of analogue radios. It's not like you have iridium-plated nanoprocessors in the darned things.

  18. M7S
    Flame

    OK, TV I could take, but this timescale is nonsense

    I could just about stomach the change to Digital Terrestrial TV, but irritatingly my really not very old Panasonic hard disk/DVD recorders (DMR-E85H) with integrated analogue tuners will be effectively obsolete and no amount of messing about with external digiboxes will make it user friendly so the final environmental cost of the switchover in my household will be three "portables" (in places like the workshop), two still working VCRs, a DVD recorder, the two Panasonics mentioned above, two TV/VCR combis, and half the functionality on the TV/PC monitor combi in the kitchen, plus the 12v unit thats handy in the car or when either the power goes out or we do. I'll discount my handheld as its Argos-bought rubbish.

    We have one Panasonic TV with both types of tuner and one other TV with a spare Scart so at least I can make that work reasonably, so thats a lot less TV viewing we'll be doing (and we are fairly discriminating even now), and no recording/timeshifting under current plans, even if there was anything much on the other channels. - I always thought they should keep one or two analogue channels, perhaps a "Best of BBC" and a "Best of the Rest" for those of us just wanting some background stuff on our old sets, until realistically there are so few of these around no-one will notice. I would willingly give up all the digital shopping channels to keep enough airspace for these two

    Changing to radio will be worse for the environment and the pocket. Much worse. I have a DAB, and I quite like BBC7, for all the predictable reasons so I'm not greatly opposed in principle. We also have a pocket sized digital unit but battery consumption (we use rechargeables) is very high. The cars and motorbike (yes, really) all have manufacturer specific radios, so its not like I can pop down to Halfords and slot in something DIN sized when these "go dark". It may be a long way off but I like stuff to last and dont intend my vehicles to be landfill or scrap anytime soon, although I concede that the lack of oil in 10 years may affect my transport more than not being able to listen to BBCR2/R4 whilst commuting. I have loads of small and not-so-small radios scattered about the house so we can listen independently whilst doing other things. Its good for the brain and our sanity. So those are all going in the bin as well then it seems.

    Going for just a European standard for the benefit of car manufacturers is no good. What about the people on the edge of Europe who like to listen to countries over the border that will still be on old tech? Cars being the mobile things they are this is a much bigger issue than TV. I made enquiries about FM switchoff a year or so ago and was refused answers, probably as I asked the question at the same time as highlighting the problems.

    I agree the change is needed, but in both cases there should be a long term "lingering" service for those with old tech that they don't wish to or (for many) can't afford to replace until they really have to, and to reduce the impact of cutting short the "whole life" environmental costs for those of us not hung up on having the very latest kit all the time. Certainly the two year switchover I have seen mentioned in other media today is ludicrous. And I haven't even started on the concerns that small broadcasters would have, as well as the other services (all your traffic-master links on your GPS will fail, they go over FM, so thats more kit for the chop).

    What gets me most is someone will dress the change up as being green when in fact it is only the taxpayer subsidising equipment manufacturers, and loads of kit in otherwise fine working order being condemned by the onward march of "progress". Unfortunately I can't see someone at least sending working stuff to developing countries as at least they have done with with old PCs

  19. Alec Fraser

    What about the Quality ?

    One subject that is very rarely discussed is the quality of DAB Radio, and I have found that as more and more stations eat up the bandwidth on DAB Radio the bit rate goes down and down along with the quality. The bit rate of all but a few stations (Radio 3/4) is 128k and below and given you can most of the stations at home on Freeview at an average bit rate of 192k I can't see why anyone would spend money on a DAB Radio for the home.

  20. Duane Dibley
    Coat

    Deceased Equus flogging.

    "Next will come massive promotion of how great digital radio is."

    I think that should have read "Next will come massive promotion of how great digital radio could be."

    Having been one of the 'early adopters' of digital radio I was distraught to discover the reduction in audio quality that moving to digital provided. Low bit rates that are unacceptable to anyone interested in music are the primary factor in my moving back (up?) to analogue FM. When you factor in the inability of a digital car radio to maintain signal coverage over even a short journey together with the lack of a European wide standard (or rather, at the moment, too many standards), this is a hopeless proposition.

    Unless we all move to the superior standard used in Europe then they are simply flogging a dead horse.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @hey_may

    As a regular visitor to the US I have to say that XM radio isn't that good. Yes its good when it works but get anything over your head (like power lines) and the reception just goes out of the window which doesn't work too well in cities, and of course you have to pay for it - which does mean that you dont get those stupid annoying adverts.

    I think the "crank up the power" attitude of the FM radio stations in the US is the way to go : 100,000 watts of transmitter power seems to do quite well for WTOS-105FM in Maine, and their music taste is good too.

  22. John Robson Silver badge
    Stop

    Who are we kidding

    It's going to happen and all of our radios will join all of our TVs in landfill, and we'll get charged for that as well.

    Anyone up for organising a mass transport of TVs to Downing street when the anaolgue signal goes poof?

    Of course they could allow us FM rebroadcast rights, so we can continue to use all of our old kit for another few decades.

    Forced obsolescence should be paid for from the cabinets salaries.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A very good reason to buy a DAB radio:

    No cricket coverage on FM.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Another great triumph for technology

    The problem with ... is that ... move around, it ... Norman Collier.*

    * If you're too young to remember Norman Collier.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Collier

  25. Simon
    Thumb Down

    It is terrible

    I used to have DAB in the car and I travelled from Devon to Worcester every week. I found it much more frustrating that FM and I was glad when I went back to FM. As others have said at least with FM if you have a bad reception it will still work.

    Make DAB work as well as FM and I may try it again. Until then FM is the better service by far!

  26. A J Stiles
    Boffin

    Some questions

    What lessons were learned from the transition from MW and LW broadcasting to FM? How could these be applied to the transition from FM to DAB, and what is *not* applicable?

    Is there any component of a DAB receiver that, due to "intellectual property" encumbrances, is not available to the general public?

  27. Chris Burns

    DAB in cars

    The reason FM in cars is still holding strong is that most people are happy with the quality of FM radio - DAB doesn't add that much that the road / tyre / engine noise wouldn't take away. If we want crystal-clear sound, we tend to think that sitting in a metal box hurtling over potholes isn't the best way to achieve that.

    Me? I still listen to sport on the medium wave, which is fine for my purposes. If I want better sound quality, I slap a CD in. Then I get to choose what songs get played, and I can supply my own irritating voice-over.

