back to article Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

Britain's airwaves are opening up to DAB versions of local radio stations, Ofcom has declared as it tries to shift more Brits away from AM and FM radio. The broadcast regulator has declared that "small-scale DAB" will provide "a low-cost route" for local stations to go digital across the nation. Ofcom wants to speed up the …

  1. MJI Silver badge

    But........

    CD Changer, steering wheel controls, set up for car model, amp, special speakers, built in satnav.

    Comes up with car brand on screen, it works, and I am supposed the rip the WHOLE lot out and replace with something else?

    We do not al regularly replace cars, I have had 2 in over 14 years. Buy what you really want and look after it than a random box on wheels.

    1. The Pi Man

      Re: But........

      You can blame the manufacturers partially for that one. The gave up on DAB and then had to backtrack and start again, so a lot of cars that could have had DAB didn’t. Black spots are still an issue in coverage, even in large cities and towns.

    2. Aqua Marina

      Re: But........

      I'm screwed if that's the case. My radio is the digital heart of the car. It controls eveything from radio (duh!) to locks, lights, alarm, speedo display. 2 years ago it started hanging when I entered certain post-codes into the sat-nav, at which point the screen went black for a few minutes, then entered a repeating reboot that could last minutes or hours if left to it's own devices*. After a year of to-ing and fro-ing with the dealership they finally agreed to replace the radio with a new one, I had to wait 2 months for it to arrive from Italy. I went to pick up the car after they did the swap, put my office post-code into it... and hang.. reboot... hang... etc. Turns out every model of this radio has the same fault, and it's never been fixed, and there's no intention to bring out a revised model. The car at this point was 3 years old. The only solution if I want my car to remain usable is to not use the sat-nav. The radio is DAB, but it's rubbish constantly cutting out unless the car is stationary.

      *There is a ridiculous method for hard rebooting the radio. Turn off the ignition for 30 secs, open the passenger** door for 30 secs, close it for 30 secs, open it again for 30 secs, close it and turn on the ignition.

      **I assume that it has to be the passenger door cos in Italy the driver is on the left, but they kept the hard reset mechanism on the left hand side despite moving the steering and the controls to the right for the UK market.

      1. johnfbw

        Re: But........

        That reset method seems to be the normal method for getting kids in the car.

        We ready? Ignition on. Daddy I forgot something - ignition off - opens door -gets teddy bear - closes door - opens door cause he is a kid - ignition on (then repeat for each child/wife in the car)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: But........

          "(then repeat for each child/wife in the car)"

          You regularly take multiple wives on car trips? Sounds like the journey could be interesting.

      2. tin 2

        Re: But........

        I'd be handing the car back as not fit for purpose. Then see how motivated they are to replace it.

        1. Aqua Marina

          Re: But........

          2 things stopped that. Time and money. The dealership changed hands due to going bust. It took a year of legal back-and-forths to get to the point where they agreed to swap the radio for a new one.

      3. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Go

        Re: But........

        Please name and shame. Fiat, Ferrari, Lancia, Lambo, Alfa, Maserati...?

        1. IGotOut Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: But........

          Fiat Chrysler Group

          Combining Italian and US engineering.

          Talk about a dog shit sandwich.

          Sheez.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: But........

          I have driven two of those brands and been in a 3rd.

          I banged my head on the roof of one of them despite being short. 4WD hatch with V6, as passenger.

          I got my feet tangled driving another on an experience day. Mid engined thing.

          The other was quick but I have owned quicker bikes, but I reckon I could have lapped quicker in an own car simply because I knew it. Another mid engined thing with a V10. But I fitted in it!

          Basically I do not fit in Italian cars unless made by a tractor company.

      4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: But........

        *There is a ridiculous method for hard rebooting the radio. Turn off the ignition for 30 secs, open the passenger** door for 30 secs, close it for 30 secs, open it again for 30 secs, close it and turn on the ignition.

        Sure they're not winding you up?

        Like when i told the users they had backspaces in their passwords :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But........

          You've obviously not owned a car before, or seen someone want to save $0.03c on a micro controller and save the 2 outputs they'd use on the reset switch by putting the mechanism in the existing outputs. Just be thankful you don't have to open the tailgate too!

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: But........

            Car money saving?

            Ask GM.

            24p per car saved using cheaper valve seals.

            Ever swapped the valve seals on a 24v V6?

            Twats according to the person who designed it!

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: But........

              "24p per car saved using cheaper valve seals."

              My maths teacher at high school used to be a vehicle design engineer for Stott Gradall

              He quit shortly after he'd finished laying out the design for a grader gearbox - the works suprvisor cam by and laid into him because he'd designed it so well that they'd never need to repair it for the life of the vehicle.

              He was forced to respec it using pinion gear teeth in steel several grades weaker than originally called for - specifically so that the gearbox would break and require major repairs every 4-5 years. And handed in his resignation shortly afterwards, heading as far from Britain as he could get.

              Quality British Engineering at its finest.

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: But........

                My current car money saving consists of.

                1) Cheap sunroofs which leak.

                2) Gearbox with recommended maximum torque lower than engine maximum torque.

                3) Chassis with sub standard steel.

                1) Been repaired, I think they need resealing again.

                2) There are speciaists in upgrading them, currently running on the borderline after a remap. The engine is VERY remappable.

                3) Aftermarket does a good trade.

                The documentation includes the original sales invoice. It was £35k in 2003.

        2. batfink Silver badge

          Re: But........

          That's just cruel. I like it.

      5. Shadow Systems Silver badge
        Pint

        At Aqua Marina, re: homophones...

        I read the line "Turn off the ignition for 30 secs, open the passenger** door for 30 secs, close it for 30 secs, open it again for 30 secs, close it and turn on the ignition." and knew intelectualy that you meant seconds, but my dirty mind made me giggle thinking you were complaining about having to have so much sex.

        Please enjoy a pint with my compliments for making my day that much brighter. =-)P

    3. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

      Re: But........

      You can get pretty decent DAB adapters for cars, I've got one from Aldi because my 2012 NIssan doesn't have DAB when my 2008 Mini did. No idea why cars built 12 years after DAB became reasonably widespread still didn't have it built in.

      With regards to blackspots, there's one on the M6 close to Lancaster University, always seems to drop out at a fairly important line in The Archers...

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: But........

        "With regards to blackspots, there's one on the M6 close to Lancaster University,.."

        Here are three more.

        Wales, Scotland and (semi) Rural England.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But........

          DAB is OK in NE Scotland (at least, it is where I drive); not so good as you get further into the Grampians - but FM isn't so good there either.

        2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          Re: But........

          Here are three more.

          Wales, Scotland and (semi) Rural England.

          You don't even really need to go to semi-rural England.

          I live in the middle of the Thames Valley, I can now get R4 on DAB, but only with a F***ing great aerial in the loft and a amp, while the little analogue radio in the bathroom manages fine on a dangling piece of wire a few inches long. The analogue radio has only needed its batteries changed once in the years I've owned it.

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: But........

        "No idea why cars built 12 years after DAB ..."

        While there is more or less full coverage by FM radio it is good enough. Car manufacturers are masters at up-selling. Why forego the opportunity of offering a (expensive) DAB upgrade, fitted as standard to differentiate higher trim levels ?

    4. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

      Re: But........

      > ....Comes up with car brand on screen, it works,....

      Yes, but where we are you have to drive 100 miles before you can pick up a DAB signal at all, making the box on wheels the more important part.

      What is it with governments' overwhelming desires to switch things off rather than switching things on?

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: But........

        My car is also only 16 years old, I want to get it to 25 years old.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: But........

          DAB disappears on the A1 between Peterborough and Grantham. For about 5 miles.

          Probably because my car has a little sharkfin antenna.

        2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: But........

          I've got mine up to 30 years :) and as such it has a standard double din hole in it so i can easily install a DAB or whatever else when i feel the need.

          Right now it has a single din kenwood which was the worlds first stereo to play mp3s from a cd.

          I've not felt the need to upgrade since then.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: But........

            Single DIN, but it is the integration, and if I did swap I would want MD again. But then since I last used that head unit I have had my hearing fried.

    5. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: But........

      I read a few years ago about a poor car owner who had installed an adapter to get DAB in his car. That night his car was broken into and the adapter pinched. The local plod said that the thief was probably just nicking what they could see in vehicles and easily grab. They probably thought that it might be a satnav as those sold quite well.

      I asked the question a while ago about what could DAB do apart from more stations (at the expense of quality) that FM radio can't? Somebody recently mentioned an EPG and yes on a limited number of DAB radios you can get an EPG. They then mentioned apart from BBC Radio how useful would it actually be? Everything else you can do can be done with an device with an FM receiver. Recording is possible on various devices from my phone to some iPods. Radiotext can be done using RDS as can traffic alerts etc. I had a clock radio in the 90s that had RDS and traffic alert on it. I think I've still got it somewhere.

    6. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: But........

      Time moves on, and maybe i'm getting old, but sod FM and DAB

      I can remember a time when you had to sing to yourself to hear music in a car.

  2. Ol'Peculier

    Making your mind up

    That's ironic, our local community radio station handed back their DAB licence and has just been given the necessary permissions to start broadcasting on FM

  3. http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/thumb_up_32.png

    DAB coverage is a real problem. Across large parts of the country, the DAB signal is patchy, even along major roads. None of the receivers that use a whip antenna work indoors here (Devon), and even with an external antenna, signal quality is variable; this s compounded by the limited range of receivers that have an external antenna connector.. In the cars, which have modern, factory-fit DAB radios, DAB stations drop out regularly.

    If Ofcom and the broadcasters want to promote a wholesale switch to DAB, the ball’s in their court to improve signal coverage.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      If you're prepared to have static equipment connected to an external antenna, you're better off using a TV - the sound quality will be much better. If you need something portable, a mobile phone streaming via the Internet will be more reliable than a typical portable DAB receiver and probably have a similar battery life. The USP of DAB seems to be what you already have, only worse.

      1. druck Silver badge

        But radio isn't static like a TV set, you tend to take it to different places around the house to listen to while doing other things.

        DAB is like a massive leap backwards in time, to before the transistor radio revolution in the 60s. You have bulky power hungry sets, poor reception, and most stations in mono ffs.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Radio

          My radio is definately mobile.

          But had to charge the battery due to lack of use.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        The sound quality is supposedly improved by using the much better DAB+*. Sadly the radios sold before this was available can't use it. Therefore you have to stoick all those radios on the scrap heap and buy new ones. Here in Middle Earth England i can receive a multitude of BBC local radio stations using my FM receivers and all the nationals. However with DAB I only get the nearest local mux and the nationals depending on where in the kitchen the radio is placed.

        Therefore I don't use the DAB much as it isn't any improvement over the FM. Actually when it drops out and that happens every so often, the resultant 'noise' from a bad DAB signal is painful. I'm slightly jaded as I was involved in DAB from an earlyish point. The sound quality was very good when you had signal because the bit rate was much higher. Sadly not enough people listening cared about the quality and didn't buy the equipment. Thus the bit rates were slashed to accomodate more stations. Yes the encoders have changed and processing might have been tweaked. That doesn't change the fact that the bit rates were slashed and the sound quality with it.

        *although then you get into the issue of Bitrates and what sounds acceptable, what sounds as good as FM and what sounds better.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          I also listen to LW and have been known to have RTE Radio on during the day. It's a different perspective on news stories etc. that I quite like. Anyway I was shopping for a radio to take on holiday with me about 10 or so years ago. I went into a large department store and asked what analogue models they had which took batteries. I explained that I wanted it for travel abroad and there was no DAB where I was going to use it. The assistant showed me a few models that had DAB and FM on them and was everso enthusiastic about DAB. I explained again that there was no DAB where I was going and so it was useless. Also if there was no MW then I couldn't listen to the baseball comentary so I needed that too. I got the feeling that I wasn't going to get very far with this after he showed me a model with analogue tuning. Yes a stick moving up and down the printed frequencies.

          It looked like it was a very cheap model to make and I asked if they had any analogue models with digital tuning. That required me to explain the difference between the two. After that he said that the one he'd already showed me and a much more expensive Roberts model again with analogue tuning were the only options. Having left empty handed I subsequently purchased a mint condition Sony ICF-SW100 on fleabay. This is the size of a casette box and does LW/MW/SW/FM takes two AAs which last ages. Since buying it I don't go away without it.

          1. Peter Mount

            Had one of those

            I had the ICF-SW100 when it first came out & was a brilliant little world band radio - up until I lent it to my father & broke it. Gah.

            These days I have an Eton G3 which is bigger but has similar battery life & slightly better SW coverage.

            In reserve there's the emergency radio that has a manual charger (literally a handle you turn to charge it).

            In both cases no way would DAB work & around here DAB signal is very poor

          2. MJI Silver badge

            I do like that radio.

            Nice!

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          if it's anything like mp3 file encoding and online streaming radio, how (well) it is encoded also makes a HUGE difference. artifacts just aren't tolerable.

        3. AlbertH

          DAB "Quality"

          The appalling reduction in bit rates, due to the greediness of OFCOM wanting to sell as many broadcast licences as possible, is a scandal. The fact that DAB was antiquated before it even started broadcasting (MP2 FFS) and that they wildly miscalculated the problems that would be caused by weak or multipath signals, means that it has never been fit for purpose.

          The early demonstration broadcasts of Radio 3 were reasonably good, and similar in quality to the FM service (though with more compression). Subsequent broadcasting on DAB has been a sad joke. The uptake of receivers for the first 18 years of the service was laughably small. The coverage around much of the UK is still abysmal.

          It's only the huge advertising push over the last few years that have actually persuaded the hoi polloi to part with their readies for new receivers. Sadly, when they get their shiny new DAB box home, it mostly remains switched to FM mode or relegated to a cupboard, because the DAB side of it just doesn't work.