  28. Dot Commentator
    Happy

    DRWG

    The name 'DRWG' has been the source of much Welsh merriment. 'Drwg' [droog] means 'evil/bad' in Welsh.

  29. Ash
    IT Angle

    Oh, good idea!

    After all, it worked well for Microsoft and Windows Vista.

    Oh look, an IT angle!

  30. Highlander

    Must have spoken to the FCC in the US

    This fools must have spoken to the FCC here in the US. By Feb 2009, traditional analogue free to air TV will vanish to be replaced by digital TV. Sure it will enable HD broadcasts and all that jazz, but it's being handled in something of a almost confused, and yet draconian manner. It's not clear why the old broadcast system has to die so quickly, but it's pretty clear that you better get yourself a digital TV decoder if your old analog set wants to continue displaying anything other than snow.

    I can't see the point of adopting such an approach to DAB. Quite apart from anything else, if you're going to kill off part of 'radio' to replace it with DAB, why choose FM? FM is comparatively short range. Wouldn't it be better to kill off the Long/Medium wave part of radio and supplant it with DAB? Longer range and all that. The error correction possible in DAB technology would easily cope with the slightly flaky MW/LW spectrum's tendancy to have interference....

    Why do away with any of it? Oh, wait, yes, I see now. Sales of DAB licenses to broadcasters, and possibly even licences to own a DAB set? Ah yes, it's true, the accountants are running the asylum.

  31. Joe
    Unhappy

    DAB+

    Isn't DAB+ the better standard? Even a BBC report a year or so ago slaughtered the DAB standard and it's quality, saying FM was superior!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Car Radios...

    Most modern cars have radios (and the associated controls) integrated into the dashboard - it's going to be very unpopular if these all suddenly become redundant in four years time!

    But then I suppose someone will peddle a DAB-to-FM in-car transmitter so you can listen to digital quality audio via a £5 of tatty electronics that make it sound like you have socks stuffed in your ears. I think a little bit of a reality check is required by the folks behind DAB

  33. Badg3r
    Pirate

    Duh!

    The reason most people haven't adopted it as the reception is still too patchy. I am only 30 miles west of London but I still can't get The BBC on DAB.

  34. Liam
    Thumb Down

    if they kill off FM

    thats the death of radio...

    im already sick of how many millions of the TV LICENSE goes to RADIO presenters! its a joke!

    the fact is people dont want DAB its shittier signal and hard to get too... whats the need? FM works fine for most.

    if i need to listen to radio at home i use the V+ box as its hooked up to a big AV amp anyway.

    kill off dab and stop us all subsidising technology that nobody wants!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    TMC

    Small point - I know that TMC in the UK is transmitted by Classic FM (and, I agree, the coverage of TMC is bad in the UK compared to some regions of mainland Europe). Does anyone know what will happen to that service in 2020 ? I guess a lot of the stand-alone units will be replaced by then or you can pay for and replace the external TMC-FM receiver (on TomToms at least) - no idea what one would do with an integrated car set.

    What other services hang off the back on FM ? Any idea if the muppets at OfCom have thought this through?

  36. r76
    Pirate

    Been to Japan recently?

    See many digital radios there? No, they love FM and that's good enough gadgety advice for me. Most of the owners here in the UK must have got them as giveaways on Virgin - the BBC can't say that Virgin haven't helped spread this (as well as so much other) drivel.

    Icon? From my cold dead hands...

  37. Adam Slim

    DAB in 2020, really?

    By 2020 we'll have pervasive wifi and lots of bandwidth - DAB will be dead in the water: worse coverage than internet radio, fewer channels and poorer quality. If DAB+ happens, everyone who bought into DAB will be somewhat irritated. How can a working group get this so wrong?

  38. Dunstan Vavasour

    Is it just me, or is everything s**t?

    So the proud tradition of broadcasting is to be reduced to:

    * Digital radio with poor sound quality because the sampling rate is too low

    * Which might not matter, because they compress (or, in old money, distort) all the radio stations except R3

    * And the source sound quality is poor because the craftsmanship of sound engineering has been squandered in a fit out Birtist outsourcing

    * But you wouldn't be able to hear it anyway because the kiddie producers add background music which is too loud

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do you honestly think WiFI radio is any better?

    WiFI radio is far worse than DAB on a bad day.

    Streams can easily slip to 30-40 Kbs and sound truley dreadful.

    Techies on this site may well enjoy the challenge of getting their WiFi radio to talk to their wireless net but can you really imanging giving one to your aunt Doris and not expect to be on the phone for ours talking her through it?

    FM and DAB radio is free to recieve and of course internet radio takes up bandwidth. If you find a good, high quality stream, it will take up even more bandwidth... which you ulitmately have to pay for.

    You might want to say that the choice is better, well yes having 18,000 station might be a bit more choice than is useful to anyone. To add to that, almost all US stations have GeoIP blocking in place to avoid paying higher fees to their music industry so you can't listen to them anyway. As the industry get more regulated this will be the case all over the world.

    I have 4 DABs at home and don't have a problem with any of them. The choice of stations is great and the quality is fine. MP2 it may well be, but in the kitchen in the morning it is perfect.

    Please don't forget just how lossy AAC is compared to a proper 44.1 Khz recording. For all those who shun DAB in favour of their iPod: open your ears and go to some live music to hear it properly.

    </rant>

  40. N

    @ Anonymous Coward

    "and unless you've got a good signal you get nothing"

    Not always the case. Here in my location in the hills 14 miles from Manchester the BBC stations and one of the other multiplexes come from around the Picadilly area I believe. These are recieved at 100 percent signal strength.

    However the regional stations are from Winter Hill, Bolton. Due to all the hills in the way the signal is very weak at times but still works so your comment about needing a god signal is not really valid,

    I see the digital cliff as a good thing. For example I can listen to Choice on MXR Northwest without any burble on a very weak signal. However a little drop in signal strength it does all got to pot as you say.

    Imagine listening to an FM station at 1 /10th of its maximum strength. It would be fuzzing and hissing all over and probably dropping into Mono.

    However I do agree about the less than perfect sound quality. Not the CD quality we were promised and agreed moving at high speeds on trains for instance its useless. Have the unit still with a good tuner and DAB will work on next to no signal which is great for here.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    A counter point of view...

    I can't believe I'm actually sticking up for something against the prevailing view. Next thing I'll be promoting Vista and saying how quick it is (not!).