          Since mobile data coverage on most networks is better than DAB coverage, and because 128kb/s MP3 sounds better in a car than the bubbling mud of DAB, that's where the listeners are going. Early last Autumn, I listened to the output of my on-line radio station all the way from Colchester to Turin (with a break in the Chunnel) using my mobile phone coupled to the car radio by bluetooth. There were a couple of dead spots in the wilds of rural France, but for the most part I got great reception.

          If I was listening on DAB, that simply wouldn't have been possible....

    2. nematoad Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Nope.

      Where I live DAB is a total flop. Living in a radio shadow means that everyone round here has to use Freesat or Sky. We have one mobile operator, EE and even smart meters struggle to work.

      So let Ofcom "force" people to DAB. We won't be moving unless Ofcom can overcome the laws of physics.

      1. Franco Silver badge

        Re: Nope.

        "even smart meters struggle to work........

        .....unless Ofcom can overcome the laws of physics."

        With my usual cynics hat on, I bet the laws of physics are no deterrent to either Ofcom or the utility providers, who are determined everyone will have a smart meter whether it works or not.

        I kind of want a James Doohan as Scotty icon for any posts concerning the laws of physics BTW.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Nope.

          Yeah come on El Reg, give us a "Ye cannae defy the law of physics, captain!" icon!

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Nope.

            this one tends to work -->>

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Nope.

          "I bet the laws of physics are no deterrent to either Ofcom or the utility providers, who are determined everyone will have a smart meter whether it works or not."

          Nor the laws of marketing - which makes it illegal for them to keep pushing the things when you tell them to stop, but they persist in doing so.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Nope.

        We won't be moving unless Ofcom can overcome the laws of physics.

        They should put a local transmitter / repeater up to cover your shadow.

    3. boltar Silver badge

      The problem is that DAB uses Band 3 VHF around 200Mhz which means you need more transmitters for a good signal than with FM on 100Mhz as its more easily absorbed by ground clutter and doesn't travel around obstacles as easily. Unfortunately it would appear that Ofcom think because DAB is digital the laws of physics don't apply so it doesn't need any extra TX.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        It was assumed (from early testing) that the signal would bounce around in urban areas a lot more than it actually does. I'm currently in a house with at least two foot thick stone walls. The FM signal is still listenable to inside the house for local and national stations. The DAB one requires the radio to be in a specific place with the aerial at a certain angle to guarantee reception.

        That to me isn't progress but it's down in part to the spacing of the transmitters. DAB ones have to be a certain distance apart to prevent interference between one and another on the same frequency. Along with that there's more restrictions on siting of masts etc. FM ones (especially the BBC ones) were planned those many years ago with precision to give the best possible coverage.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          "DAB ones have to be a certain distance apart to prevent interference between one and another on the same frequency"

          Yes, the single frequency network probably seemed like a good idea back in the 80s but I suspect it'll be a real boat anchor in the future with small scale DAB that requires > 1 TX site. Given how easy it is for computerised receivers to instantly change frequency (even FM RDS can manage it) its a 2nd rate solution to what is essentially now a non problem.

      2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        The bigger problem with DAB is while FM will degrade smoothly, to the point where although you are not getting HiFi sound quality (not a great issue with sport broadcasting anyway), DAB will just cut out leaving you with the dreaded cannot find station signal.

        In some ways DAB is a step forward, but in others it harks back to the days where you have to hunt a position for the aerial to pick up the best reception, normally located in the least easily accessible area in your house

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Round here the only chance we will have of decent DAB recepetion is if they start piggybacking on the Wifi Broadband popping around the place. So I could get to spend £500 having my car modded to DAB or I could just get the shit on the phone wifi.

      Probably 5 second earlier too.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "the DAB signal is patchy, even along major roads. "

      That's kinda what I was wondering about. I'm guessing that a digital signal will require Ghz frequencies instead of 100Mhz-ish frequencies (like cell phones, basically) and as such, are more line-of-sight than they are able to penetrate between things and around corners, into canyons, through tunnels, and so on.

      My question would've been "how well does it work when you drive through a tunnel". OK even AM can drop out in a long tunnel, but your average bridge or short tunnel won't affect it. FM is a bit more sensitive but generally I don't have problems receiving FM up to 20 or 30 miles from a station. In the USA the FM broadcast is ~88Mhz to ~108Mhz (I'm guessing it's different in the UK).

      We will no doubt continue having regular broadcast AM and FM here in the USA but the TV stations have all gone to digital. Antenna reception still works for the digital signals, but is occasionally 'iffy' and pretty much everybody uses satellite or cable anyway.. (and I don't plan on watching TV while I drive)

      AM has the advantage of world-wide propagation, almost as good as short wave. Stations have to turn the power down at sunset.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        In the USA for terrestrial digital radio* you have HDradio (aka IBOC which stands for in band on channel) and doesn't use the new frequencies. Instead it utilises the same frequency and adds the ability to let that station broadcast a Digital version of their FM or AM station. Also gives the ability for that station to broadcast extra channels in Digital. It also prevents new entrants which DAB supposedly allows. *Yes I know there is a terrestrial version of XMSirius for urban areas that don't get a good satellite signal. The National Association of Broadcasters lobbied the FCC against this as they were opposed to XM and Sirius to begin with. They saw it as a threat to their members and circled the wagons. When the local terrestrial relays were proposed they said they were opposed to them and that it proved how bad their technology was.

        1. AlbertH

          IBOC Calamity

          I've had the misfortune to have to work with the NAB's IBOC (In Band On Channel) digital mess. It turns a nice, clean simple FM signal into a cluttered, over-wide distorted mess. There are digital artefacts clearly audible to analogue listeners, and the IBOC receivers available to the general public are generally of rather poor quality. The big-name manufacturers never took IBOC seriously, and as the analogue FM signals are now seriously degraded by the IBOC mush, they're tending to take less interest in hi-fi analogue FM receivers as well.

          Everyone's moving to satellite (XM) or the interweb, and leaving the NAB to stew with their dreadful IBOC mess.

          Back in the early 80s, when I was engineering a major LA radio station, we added a system called "FMX". This used an enhanced stereo encoder at the transmitter, and added an extra quadrature subcarrier to the difference signal, so on a suitably equipped receiver, the improvement in received quality was remarkable. It virtually eliminated the "picket-fencing" effects of mobile reception, and most importantly, it remained entirely compatible with ordinary FM stereo (if you hadn't yet bought one of the enhanced receivers). FMX worked really well, but was killed off by apathy at the NAB (the "not invented here" problem) and by stupid Patent Law practitioners.

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        The UK FM band is the same as pretty much everywhere in the world; 88-108MHz

        DAB is around 220MHz, so nowhere near GHz. It even still counts as VHF.

  4. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Great timing...

    Commercial stations have already drastically reduced local content as Ofcom relaxed the rules.

    We're heading for the biggest economic depression in generations and advertising revenue is falling through the floor. If Ofcom is expecting queues around the block to invest in small local radio stations, it shows at least that their grasp of the broadcasting landscape is consistent.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Great timing...

      Not to mention allowing national amorphous blobs like Heart to absorb all of the local stations, rename them and then basically switch their output more and more to national networked shows, effectively closing down the local stuff completely.

      They nuked all the local breakfast and drivetime shows last year in favour of national rubbish, at which point I just gave up on them completely and tuned elsewhere.

      1. AlbertH

        Re: Great timing...

        Worse than that - Heart and the other conglomerates are doing away with actual radio presenters. The majority of their shows are now automated and "voice tracked" - it just comes squirting out of a computer. This is contributing to the rapid death of music radio in the UK - much as it has done in huge swathes of the USA.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Great timing...

      I ended up moving to local BBC on way to work.

      1. Mark 153

        Re: Great timing...

        Hey, I remember commuting, in them big metal boxes with the windows. Got one somewhere.

        Ah... outside. We'll tell our grandchildren about outside

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Great timing...

          My big metal box had a flat battery a few days ago.

          Got 14 windows though!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Great timing...

        Yes, I came here to mention that too. Despite the BBC cutting back on local content, eg amalgamating many of their local services in the evenings, they are about the only option in many areas for actual local radio these days. Most of the local commercial radio stations are in one of two or three national groups ownership and rarely have local content anymore.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great timing...

          BBC local radio...

          It always strikes me as a really unusual thing to see public information signs for BBC local stations alongside the motorways on trips down south, covering just one or a few counties.

          In Scotland, we only have one "local" (ie, national) BBC radio station (for each language community) covering the entire country. Likewise for Wales, and Northern Ireland (or somewhat politically inaccurately, "Ulster") has just one, but with the cagily named Radio Foyle in the northwest of the country...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Great timing...

            I must admit to finding it a bit weird driving over to, say, Glasgow, and listening to travel news for Aberdeen, Inverness or Edinburgh having driven over to Carlisle and up the A74M

            1. Franco Silver badge

              Re: Great timing...

              It is weird, but unfortunately it's (IME) the only option. I drive from Glasgow to Edinburgh every morning (when not on lockdown) and BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland travel reports are the best available (low hurdle to clear admittedly). The "local" stations are Radio Clyde and Radio Forth, who only ever seem to report on traffic issues actually in either Glasgow or Edinburgh respectively and not anywhere in between.

              That said, I did recently have a courtesy car as someone ran in to the back of me on the M8, and got good reception of Planet Rock on DAB all the way along the M8. Which was nice.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Great timing...

      ILR is now pretty shit.

      I remember the great days of local radio for local people, now all the local stations are clones of each other.

      I still remember a drive cross country and found 3 local radio stations playing same songs same order.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Great timing...

      I got OUT of radio work _30 years ago_ because local stations were dropping like flies and it was clear what was happening.

      Advertisers aren't stupid.

      They realised full well that newspaper ads barely work (only if you put the RIGHt ad in the RIGHT paper - a $20 ad in classifieds of one can get you hundreds of times more business than spending $2000 in spreads on another - even if the "another" is the daily local paper.

      They also realised back in the 80s that the only way radio advertising works is saturation low level coverage (installing memes, basically) and they WILL NOT pay top dollar for this. The standard situation was they'd agree a $50k campaign, realise it wasn't working and pay $5k, then offer $1k for maintenance at the same advertising level. What can a station do? Having a dearth of adverts is worse for business than having too many - potential advertisers hearing that decide the station has no listeners and stay away in droves (even if surveys show the station in question has more than 50% of the local listenership market of 8 stations - been there, seen that)

      There really is no money in local broadcasting, just as there is no money in being a musician. There are the very occasional lucky folk who win the lottery but for 99.999% of participants the only prize is a booby (ie, you get the girl).

  5. ClockworkOwl
    Mushroom

    The death of FM has been greatly exagerated...

    These articles always seem to take the same tone:

    DAB is killing FM!

    Which is patent nonsense, FM will continue even after the apocalypse means there's no one to listen any more.

    I like DAB, sure I only listen to 6 Music, but I don't have infinite listening time.

    I get a good signal out in the country, much better than cell signal, and the quality is excellent.

    YMMV however, it's still radio after all.

    Well I did mention apocalypse>

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: The death of FM has been greatly exagerated...

      Talking of apocalypse ...

      This https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-35020049

      Leads to this https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/blogs/lancaster-power-cuts-blog.pdf

      And the frank and honest post-mortem report https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/living-without-electricity which contains this priceless note :

      "Most of the local participants at the workshop said that they had listened to The Bay as their key news feed. It is perhaps ironic that, in a society with huge commitment to digital infrastructure, the most reliable source of news was a commercial station using technology that would have been familiar to the engineers on the 1960s Radio Caroline pirate radio ship."

  6. katrinab Silver badge

    A couple of points to note

    "Digital" listening numbers include people listening on all digital platforms, not just DAB, so that includes internet streaming which is what most people do, and DVB-A, where you listen to radio on your TV.

    When they say it has 90% coverage, it means they cover 90% of households. It doesn't include workplaces or roads, and that is where most people listen to radio.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: A couple of points to note

      And where FM, where it fails due to signal stregnth issues, fails gracefully... becoming noisier but still intelligible. As opposed to DAB, which fails as if the receiver has fallen into a bucket of boiling porridge.

      As I've pointed out previously - DAB was designed to be received by a moving receiver from many low power transmitters. Sadly, it never got the coverage in the UK it needed. Trying to receive it from a stationary antenna is always going to be a bit of a crapshoot if the signal is at all marginal.

      But even FM coverage is less than wonderful in places. For obvious reasons, the transmitter coverage is largely aimed at population centres... but people want to listen on the roads that join them. Most of the time that works, but (e.g.) the top end of the M6 is a bit under supplied with FM, as is most of non-urban Scotland.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: A couple of points to note

        "DAB, which fails as if the receiver has fallen into a bucket of boiling porridge."

        With DAB+ using AAC+ you don't even get that sort of warning before it dies - it just cuts out dead and you don't know for a few seconds if thats down to the station or a lack of signal. Its incredibly annoying and I can't stand it for more than a few minutes before I switch over.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A couple of points to note

          Are there actually any DAB+ stations broadcasting in the UK?

          The UK is unfortunate by being one of the earliest DAB adopters, meaning that there is a certain critical mass of digital radios out there that are only capable of handling DAB. I can't imagine that there is enough of a replacement cycle of digital radios (which aren't always particularly cheap to start with) for there to be an awful lot of DAB+ radios around yet?

          I used to listen to DAB radio a lot, with 5 Live and 6 Music being the "killer apps", but since I got an iPad, it's now just as, if not more, convenient to listen via my iPad and Bluetooth speakers instead.