    Anyway, I'll stick my 2p in and see how it goes:

    I liove DAB, I live London and I have no problem with reception at all. I have two radios (overpriced I agree, however get the volume and the price will drop in months), and will shortly buy a 3rd. These are classic stand-alone units, not the hook up to the hi-fi (with obligatory Jesus cable, see Register passim) type and then bitch about the quality.

    I like the numbers of channels, I like the speed of tuning, I have no problems with the quality at all.

    I haven't listed to FM for years now, all the stations I want are on DAB and I'm happy with that.

    So as far as I'm concerned go BBC, turn that FM off and go DAB.

    paris, coz she hasn't a clue about DAB, FM,AC or DC.

  42. Chris
    Go

    Explanation please?

    So what is the difference between this DAB, and the digital radio they are promoting in the US under the misnomer of HD Radio? I have one of those in my car, and ignoring the many dead spots one near my work, and two near my home) the clarity is amazing. Even HD AM is better than analog FM, and HD FM is CD quality or better. It alos permits sub-channels.

    -Chris

  43. Richard Johnson
    Thumb Up

    dab is ok

    Am I the only person in the country who listens to DAB and finds it perfectly ok? The reception where I live is better than most FM stations.

    For me, the best thing about DAB radio is that I can listen to Test Match Special without having to cope with the crackle and noise of long wave. That single fact has lead me to outfit every room with a DAB radio.

  44. Mark

    DAB

    Worse, the DAB encryption is low quality (per bandwidth) and coded into hardware/licensing. Upgrading the encryption is not possible and the DAB encode was known at the time they rolled it out to be inferior.

    DAB+ has a more effective encode and so uses spectrum more efficiently.

    So DAB+ uses a different coding and ALL your DAB radios are no longer working.

    And no way to upgrade.

    What a cock-up.

  45. Adam Trickett
    Linux

    DAB is like ITV Digital

    DAB is like ITV Digital, cr*p. It's over compressed and doesn't offer any real benefits over analogue FM transmissions. When it cam out it wasn't such a bad idea but now it's obsolete and they would be a lot better offering a decent DAB2 standard and turning both FM and DAB off asap.

    DVB only took off because the boxes were cheap and the Beeb took over from ITV digital. Everyone knows you need a digi box. Even with DVB now that HD is on the horizon the technology is going to need an upgrade. DAB was too compressed, cam out too expensive, sounds worse than FM and has been around too long and has clearly been over taken.

  46. Britt Johnston

    Radio either/or?

    Stop grumbling about radio, it is the same as TV with the brightness turned down to zero.

    If both FM and DAB were abolished, we might get lots of music, even opera, moving to ITV, without costing a p.

    Just snap ideas, if you want a reality check, I could follow up for a small consultancy fee.

  47. mad clarinet
    Coat

    DAB - local radio please???

    I would like to get a DAB radio, but I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for OFCOM to get off their backsides and sort out getting a mutiplexer!!! for my local area so I can hear the local station I want. Why bother changing if I its not worth my while doing so.

    Until then - I will be staying on FM and LW (for the cricket).

    Mine's the white one with the white hat....

  48. vincent himpe

    DAB is junk

    It will go the way of ISDN ... ( It Still Does Nothing .. )

    The music is overcompressed with a lot of loss.

    If you drive 40 miles you lose the station. The DAB transmitters are all short range.

    The reception is all or nothing , and line of sight is much more important with DAB than with FM. Drive in an area with tall buildings and kiss the reception goodbye.

    Why don't we use satellite ?

    Look at the US : XM and Sirius are hugely popular. Reception guaranteed , hundreds of channels and with a few satellites they cover a CONTINENT !. Just use one of the ASTRA birds already up there to blast the signal over one of its unused transponders. Instant coverage of the whole of europe.

    They throw the hardware at you ( some of the receivers are 10 $ ) ...

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The issues are simple....

    1) We can easily switch off FM and have a digital radio service.

    BUT....the replacement, whether it is the current DAB system or a better (DAB+?) system, must be properly thought through....as things stand right now, over 10 years AFTER the launch of DAB, is that some area's still don't have ANY reception.

    This needs to change.....we need 100% coverage of digital radio, BEFORE any decision to shut down FM.

    2) Currently, the DAB frequencies are allocated by OFCOM, who have chosen to only licence a few....

    So, to kick off then, we need a wider range of frequencies (ie multiplexes) to be licensed immediately, so that existing DAB stations can broadcast at higher bit rates and hence we can have quality digital radio (coz DAB at 192kb sounds pretty good!), rather than pi**-poor 128 kb (or less), which sounds awful.

    3) With more multiplexes available, every local BBC radio station can be heard of DAB, in their local area.

    Get these up and running and then local commercial operators will move across from FM, once more people listen to the BBC on DAB.

    The driving force for uptake of DAB has always been the BBC, so get them behind on a local basis and the rest will follow....

    4) The entire DAB network mainly uses the old 405 TV transmitters....so, we need OFCOM to pressure Arqiva to ensure that each of these, including the relays, are all fully operational and running at the right power levels to provide 100% coverage as in point 1).

    Only after all the above are sorted, should we think about switching off FM.....but as you can see, to do the above wouldn't take long as the infrastructure is already there....!

    Job done.

  50. Vince

    @ AC

    -----

    WiFI radio is far worse than DAB on a bad day.

    Streams can easily slip to 30-40 Kbs and sound truley dreadful.

    -----

    Ignoring that WiFi is really irrelevant, as you mean Internet based streams...

    ...they don't "drop" when I listen to them, maybe you need a better ISP? Certainly if the radio station isn't pulling a fast one on bandwidth, there's something wrong if you can't maintain a 128kbps or better stream.

    -----

    Techies on this site may well enjoy the challenge of getting their WiFi radio to talk to their wireless net but can you really imanging giving one to your aunt Doris and not expect to be on the phone for ours talking her through it?

    -----

    Yes, and it didn't take hours. I know 1 person with DAB, 6 with those standalone Wireless Radio jobbies.

    -----

    Please don't forget just how lossy AAC is compared to a proper 44.1 Khz recording. For all those who shun DAB in favour of their iPod: open your ears and go to some live music to hear it properly.

    -----

    Which is why I haven't used one of Apples evil creations.

  51. TimM

    Re: "selling off the frequencies"

    "This may be a dumb question, but who is going to pay money for them? Clearly the traditional broadcasters aren't 'cos they've all moved to digital in this brave new world, right? Who else is likely to be interested?"

    I would guess once sold off they can be re-used for digital. The frequencies themselves don't make them analogue, it's just the signal used. Though it's a low frequency, but possibly not too low for digital.

    As for cars. It's more than just getting manufacturers to include the kit. The system needs to be reliable. Current FM radios in cars with RDS are able to provide a listenable-to quality with maybe some hiss (drowned out by road/engine noise) and swap between neighbouring signals when quality drops. You can (with a national station), roam about most of the country in a car and not lose the station. Can DAB do this?

  52. Nick Kramer
    Thumb Down

    Problem is DAB Doesnt Work

    I made a point of replacing my HiFi when it died recently with one that has DAB but thankfully it has FM as well, as the DAB doesn't work - sometimes it sees some stations sometimes none rarely many. The manufacturer is Sony so I think the KIT is ok. I've tried the antenna wire vertically, horizontally and it makes little difference. We are inn a dip and get rubbish UHF TV reception but no problem with FM.

    I wonder if they will still broadcast on Medium and Long Wave, if so stopping FM is a retrograde step.

    Nick

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's see them try this in the US...

    ...hell, half* of the radio stations broadcasting around here are still AM!

    What is wrong with analogue radio, anyway?

    *metaphorically speaking

  54. Doug Elliot
    Thumb Down

    This is Eco Madness

    So they are teminating the AM frequencies? In this day of eco awareness, think of the millions of completely serviceable AM radios, clock radios and car radios that will be scrapped. Another electronics mountain, not forgetting the millions of pounds, energy and raw materials in providing DAB replacements.

    I have DAB radio and I'm not convinced - the quality is crap compared to FM radio and the reception in shaded areas is nil.

    What are they thinking?

    Dialler

  55. John
    Thumb Down

    I think I see the real problem...

    the players cost a bundle more than analogue sets, the coverage is piss poor compared to FM, they eat batteries and electric faster than the old sets... wtf *would* anyone want to buy into DAB then?

    Regardless, we are going to be forced on it despite the public voting with its feet and as Brits, we will just bend over and take it.... again.

  56. Nebulo
    Thumb Down

    How many more times...

    Do we have to be *told* how "superior" digital broadcasting is before these damn fools give up trying and go away?

    From where I'm sitting (between a nice pair of studio speakers and a fair collection of radio gear), I'd say with a reasonable degree of authority that digital radio *could* be made to work *if*:

    1. The system were REGULATED. By "regulated" I mean that the use of the spectrum should be (as it used to be) under the aegis of technically competent, financially disinterested people competent to balance equations such as that a given amount of spectrum can be used for a few good quality services or for a lot of shitty quality services. When we have a "regulator" whose sole raison d'etre is to turn the spectrum into as much cash as it can, we do not have regulation. We have a lot of shitty services.

    2. Someone were to design a digital mode which degrades as gracefully as AM, or even FM, when the going gets rough. Neither DAB nor Digital Radio Mondiale (currently being tested on shortwave) cuts the mustard on this requirement, both cut in and out in a manner far more annoying than the occasional noise off which analogue signals suffer when the link isn't perfect.

    3. There were specific guaranteed quality levels on which a listener could rely, rather than having to put up with low bitrate, compressed mono or mock-stereo. (This goes along with stopping the "regulator" just cashing in, of course.) AAC+ seems to have a lot of fans, but IMHO it's just another inadequate contender. We need something like streaming Monkey's Audio for the highest quality services, even if these could only be guaranteed over relatively limited areas at first.

    From a personal viewpoint, I'd also point out that my own interest in radio started with building simple radios (yea, even unto the traditional crystal set) which actually worked and received real stations. If all I'd ever encountered was digital hiss, would I ever have bothered? Where is the next generation of technically competent people to come from, if the whole history of radio is discarded in favour of it being turned into just another digital money spinner?

    Go away, taskforce. No, a zillion channels of soundalike, gritty, bloated wallpaper music is *not* good, it is *not* what we want. We've already seen the first attack mounted on FM, with the legalisation of those appalling small FM transmitters to hang off your iPod, and we know that AM can get distinctly mushy. But they're *not broken*, and they *don't* need "fixing" by short-sighted marketeers.

    The Reg needs a John Cleese icon. Because ... they ... make ... me ... MAD!

  57. Nick Ryan Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Digital = Crap

    Look at digital TV image quality (satellite / cable) for the evidence of this.

    Of course, you could almost think that there is a conspiracy in siphoning off what little bandwidth they have to give the allocation to HD services and thereby "accidently" making them older digital services seem worse quality in comparison...

    As for DAB in a car - it's a total non-starter. When an analogue signal is briefly interrupted or interferred with, you just get brief patchs of silence or crackling. When a digital signal goes you get nothing, often for much longer than the break in signal. We'd need to remove all high obstacles, bridges, tunnels and underpasses to get anything like the perceived coverage that FM radio gives.

  58. Mark W

    DAB is actually pretty good.

    The head unit in my car recently packed up and I had to change it. Being double-DIN I wanted something that ticked all the boxes.

    I picked up a JVC KW-AVX800 Head Unit, a DAB module, iPod module etc.

    I have to say I am sooooo glad I fitted it. When I tune into FM, if it finds the station on DAB it automatically roams across, and when you get such a direct comparison, it shows how much better DAB is than FM and it's compression. Don't forget you can disable compression on DAB by turning off DRC. You can't do that on FM.

    So those of you who say FM sounds better can only be listening to R3. Every other station is heavily compressed unless you're listening to DAB.

    But here's some experiences of someone who has lived with a DAB in their car for about 6 months.

    1) Coverage isn't really a massive issue for me so far. Only when I went to the remotest parts of Scotland did I lose coverage, and then my radio switched to FM if I was listening to a national station.

    2) Having a greater selection of stations works great. And why can't they move 'traffic radio' onto the Digital1 mux instead of loads of empty carrier stations from the old Capital Radio stations and birdsong! Virgin also broadcasts in 160k which makes it sound quite sharp.

    3) The traffic information works well too

    So IMHO I think DAB works great for me - and I live in North Yorkshire where the DAB coverage means I can get stations when my analogue radio picks up nak all!

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not only is the technology shit, but the engineers too

    What happened to the great engineers of the past? When FM was patented in 1933, it was designed well enough to last almost 80 years! How long will DAB be in the vogue? Ten years, maybe? Then something else that'll last even less?

    How about turntables? I still have a Technics from about 1972 that works fine. Toss a new cartridge in it every ten years, and it's clear as a bell. Anyone still have a first gen cd player from about 1980 or so?