          (Arguably the worst thing about DAB radios is actually an interface one: that they never carried forward the tuning dial controller; if you get bored with a station you could just dial up and down quickly until something took your fancy (which also had muscle memory benefits of knowing exactly how far to turn to reach particular stations), whereas with DAB you either have to clunk (very slowly) up and down the frequencies multiplex one step at a time, or clunk up and down the presets barely any faster (for some reason, relatively few DAB radios have individual preset buttons, only up or down))

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: A couple of points to note

            "Are there actually any DAB+ stations broadcasting in the UK?"

            There are now but they're mostly independent community or local stations though some of the large national players have started up niche services using it.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: A couple of points to note

            "meaning that there is a certain critical mass of digital radios out there that are only capable of handling DAB. "

            At some point they need to be declared Legacy and gone, just like analog TV and the first 3 iterations of FreeView receivers.

      2. John Sager

        Re: A couple of points to note

        DAB is useless where I live. I did re-cut an old Band III antenna which is up in the loft & connected into the house distribution system. It feeds just the bedside clock radio. On the road, FM is fine except along bits of the A303 in Wiltshire. The DAB on my wife's car is useless mostly.

        Agree with other commenters here about OFCOM. Their remit seems to be to do the government's bidding rather than representing spectrum users.

        1. Barrie Shepherd

          Re: A couple of points to note

          "Agree with other commenters here about OFCOM. Their remit seems to be to do the government's bidding rather than representing spectrum users."

          The problem, as I see it, is that the only 'spectrum users' that OFCOM understand are the ones paying them money, or potentially could be paying more money. Joe public is not considered a 'user' just a receiver!

          DAB in a moving vehicle is really annoying. The total cut out (which always occurs at some interesting part of the programme) During the drive (when I could), of the 2 miles to my local station there were 4 200m sections of the road where the signal always blanked out two at traffic lights where you are invariably stopped - so the only positive about DAB is that it is consistent. FM may get scratchy but it never just collapses in a heap of silence.

          My other gripe is that the DAB broadcasters do not support TA (Traffic Alerts) - something very useful when on a long journey.

          In a domestic setting DAB's processing delays, in different suppliers equipment, means that it is no longer possible to have the radio on in two or three rooms at a time as they are all out of sync.

          The DAB signal is more sensitive to local movement, short term fading and multi-path reflection because it is not from 'many local transmitters' but, in my case, is from a mast on a hill 30 odd miles away.

          .....and don't get me going on general DAB audio quality...........

          Rant over!

      3. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

        Re: A couple of points to note

        Came in to say much the same...

        Had to replace my car recently and the new one has DAB/FM unit (with other cruft) and I have been able to do some direct comparisons since I have a fairly limited driving experience at the moment. Living on the edge of a failry large town and curving round the top to get to a supermarket.

        DAB - regular 5-20 seconds gaps as it reminds itself what I was listening to

        FM - 2 spots on the route where I get interference passing some electrical distribution stuff but listenable from switch on to switch off

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: A couple of points to note

          I recently drove around some cliff areas on the south of the Isle of Wight (St.Boniface Down I think). I lost the FM signal from the local IWRadio, but was able to listen to a perfect signal from a French station.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: A couple of points to note

      They had to make it Digital as opposed to DAB listening as the indicator. This is because we could be into the next century before DAB listening got to the same stage. I know people who've gone back to FM when the DAB radio has died or the reception failed once too often and they've not gone back to DAB.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    London Live

    A couple of years back, for a while, I actually watched London Live rather regularly: they were showing a rerun of Green Wing. :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: London Live

      Is London Live the source of the London New Year's Day parade broadcast?

      We discovered that parade here in the States a few years ago and look forward to it each January.

      Anonymous because clearly this is not adequately highbrow to enhance my standing in the commentard universe.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: London Live

      On London Live I have been watching old films that I wouldn't get anywhere else. Most of them I've enjoyed, but now I've seen all of them they are still being repeated, about 12 films.

      There is also a London Boroughs thing where a local talks about the history of an area, quite interesting.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: London Live

        @werdsmith: if you like old films, try "Talking Pictures TV" (https://talkingpicturestv.co.uk/) available on Freeview, Freesat, Virgin and Sky according to their website. It has lots of old TV series too (and when I say old, I mean black and white!)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

    It initially used a very old codec, and sound quality is just not good enough. Techmoan has a very good video about it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27w3quNTP84

    1. ClockworkOwl

      Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

      Sorry, but I don't have that experience in real life.

      Not even close, and I've got a cheap "personal" DAB and live out of the way.

      I agree, if coverage is poor that's one thing, but in general the quality of sound is very good...

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

        > in general the quality of sound is very good

        As long as you are deaf in one ear or only listen lbc or talk radio, like me.

        1. ClockworkOwl
          Facepalm

          Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

          Utter nonsense,

          I listen to 6 music, through an amp and good speakers, you can't do that with FM without some serious noise reduction.

          Did you know, DAB is just like 5G, gives you <insert latest bug here>>

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

            I listen to BBC R4 and there is no need for audiophile perfection.

            Same in the car, even with music. Striving for perfect audio quality against the sound of engines, tyres and A-pillar wind noise is just a little bit daft.

    2. dave 81

      Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

      Thanks, saved me the need to comment this. Dab is just many channels of low quality crap. Long live FM.

      And why is no one talking about DRM like used in europe?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

        But you're criticising the policy there, not the technicalness!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

        "And why is no one talking about DRM like used in europe?"

        More to the point, when multiband DAB/DAB+/DRM receivers are ubiqutous throughout the world, WHY THE FUCK are companies still pushing overpriced underperforming DAB-only receivers in the UK?

        Ah yes. British bulldogs, Quality British Designs, Rule Brittania! Empire forever Huzzah!

        (Meantime the likes of Dyson are laughing up their sleeves from their British company base in Singapore....)

        1. AlbertH

          Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

          I ran a DRM (Digitale Radio Mondiale) pirate on shortwave for a few years late last century and early this....

          We were pleasantly surprised by the global reach of our 800W signal on ~6.4 MHz day time and ~13.6MHz night. We had almost zero listeners in the UK (we were coming from the Irish Republic), but plenty throughout the rest of Europe.....

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

      I have impaired hearing and digital noise can make some things unlistenable.

      Funny, my hearing is going and I need a better quality output.

      Worst on our IP phone system at work. It is named after a digger.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

        "Worst on our IP phone system at work.'

        Nothing wrong with your phone system, just a crap network and implementation.

        Pretty every IP system supports g711a/u which is better than a regular POTS.

        Think CD (g711) Vs MP3 (compressed and lossy).

      2. Steve K Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

        is named after a digger.

        Rupert Murdoch?

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

          Yellow ones one of their most popular models has a IP phone system named after them.

          A cousin has a digger, work has the phone system.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

            "A cousin has a digger, work has the phone system."

            Can your cousin's device introduce itself to the work ones?

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

              He lives and works in Cornwall, so about 250 miles away.

              And his digger is slow.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: DAB is terrible quality due to low bitrates

                "And his digger is slow."

                Oh good, that's the best kind for those phone systems.