    What about telephones? Here in the states, you can *still* plug a 40s-era dial phone into a POTS line, and it'll ring, dial, and hang up. Thing is sixty years old. Works fine.

    I have a power amplifier that hasn't had new vacuum tubes put in it since 1962. It sat in a guy's garage for thirty years before I got it. Works perfect.

    I'm forced to conclude that despite the radical increase in electronics power and decrease in size, our engineers seem to have gone right down the tubes to marketroid land, and it's a damn sad thing to see.

  60. Wayland Sothcott
    Joke

    DAB is Hi Tech so we should want it

    Don't you lot get it? DAB works by computers and digital and everything. Therefore it's a lot better. Granted when it works it sounds the same as FM and when it fails it sounds like bubbling mud.

    We must embrace what is new. In the old days I used a casio calculator powered by light. Now I fire up my Laptop and use Windows Calculator. It's much better because my Laptop runs at 1.6GHz and has 1GB RAM, far more than the casio. Yes it takes a while to boot up but the calculator has nearly as many functions as the casio and using the laptop keyboard is almost as good as the casio.

    Surely we can embrace progress?

  61. Mark Collins
    Thumb Down

    Wi-Fi is poor -wtf

    I cannot understand those that slag off wifi. you listen to your rubbish popfest junk then that is what you get!

    well I can get www.heavymetalradio.com at 128k AAC+ on my wif radio and the quality is astonishing. Of course there is a 32W RMS 2.1 speaker system plugged in but it is crystal clear and awesome. So is planetrock! It is not easy to get these sites working over wifi if you do not know what you are doing but once they are setup it will stay and people can carry on as normal.

    DAB is simply pathetic compressed junk - listen to planetrock on DAB then listen on the internet, wifi, or sky and spot the MASSIVE difference.

    DAB is a lame duck and the licensing is a joke. It should be transmitted in AAC+ format which is great even at 64k - check it out on di.fm to see what I mean.

    DAB radio is cheap enough in tesco anyway if you want it. Good sets are not cheap. It is inherently bad by design. Give me wifi anyday VASTLY superior! My wifi device is only supposed to support mp3 but it plays aac+ no problem!

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Do you honestly think WiFI radio is any better?

    "WiFI radio is far worse than DAB on a bad day.

    Streams can easily slip to 30-40 Kbs and sound truley dreadful."

    The last time I looked on the shoutcast.com Internet radio portal there were over 5,000 streams using bit rate levels of 128 kbps MP3 or over, and 128 kbps MP3 annihilates DAB in terms of audio quality, so stop making things up.

    Also, the vast majority of Internet radio streams use constant bit rate audio coding, so, erm, their bit rates CANNOT change, so I'd love to hear your explanation of how you've seen them "slip to" 30-40 kbps.

    I listen to Internet radio on a Wi-Fi radio every day, and the last time I heard it rebuffer must have been about a year ago, seriously.

    And there are over ten thousand Internet radio streams listed on the Reciva (they make Internet radios) database, and probably the majority of them are from the US, and they're only included if they're receivable (Reciva does automatic checks to make sure they can be received), so your scare story about Geo-IP blocking is also incorrect.

    You say that DAB quality is fine in the kitchen. That's all well and good, but what about on a hi-fi system, personal radio/MP3 player, car stereo, portable stereo etc where higher quality than what's acceptable on a portable radio would be kinda bleeding nice?

    "Please don't forget just how lossy AAC is compared to a proper 44.1 Khz recording"

    More made up stuff. AAC is almost transparent (transparent means people in a blind listening test can't tell the the coded version and the CD version apart) at 128 kbps. AAC is in a completely different league to MP2. MP2 originates from the early 80s FFS.

    "open your ears and go to some live music to hear it properly."

    I'd suggest you cut back, because you've clearly damaged yours.

  63. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Er...

    Are we talking about DAB or DAB+? I thought they were incompatible, which will really help the switch-over, if existing DAB radios won't work. We have about half a dozen radios in the house, and I'm certainly not throwing them all out!

  64. Brendan
    Gates Halo

    @ Chris

    The HD radio we Yanks are being bilked with works just fine on FM but is horrible on AM (MW for UK/Euro types). It creates very nasty interference on the adjacent channels, so much so that they can't be heard. It was created by Ibiquity, who is the sole licensed manufacturer, and is in turn owned by the biggies in US broadcasting. So, we listeners get to pay a license fee to the broadcasters for every radio we buy that includes HD.

    DAB+ is also known as DRM+ (Digital Radio Mondiale) and is being tested in Germany right now. I have a friend who is the chief engineer at Hesse Radio in Frankfurt, and she is quite thrilled by the shift to digital: saves 90% on the power bill with better service. Their plan is to put the DRM+ transmitters on the FM band, never mind the microwaves that DAB uses, which is a major reason reception is so spotty and short. Any attempt to try to make the original DAB any better is just money down the shite hole. Wholesale conversion to DRM/DAB+ is the only answer, and we Yanks have been sold a bill of goods, so UK listeners beware! The DRM/DRM+/DAB+ standard does not require huge licensing fees either...

    Plain old DRM works on MW, LW, and shortwave as well, and does rather well actually. When the ionosphere cooperates, I can listen to stereo from eastern Canada without problems, and I live only 95 miles north of little Billy G. I've heard stations from New Zealand (go All Blacks!), Ecuador, and Euro relays from the Caribbean, all with no fading or interference.

    Why (nice) Bill? 'Cuz he retires this week...

  65. Daniel B.
    Boffin

    Worsening FM?

    Hm.... taking in mind my experience with analog/digital signals, aren't digital signals more sensitive to noise? I mean, when I go through a small tunnel, I might get a bit of noise, but I still can listen my daily dose of Heavy Metal. Do the same with digital stuff, and I'll probably get the same garbled sound I get when my GSM signal gets weak.

    I just don't see why I'd want something like this on a medium that is mostly used on the move. The most useful feature I've seen that actually does help me with my "Radio Experience" would be RDS, which gives me the station ID and sometimes the "Now Playing" song name.

  66. Martin Usher

    There's a method in their madness

    The reason for shifting everyone onto digital TV in the US is that the broadcasts can be confined to a small part of the UHF band, leaving the rest free to be auctioned for mobile services.

    We've got our own digital radio service, its called "HD" (it stands for "Hybrid Digital", BTW). Its got few takers. It runs on top of normal AM and FM channels as a low ampliytude OFDM subcarrier. On AM it causes an annoying hiss, its a bit like listening to a very old and very low quality casette recorder, and it can't be used at night (its switched off at dusk). On FM it takes over (initially) the SCA subcarrier (that's like the stereo signal but further out, it was a service that was used to transmit muszak and stuff once upon a time). They are threatening to take over the stereo signal -- that is, reduce stations to mono -- to add more digital traffic. Anyway, you can't buy receivers, if you could they're $200-$300 each, and the service may or may not work. What price greed?

    Incidentally, one of the very few reliable FM stations I can get is just a low power transmitter connected to the computer. Streaming on the 'net is rapidly becoming the only way to get reliable radio.

  67. Colin

    If it ain't broke don't "Fix" it

    Simple as that FM and AM Radio works fine as is leave it the hell alone.

    Analogue Radio has worked just fine for the last 100 years or so with improvements along the way leading to the current systems. Analogue radio is cheap, simple and works and the best bit about it is we all have the kit we need to use it right now.

    Possibly the reason none of the big comercial stations are heavily pushing DAB is simply because they know it's unpopular and not needed? Could it be that they are looking at it from an, "If it ain't broke don't fix it", viewpoint?

    The only people that seem to want DAB are the thieving scum in the BBC's "lets make the government give us a bigger license fee department". Yet another case of rip off Britain. Yet another good reason to force the BBC into the comercial market. Let the idiots dream up these stupid ideas when they aren't getting my taxes, er license money! Then see how quickly DAB would die the death it so rightly deserves.

  68. David Beck

    DAB in Europe?

    How well does my new DAB car radio work in France? Does the TMC work so I can get traffic reports on my TomTom? How about the RDS? I'm sure all of this has be carefully thought out and organised in the new joined up Europe.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re TMS

    To me, the crackle of LW is part of what makes TMS great; it reminds me of my younger years when I would wake up at 4am to listen to Johnners and the gang from India while the world was asleep around me.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    How big is a DAB receiver?

    IIRC, you can get an entire FM receiver "built-in" on a single integrated circuit, the rest of the stuff in the 'box' is just to give it an aerial and convert the signal into audio ("credit card" radios?, anyone?)

    So how big does a DAB receiver need to be? Same sort of size? In which case, why do all the DAB sets I've seen look like rejects from a 1950's sci-fi set?

    Is Big Brother (the Orwellian version, not the C4 crap 'reality TV show') planning on, oh I don't know, maybe sticking RFID-style tags inside the boxes?

    "Hey, what's this, a nice and shiny DAB radio to fit in my car? Great! And the small print? 'Caution, may contain tracking chip with unique serial number'? What's that mean?"

    Never happen? Yeah, that's what the razor blades thought, too...(*1)

    AC cos I don't need to give the buggers (literally) any more excuses to keep an ear on me, and Black Helicopter so they can keep an eye on me too (where's the icon for CCTV??)

    (*1) You do know certain supermarkets (*cough* Tesco *cough*) stuck RFIDs on packets of BIC razorblades, don't you? The expensive packs can be tracked as you walk around the store with them, and if you don't appear to pay for them, you get invited to the Managers Office for a chat with the boys'n'gals in blue...

  71. David Shaw
    IT Angle

    DAB isn't DAB+

    Germany is rolling out the incompatible DAB+ as it sounds better than (UK) (ancient) DAB. UK (ancient) DAB will one day evolve to DAB+, with, as has been mentioned, the requirement that you throw away your current or soon to be purchased UK DAB. UK DAB is not future compatible with DAB+.

    Did we mention yet that France, and other bits of the EU quite like the DVB-H (digital video broadcasting to a hand-held). Here in the research centre we test each week some US product for XM/Sirius Rock & Roll Satellites, but 'nowt clever for the EU.

    SWITZERLAND is switching off soon their 558KHz Analogue Radio Canton Ticino Canale Uno (medium wave) transmitter. CH will use RDS FM until the digital EU wastelend has sorted itself out. In Italy RAI tried DAB 5 years ago , then stopped! Now there are a handful of DAB stations (Rome's "Radio Radio") and quite a few DAB+ that I'm unable to decode. I just bought a 70 Euro Audiola (cr@p) car-radio with a USB and an SD card slot and I drive around europe with 2 gigs (FAT16) of Radio4 podcasts and music per slot. Forget broadcast, go timeshift.

  72. lIsRT
    Joke

    The Solution is Obvious

    Let us keep our AM/FM by kicking the DAB listeners/broadcasters into a vacant part of the spectrum.

    100+ EHz looks like it's available.

    Problem solved.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    RE: No Cricket on FM

    @Anonymous Coward

    No cricket coverage on FM.

    As I really don't give a rats... for cricket (or most live sports stuff to be honest) why does this encourages me to move to DAB.

  74. Mark
    Gates Horns

    re: The issues are simple....

    Well said, there is nothing inheriently wrong with DAB, or MP2 compression, infact it's far more efficient than FM, it's a problem with the way it's currently financed and implemented. Get more multiplexes, better coverage, and turn up the bitrate of all the stations, and people will flock to DAB..

    As it is, I am very happy with DAB, as are the vast majoroity of people who want to listen to something different (Planet Rock in my case), and I am satisfied with the bitrate (but at the same time, a 192k bump would be very welcome).

    To some, myself included it's not about sound quality, it's about CHOICE...

  75. Paul Hatch

    Save the Planet - Stick with FM

    DAB chipsets chew up battery power like it is going out of fashion and for that reason alone is impractical for portable radios.

    Unlike Digital TV, common digital radio standards are more important, especially within continental blocks such as North America, the EU etc. They cant even agree digital standards within the EU and so would require multistandard radios just to ensure your radio doesnt go silent driving between London and frankfurt (A journey I used to do regularly)

    Trying to combat that problem without pan continental standards agreements by using multistandard radios is not only expensive but unworkable as there would be no control over different countries modifying their standards at different times.

    Oh and the audio quality for anything other than talk radio is crap.

  76. GrahamT
    Boffin

    Alternative digital radio

    According to Wikipedia (spit!) Digital Radio Mondial (DRM; no, not that one) is going to be used on the freed up medium wave channels. This can give 17-35 kbps sampling on a standard 10 kHz MW channel, using MPEG-4 HE-AAC encoding - not MPEG2. The advantage over DAB on the FM band, is that it has the reach of AM without the interference.