                (cue steamroller scene from Austin Powers)

  9. xpz393

    Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

    It's not surprising there has been a "meh" attitude from the general public towards DAB, considering that the vast majority of the UK's Radio stations still broadcast on legacy DAB's lossy and cumbersome MPEG-1 format from the 1980s. On a decent receiver, music often sounds hollow/tinny compared to FM. When driving, the complete loss of audio vs. FM just getting a bit crackly from time-to-time is particularly frustrating.

    There was a reasonable fix announced in the mid-00s, but progress has been painfully slow in the UK.

    What's commonly referred to as DAB+ in the UK uses a much more efficient codec (a variant of AAC IIRC?). At the right bitrate, music will sound much closer to the depth of FM quality, and the much improved error correction should reduce the frequency of signal-drops whilst driving or in a low-reception area. Another bonus is it's much more spectrum-efficient. A 48kbps stereo stream on DAB+ should sound better than a 128kbps stream on legacy DAB.

    As a working (but still rare) example, Global Radio recently switched some of their DAB 80kbps MONO stations to DAB+ 40kbps STEREO stations. The station I regularly listen to now sounds *much* better, and several of the spots I drive through which consistently used to drop the signal no longer do. This is on the same car stereo as I was using before they switched.

    So, for a better end-user experience, and a more efficient use of spectrum available for digital radio, I believe a full DAB to DAB+ migration must be achieved before FM is switched off (if ever).

    1. hittitezombie

      Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

      Great, so my now-quite-old-but-works-perfectly 1st Gen Pure Evoke-1 will be obsolete?

      Since the wide-band FM standard came out there has been only one generation of it - an FM radio from 60s work perfectly even now. Unless the radios are patchable and upgreadable, changing protocols every decade is going to piss off a lot of people.

      You should read on FM radio when they switched to stereo and not to piss off anyone w/o a stereo unit, and how incompatible upgrade to FM radio failed.

      1. xpz393

        Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

        I can sympathise as I also had a 1st-Gen Pure which can no longer receive the stations which recently migrated from DAB to DAB+

        A cracking little set which has served me well, and it annoys me that Pure didn't include end-user-upgradable firmware in our particular radios; an oversight which for most “digital” equipment would ensure future obsolescence.

        The good news though, is that some DAB radio manufacturers do seem to have learned from their previous mistakes and have evolved. Whilst our 15yr+ old 1st-gen Pure sets are sadly destined for the electronic waste pile, I was able to firmware-upgrade an approx. 10yr old PURE radio to enable DAB+, and do the same for a similar-age Roberts radio used by my parents.

        In more recent years (about 7 years ago I think?) the leading DAB manufacturers committed to supplying all new DAB radios with DAB+ compatibility built in, ready to go. Google “DAB Digital Tick” if you’re interested in reading more.

        I think (hope) that you, me and the other early adopters of DAB will be in the minority of folks who end up with an obsolete radio once stations fully migrate to DAB+. On the flip-side of the coin, the majority of DAB listeners, whose existing equipment can already support DAB+, will at last benefit from the much improved service.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

          The good news though, is that some DAB radio manufacturers do seem to have learned from their previous mistakes and have evolved. ... I was able to firmware-upgrade an approx. 10yr old PURE radio to enable DAB+ ...

          it depend son how the system was built.

          In the early days they would have had silicon to do the bulk of the "number crunching" for the simple reason that processors with the horsepower to do it would have been a) expensive and b) power hungry. However, roll forward a decade or two, and what once could only realistically be done in hardware, is now just a background task to a modern small processor.

          Hardware carefully built to do the old DAB can't be upgraded - but if it's a later model and it's been done in software, then within reason it can be. And brownie points to manufacturers that are prepared to offer updates for something sold more than 5 minutes ago.

      2. Pete 39

        Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

        Actually the FM standard has been modified at least twice, but each was backwards compatible with the the earlier standards. The initial standard was mono, stereo multiplexing was added, and later RDS was added. Each enhancement carefully avoiding interference with each other and in particular with the original and still present mono component.

        1. xpz393

          Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

          I didn't know that, Pete 39 - backwards compatibility, where possible, does generally give the best of both worlds or at least eases transition for the majority of end-users/customers.

          I guess it could be argued that the <10yr old DAB radios which already support DAB+, even if the customer isn't currently using it, is a form of backwards compatibility. The morning after RadioX was moved from DAB to DAB+, I was quite pleasantly surprised that it "just worked" on my in-car radio. I was expecting to have to re-scan or re-select the station at the very least.

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

            most FM radios do a lovleyt fallback mode in low signal areas, going from RDS to Stereo to Mono to maintain a good signal fix.

            DAB as with digitial music will never be better than an top analogue signal (due to sampling) but the range of signal that you get a decent reception with DAB is greater, but it doesnt have the fallback lower bitrate modes, so once you lose enough samples you just get nothing.

            DAB+ has cut down on the blackspots but there are still some, and in the wierdest of places. With the rolling out of 4G network sharing in blackspot areas, and the increase in reliable coverage, wideband audio over LTE will probably be more available.

            1. Barrie Shepherd

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              "With the rolling out of 4G network sharing in blackspot areas, and the increase in reliable coverage, wideband audio over LTE will probably be more available."

              It is hardly efficient use of emerging 4/5 G spectrum/coverage to have hundreds of cars driving around streaming multiple radio stations. And then there would be the cost in network charges to the users.

              I would also hazard a guess that it would be impossible, irrespective of fill in stations and site sharing occurred, to be able to hold a audio stream while travelling down a motorway for 1 hour or so.

              Perhaps OFCOM could consider the value of the DAB spectrum if it were used for 5G - and leave FM alone but release licenses for narrow band FM for those broadcasters who don't need stereo or audio quality outside of the 300 Hz - 4 kHz telephony specs?

              1. John Sager

                Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

                That's an argument for IP multicast, which hasn't taken off as most ISPs don't seem to support it.

              2. JimboSmith Silver badge

                Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

                DAB+ has cut down on the blackspots but there are still some, and in the wierdest of places. With the rolling out of 4G network sharing in blackspot areas, and the increase in reliable coverage, wideband audio over LTE will probably be more available.

                How many billions (it's probably close to two now) have been spent on DAB to reach this stage! Now you come along and say you're going to listen over 4G/5G. Well that's one of the reasons they had to make it Digital Listening as opposed to DAB Listening (see other post). There was always a worry in the industry that a newer technology would come along and make DAB obsolete. 4G and now 5G might be it.

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

                  > Well that's one of the reasons they had to make it Digital Listening as opposed to DAB Listening (see other post)

                  You mean apart from the realisation in the mid-late 2000s that the vast majority of "digital listening" was happening over Freeview and Sky decoder boxes, not DAB - mostly because of the better audio quality offered

                  (IIRC in 2010 DAB only accounted for about 25% of "digital listening". The percentage is likely to be even lower now. There is absolutely no incentive whatsoever for any broadcaster to use it)

              3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

                "I would also hazard a guess that it would be impossible, irrespective of fill in stations and site sharing occurred, to be able to hold a audio stream while travelling down a motorway for 1 hour or so."

                You would be utterly incorrect in that guess..... (from experience)

            2. Wilseus

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              "DAB as with digitial music will never be better than an top analogue signal (due to sampling)"

              Not true. A sampled signal is capable of perfect reproduction of the original analogue signal, provided it was encoded correctly and the sample rate is high enough.

              1. AlbertH

                Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

                "DAB as with digitial music will never be better than an top analogue signal (due to sampling)"

                Not true. A sampled signal is capable of perfect reproduction of the original analogue signal, provided it was encoded correctly and the sample rate is high enough.

                That's largely true. Unfortunately DAB - and even CD - is hamstrung by their ancient heritage!

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              RDS isn't audio. It's a very low speed data stream embedded in the broadcast using a second subcarrier and is how you get the details of what songs is being broadcast and when radios should switch to the TA channel.

          2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

            Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

            That would be forwards compatibility

            1. xpz393

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              Ha - yes, I think you're right there DuncanLarge :-D

        2. AlbertH

          Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

          Further - the enhancement to FM back in the 80s was FMX. This also retained compatibility with mono and stereo legacy receivers, but gave improved stereo reception - particularly when mobile - for people who invested in the improved FMX-capable receivers. A great, simple system enhancement killed off by apathy at the NAB.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

        "so my now-quite-old-but-works-perfectly 1st Gen Pure Evoke-1 will be obsolete?"

        My _quite expensive_ freeview box suffered the same fate when extra channels were added and no one said a peep (pretty much the entire first generation of FV boxes stopped working when that happened, which for people who'd spent £2-500 quid was more than irritating and for those who'd "only" spent £80 was still irritating)

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

          "My _quite expensive_ freeview box"

          Pace Twin PVR?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

            "Pace Twin PVR?"

            No, one of the early SetPals

            https://www.frequencycast.co.uk/freeviewlandfill.html

            It had spent most of the previous 5 years playing 6music, so wasn't much missed.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              It seems "rather strange" that there's so much resistance to moving to DAB+ because it will stop all those ancient DAB-only radios from working

              It certainly didn't stop Ofcom allowing Freeview to blast past 30 channels, making around 10 times more Freeview boxes stop working.

            2. MJI Silver badge

              Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

              You were lucky mine cost me £350 and the manufacturers didn't care. Also it was 8K which killed it. I know it is less than 10 years ago as I already had my Humax HDR.

              Anyway I stripped out the HDD and parked on it and sent a copy to Pace.

              They know I have blacklisted their goods for life.

              I can list companies I have had good service from, Pace ain't one.

              What was worst was that it was hardware compatible with 8K but software wasn't after a few phone calls I got through to someone high up who admitted they had let go the programmers and abandoned the product completely.

              My simple advice now for PVRs is this.

              Does it have HUMAX written on it?

              Humax specialise in TV receivers for the consumer.

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

      THere are a number of problems with DAB+

      - WHen the signal goes it doesn't go gracefully like FM or even bubble a bit like DAB, it just dies suddenly and completely which is incredibly irritating.

      - Yes AAC+ sounds far better than MPEG for the same bitrate, but most broadcasters still use the lowest bitrate they can get away with which usually ends up sounding just as bad as low bitrate MPEG IMO.

      - There is a massive installed base of DAB only receivers and a mass switch to DAB+ would simply see listeners fleeing back to FM as its unlikely they'd fork out for yet more equipment after being told DAB was the way of the future. Once bitten etc....

    3. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

      Woo hoo! So DAB has moved to stereo huh?

      Welcome to the 1970's!

      (snark not aimed at you xpz393, but rather at the purveyors of DAB...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

        Stations broadcasting in mono, or 32kbps are no more the fault of the "purveyors of DAB" than it's the fault of video technology that "Nebraska" was released in black-and-white.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Complete the migration to DAB+ before faffing with FM

          My point is that we're being pushed towards a technology that is only recently coming up to the standard of the other services we already have.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many problems

    MANY PROBLEMS

    * DAB radios don’t last and are very expensive - a cheap FM radio lasts forever and costs very little

    * a little signal degradation and DAB is unusable - on fm you get a little static with no interruption

    * coverage already mentioned above - why would a consumer pay more to change to something that is worse?

    1. Down not across

      Re: Many problems

      * battery life - you can run portabale FM radio ages on set of batteries, try that with DAB...

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Many problems

        ^ THIS ^

        At least 1000 x

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Many problems

        Oh don't get me started....explained to someone once whya DAB radio was likely to be more power hungry:

        The DAB radio always needs a powered display to show you what station you're listening to.

        It has to decode the entire Mux and then find the station you're listening to and output that.

        Please let me know when they can do all of that and use less power than an analogue radio.

      3. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Many problems

        * battery life - you can run portabale FM radio ages on set of batteries, try that with DAB...

        I have a little Roberts Gemini 49. It has rechargeable AA batteries which recharge in situ. Then it will play DAB for 24 hours continuously. It's very old, 2006 I think. I'm sure newer ones are better.

        Of course a charge would work for longer on FM only (it can do this because it has FM), but I really don't need it to. I can't remember the last time I plugged it in to charge. It has a 3 inch speaker, so I'm not bothered about highs and lows and mid ranges. It's DAB advantage is simplicity and not having to know a frequency to get an RDS name for a station. That's it.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Many problems

          "I have a little Roberts Gemini 49. It has rechargeable AA batteries which recharge in situ. Then it will play DAB for 24 hours continuously. "

          I had AM pocket radios in the 1970s which would run for a WEEK to a month on a pair of AA batteries.

          This is the advance of technology?

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Many problems

      In Finland, people are encouraged to have some battery-powered radio at home, for getting announcements and news in case of the WW3, zombie apocalypse or other disasters. We don't have DAB at all (it was tried for a year or two, then discontinued as nobody was listening), so I have a little Sony FM + shortwave radio that runs for days on two AA batteries.

      What is the actual duration you can use a modern battery-powered DAB? (or how many batteries you would have to stockpile for a week of listening in your bunker?)

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Many problems

        Surely in Finland, bunker == sauna?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Many problems

        "What is the actual duration you can use a modern battery-powered DAB?"

        Using your example of two AA batteries, probably about 10 minutes :-)

        1. ClockworkOwl
          Go

          Re: Many problems

          Actually, my 15 year old Phillips DAB runs off 2 AA batteries for about 12 hours. It also recharges rechargables from the wall wart, if you use them...

        2. Hairy Scary

          Re: Many problems

          Got the meter out and measured the current drawn by some sets, readings taken with volume down, Bush TR82 LW/MW, 8mA, General Electric AM/FM (on FM), 20mA, new Lloytron "analogue" AM/FM, 65mA, Technika FM/DAB on FM 176mA.

          The reason the Lloytron is so high is that it isn't a standard AM/FM circuit, it is using a single digital chip (SDR?) as the receiver and that chip draws 60mA on it's own -- the other 5 is the audio amp chip. Oh, and the performance is crap. It struggles to receive anything on FM, AM isn't much better it belonged to a friend and wouldn't work in his area at all.