    Currently the BBC World service is trialling it on short wave, so theoretically you could listen to DAB quality (not FM quality) BBC radio anywhere in the world.

    Perhaps this is not of interest if you only listen to the radio on the M4 into work, but I have spent, and continue to spend, time abroad, and it is nice to be able to tune into LW Radio 4 on the road in France for the news, or SW BBC World in Switzerland or Malaysia. What both of these channels share is absolutely terrible sound quality, with fading, whistling and more snaps, crackles and pops than a breakfast cereal.

    Another advantage is the number of transmitters needed. One transmitter in Rugby provides LW coverage for most of northern Europe, yet FM transmitters only serve line-of-site locations, and so there are dozens of the things all over Britain. Hence signal drop out as your radio tunes to another frequency when you drive from one transmitter's range into another. This is one area where DAB seems better than FM.

    I remember the early FM radios that you had to keep retuning because AFC hadn't been invented, and had all sorts of interesting sound artifacts, but people persevered because the potential was there. Now the majority of posts above say FM is the best thing ever and progress should stop now.

    Digital radio, whether DAB, DAB+, DRM, or Internet radio, will continue to grow and improve. It is probably still too early to say which system(s) will come out on top, but once bandwidth is available, and co-channel interference with analogue is no longer an issue, then I would guess all the problems with overcompreesion and low bit rates should reduce, even if they don't go away.

  77. alex cee

    nothing but crap....

    Overlooking all of DABs problems, the real issue here is that there is bugger all to listen to!

    When I'm in or around London I'm in tune to an fm pirate because they are the only ones who cater to my musical tastes. The commercial radio that makes up 95% of the dab band is utter shite to say the least!

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Um, like Vista...

    ....another pointless pile of shit, which simply does what can already be done. Apart from it probably gives the broadcaster a better picture of who is listening and when - of no value to the listener, of course....only to marketing people.

    Basically, it like XP/Vista. You don't need research or a thicktank, sorry thinktank to `figure out` why people aren't flocking to digital radio. It's because you end up with EXACTLY THE SAME FXCKING THING - a radio. Sure, perhaps a few less pops and crackles....but...thing is, it's actually worse in that respect, because at least with analogue you can still hear a station which is nearing range limit, or with interference, whereas with digital, it's there or it's not - so if the reception is a little weak, you don't get it at all, oh how marvellous progress is).... It also, I would imagine, makes it harder to set up a station without lots of expensive equipment and licensing, so would kill off smaller/pirate stations, reducing diversity in radio stations, homogenising everything by placing it in fewer hands with more controls. Much like the way the internet is going.

  79. glenn
    Flame

    Hmm

    I for one am far too tight to pay to upgrade my radios to receive something that I already get and am happy with. I take it the BBC will reduce the license fee accordingly for those who choose to ditch their radio stations when they become only available on DAB, or provide at least one free DAB radio per license fee paid.

  80. CDF

    Won't Work

    I live in the South East, and DAB coverage is very poor. I can barely get anything other than the local DAB station; however that too is subject to the "elephant spurting jam out of its trunk" noises that come from radio interference.

    FM is a reliable, solid technology which provides excellent sound most of the time. When a superior technology is available, I'm sure it will be superceded - but not by the digital radio that's available today.

  81. Scott Mckenzie

    I'm Scared...

    ....lots of people seem to be under the misguided impression that DAB is better quality than FM.

    Sure it offers more stations (mostly shite) but better quallity, please... that's laughable!

  82. Steve Evans
    Coat

    Nice, if you can get it

    Living in the Wye Valley means that the DAB radio purchased for my wife is being used as a paper weight because we can't get a signal. FM is OK though. Does anyone really think that the British BroadCasting Cashcow will ever reduce anything other than programme quality? Coat, because they may be listening.

  83. Simon B
    Coat

    Crap signal, crap looks, too expensive, so why isn't anyone buying it? DUH!

    DAB oddly hasn't taken off, if they oddly bothered to listen (novel idea; listening to people!) to the chatter of anyone who has ever tried DAB, they would very soon realise why it's little used.

    1. Reception strength is, to put it mildly, crap! You can have full strength, move a foot and find silence as it dissapears! move back and you have full strength again. This is using a portable walkman(TM) style receiver; although holding it above your head sometimes helps .. ahem!

    2. Until recently everyone decied that DAB radio's MUST be made to look like they are made in the 1940's and out of wood. Only now are radio's coming out that actually look modern or slightly stylish! I'd still be hard pushed now to find a radio that would look nice sitting on a Technic's hifi, or to go with a group of Denon seperates. I also couldn't find ANYTHING that had DAB, FM, MP3, which I could rig out of sight and control on my motorbike by a wired remote control. An ipod has a wired remote, some radio's and mp3's do, but there aint anything like it for DAB.

    3. How much?!! ... a portable cassette player £5, A portable CD player £15, a portabel MP3 player £15, a portable FM radio £2, a portable DAB radio £60 ... hmmmm ... I wonder what I DEFINATELY wont be buying!

    Listen to people and make these changes and then there will be a product worth buying to replace old FM equipment! As it stands all I'd ever buy DAB for is to stick in my kitchen in a place where it's never moved (so I don't loose the reception), and where it's not seen (as it's ugly)

  84. Paul Stockwell
    Black Helicopters

    Kill off DAB Instead

    if you want to know whether a technology is going to make it look at what the consumer electronics industry is doing. It was difficult to believe in digital switchoff while the majors were still building analogue only tellies they have to get their timing right or they lose sales. Theres no real sign yet that DAB is anything but an expensive alternative and a minority interest. In the radio world motor vehicle makers are a major factor, 2.5 million new radios a year are in new cars and aftermarket systems account for a tiny proportion of the market. Very few new cars come with DAB as standard because the industry knows it is still expensive and at the early adopter stage.

    Analogue FM offers RDs and RDS TMC. So far there is no equivalent traffic info system. If that were offered as part of DAB and the content properly sorted then that would do wonders for DAB in motor vehicles.

    I know RDS and TMC leave much to be desired as traffic information systems but that has to do with the availability and quality of the content - not fundamental technology problems. With most cars under 14 years old having RDS in the radio (and most drivers not reading the manual so unable to turn it off!) It still has a lot of mileage if the content provision is properly sorted out, as there is a huge user base out there.

    Modern cars typically last over 15 years. Even if government policy required all new vehicles from tomorrow to have DAB as standard it would take 10 years to have a significant impact. Very few new cars have standard DAB radios this means that FM stereo with RDS and TMC has at least 15 years -if a sensible policy is adopted. Turning over 30 million radios off at source is going to be very unpopular...

    FM radios are also less complex, better understood and cheaper to make than DAB and from the examples seen so far are also more energy efficient. They also offer traffic info and radio data services that can be turned from nuisance to genuinely useful if someone just gets organised. Given the congestion issues on modern roads turning RDS into a genuinely useful traffic information service as great potential for helping to manage this.

    The conclusion is clear - kill off DAB. There is always CD or Digital recordings (MP3 etc.) for the real HiFi nuts, and if Ofcom MUST sell off some spectrum what about that occupied by DAB?

    What's the betting they do the opposite? After all since when did the Government agenda have anything to do with common sense or with common good?

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Why upgrade once, when twice is better...

    Okay - so DAB+ might be a better standard, but there's no point going straight to it.

    If everyone is forced to convert to DAB first, then we can all be forced to convert to DAB+ later.

    This should bring in the $s for the electronics companies....

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re:DAB as standard for cars

    At least with FM as standard in pretty much all cars, I know that I will have no issues listening to my iPod with my trusty FM transmitter.

    Can't see personal DAB transmitters being legal or even possible for many a year yet.

  87. Mark

    Why the move to DAB?

    Because you can't record of DAB.

    Yeah, I know. That's not a reason for *us* but that's why the push is happening.

    We can't have people not buying music because the crappy version on the radio is "good enough"...

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mark

    If you can hear it, you can record it.

  89. Joseph Gregory
    Coat

    Just Another Hidden Tax

    So, the Digital Radio Working Group arm of the despotical British Government want to shut down all the popular frequencies and bring in unpopular DAB 'subsidised radios'.

    Where will the money for the subsidy come from? Government subsidies, of course! Who pays for these subsidies? Why! surprise, surprise, the struggling taxpayer.

    Just another spiralling radio congestion charge to let just the toffs and the rich listen to radio, while the plebs do without. Again.

  90. Richard
    Thumb Down

    Long live FM!

    I bought a Magnum Dynalab FT-101A dedicated FM receiver a few years ago. I heard it and it blew my socks off, so bought it. A good quality FM tuner, good Yagi, attenuator and line of sight to the transmitter (Sutton Coldfield here) can produce results that blow DAB and many other sources out of the water from a sound quality perspective. OK, it does depend on programming and compression.

    The big problem is that most people aren't that bothered about sound quality, they want more choice no matter how crap it sounds. I'm not sure if 2012 would be acheivable for these reasons:

    1) Battery life for portable DAB receivers is dire

    2) Sound quality is dire (Sibilance etc)

    3) Coverage is harder to attain due to frequencies used

    3) There are newer versions of DAB available (I am no expert on these - I've not heard them), so the long-term future for the current DAB network in the UK I think is in doubt.

    4) Upgrading a TV to Digital is easy, just buy a Set Top Box and away you go. Migraing to DAB or a version of the standard means junking existing equipment.

    5) The majority of cars do not have digital radio or dedicated / resonant antennas to receive digital radio, and adding DAB to a car radio would be more involved than adding an STB to an existing TV and and the increased frequency of DAB over FM starts to make antenna diversity more of a requirement than a luxury

    Personally I'd be surprised if analogue FM gets switched off any time before 2020.

  91. StopthePropaganda
    Stop

    if they can't force "Fair Use" policies

    then the communists will simply have the airwaves eliminated. Anything liberal propagandists cannot control, is "bad" and is either forced to conform to their point of view, or finds itself over regulated and shut down.

    Sure you own every major television network, but those pesky small community stations refuse to bow to your communistic whims? Then "ban" analog televison broadcast. Afraid that your "hearts and minds" campaign against Americans might develop cracks because the people that actually work for a living aren't sitting home watching TV but listening to talk radio in their cars? Can't get your Soros' funded propaganda station to sell? Buy some legislators and violate the 2nd Amendment. If that fails, start banning long range FM transmissions-go to proprietary digital systems that are easily controlled.

    What's next? Digital radio/TV broadcasts, with all receivers having a mandatory "V Chip" where only approved signals can be received? When anyone dares speak against the Democrats or speaks of America in a positive light, the system goes quiet?

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    The report missed one important fact...

    If you switch on both a DAB and an FM radio on at the same time, you will hear that the Digital radio's signal is delay by anything between 5 and 10 seconds.

    In fact if you switch on two identical DAB radios, you will still hear a delay of anything between 1 and 5 seconds. I wrote and complained to the BBC about this, and they told me that the variable delay was something they could do nothing about.

    So this writes off using the "pips" to set your watch/clock, and any idea of having more than one radio on in the house at a time (without in irritating echo when you have more than one in earshot).

  93. Wize
    Stop

    DAB does not work

    I've tried DAB. It is terrible.

    1) I'm in a 3rd floor flat. No one above me and clear views in all directions. FM works wonderfully everywhere. DAB reception is poor. It does not work in all the places in my flat, which is bad considering its a radio alarm clock that doesn't work in my bedroom at all (and patchy in the rest of the flat). I can't imagine this working in a car between tall buildings.

    2) I sometimes leave the radio alarm on and turn, say, the kitchen radio on so when me or the missus is darting back and forth getting ready we still get the radio. DAB had a delay (encoding and decoding) but I'm betting the decode delay on all radios is not the same. As it stands it cant be used the same time as an analogue radio due to this lag, and will be a similar problem with varying lag on different units.

    3) Power consumption. Has anyone checked the rating on these radios? My old radio alarm clock (with its moving needle tuner) uses a fraction of the power of its DAB equivalent. Not very green.

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    orthopaedic shoe time (I stand corrected)

    I was under the misaprehension that OFCOM was created to represent the public and protect us from the unruly masses that are the media... silly me, I see now that their sole reason for existing is to organise the sell off of the frequencies.

  95. Mark

    "If you can hear it, you can record it."

    Aye, I remember recording my records before going to university.

    Telling everyone in the house to be quiet as I cued up the tape deck, the record player and pressed "record" at the right time.

    Then staying silent until it was over.

    The only reason why your point is useful is that it shows how pointless DRM is. All it takes is ONE person to go through that PITA routine (and if you're doing this "professionally", you'll have a quiet room) and then it can be copied ad infinitum.

    It REALLY shows how DRM hurts only the basically honest and the basically dishonest is not affected to any degree at all.

    So it has merit, but it IS NOT something we should put up with.

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