          I find DAB pretty useless here, with a good FM set I can receive local stations from all over the country, the DAB set only allows me the national ones. I am in a good reception area (I can see the mast the DAB muxes come from) so should be able to get more than that. I wonder if it's down to something I read on Ofcom's site a while ago ---- DAB robustly enforces copyright, you shall not listen to a station not intended for your designated area.

          How does that work? does the set actually block reception of local stations not intended for my area? I live out in the sticks so probably not in any designated area for DAB local stations -- the nearest city is 25 miles away.

          It would seem stupid if that is the case as I can simply stream any station I want so how should copyright come into it on DAB?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I, and I'm sure many other people, listen to radio mostly in my car. When I can easily get a replacement DAB radio, and aerial, which don't require expensive custom fitting, and which will reliably pick up a signal along most major roads, maybe then they should start to think about getting rid of FM.

  12. Steve K Silver badge

    Why National for a station called "London Live"

    London Live managed to reach a whopping 1.47 per cent of the UK's total...

    I don't listen to the radio anyway, but I don't think that a local station called "London Live" would be looking to get a high % of the UK total, but rather a % of the London population (being its local target audience) surely? Simplistically this would be 9/66 of the UK population?

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Why National for a station called "London Live"

      London IS the whole country.

      Have you not been following government policy for the past 50 years?

    2. David Nash

      Re: Why National for a station called "London Live"

      The actual quote from the article is " 1.47 per cent of the UK's total potential viewers"

      and I read "potential" as "London".

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Why National for a station called "London Live"

      Local TV stations were the brainchild of everybodiy's favourite misspoken politician Jeremy Hunt. It was his vanity project at the DCMS and supposed to be leave a legacy. The odd thing is a lot of people said to him that there wasn't enough advertising and likely viewers to make these work. So he decided to top slice the license fee to pay for starting them up and support them as they got on their feet. People still said that this won't help as it doesn't solved the advertisers/viewrs problem. The stations will just run out of money once the BBC cash dries up. This is exactly what happened and stations are being bought by larger groups or folding.

    4. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Why National for a station called "London Live"

      London Live gets out a very long way beyond London, if you have an antenna pointed at the Crystal Palace transmitter then beyond Cambridge.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Why National for a station called "London Live"

      Because London Live paid for it. Simples.

  13. Steve Todd

    The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

    The newer standard fixes the weaknesses of DAB by:

    1) Adding Reed-Solomon ECC code to correct reception errors

    2) Moving to the AAC CODEC rather than the antiquated MP2 format used by DAB.

    The newer standard was released in 2007, so most sets made in the last 10 years should support it. Using the improvements to pack even more channels into the bit stream will however undo the advantages.

    1. Barrie Shepherd

      Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

      "Using the improvements to pack even more channels into the bit stream will however undo the advantages."

      Which is what will happen (Digital TV being an example) so we will be no better off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

        I stopped watching TV when the quality looked worse than 140p on Youtube while drunk and steaming my face with a coffee.

        Though HD would have probably improved it, very few channels used it well, and I eventually gave up for other content (streaming and just plain going outside).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

          I gaved up terrestrial TV many many years ago. Seeing even HD terrestrial/freesat TV a few months ago on a largish TV, I couldn't believe how bad they were...

          And some of those cheap "filler" channels, like shopping and music channels... You're right, more like bad 140p youtube.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

            "I gaved up terrestrial TV many many years ago."

            Yup. finally took the old TV off the wall after realising I hadn't looked at a terrestrial broadcast for more than five years and was only using it as a Kodi display. Put a better quality monitor in its place and some decent speakers.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

      so most sets made in the last 10 years should support it

      You'd think so, but just like analogue TV, I think you'll find DAB only sets were still being sold well into that period. Round here (in Winter Hill territory where we had our digital switchover fairly early on) they were still selling analogue only TVs when we had no analogue TV to watch. Cue people buying TVs that were on sale, only to find they had to go back and buy a separate box to make it work.

      The ONLY way they'd get universal adoption of DAB+ capable sets would be to do what the French did to get universal adoption of SCART - make it illegal to sell a set without it. Even then, it would need a couple of decades (or more) before most old sets (e.g. the ones with four wheels attached) were suitably upgraded.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

        How do you think we got to the level of DAB sales that we did? Basically by not having analogue radios on sale on the high street with digital tuning. You can still buy analogue radios but only with analogue tuning. Thereby encouraging people to buy DAB sets instead. Also encouraging staff to push DAB sets over analogue ones. So Dixons Retail Group staff were offered the chance to win a car. From memory they had to sell the most DAB radios to win. I remember being in a meeting when this was first brought up. I said that was a bit interesting given the propensity for their staff had ('encouraged' by management) for pushing extended warranties. I was told that this was a good way of pushing DAB. I said it was likely to mean people were sold a DAB radio whatever they actually wanted.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

          'Basically by not having analogue radios on sale on the high street with digital tuning.You can still buy analogue radios but only with analogue tuning"

          Eh? Not sure what you're on about.

          Yes analogue dial are common, but not the only option

          https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/audio-and-headphones/audio/radios/groov-e-paris-gv-dr03-bk-portable-radio-black-10202089-pdt.html

          And that ignores all the clock radios

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. JimboSmith Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

            Eh? Not sure what you're on about.

            Yes analogue dial are common, but not the only option

            https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/audio-and-headphones/audio/radios/groov-e-paris-gv-dr03-bk-portable-radio-black-10202089-pdt.html

            And that ignores all the clock radios

            Sorry to burst your bubble but that's not an AM/FM radio. It has DAB/FM and has no MW. There is the odd FM radio that has digital tuning which I've found (as you say) is normally a clock radio.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

        And many early DVB-T devices and also some early Freeview only devices would not work after switchover.

        A pox on you Pace for your complete lack of support of your Freeview kit. The loan dodgybox had fried itself years before and the first generation TV was already with a new owner after a new TV (I think that may have been fixable but I sold it at 10 years old before switchover). But I lost 2 DVB-T devices due to no support from Pace.

  14. HmYiss

    Ofcom = radio doomed.

    EOL.

  15. John H Woods Silver badge

    Never listen to it...

    I have a DAB radio in my car, but I find I often get better results streaming, live or podcast, over 4G. The UK was a pioneer with this tech but we got stuck in a rut, and as a result battery powered DAB radios are a joke because the codec is too power hungry and bitrates are awful because apparently we'd prefer to have thousands of stations with barely distinguishable content than tens with high fidelity audio.

  16. Totally not a Cylon
    Trollface

    Simples

    OFCOM can buy everyone a DAB+ Radio either for their car or home, which has equal function to what they currently use and then they can turn off analogue (British spelling).

    Oh, and its all at the expense of the Board who want to turn off analogue, not the taxpayer......

    Plus provide their personal number for when the system doesn't work...............

  17. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Now that DAB radio covers 90 per cent of the UK and listening via digital platforms accounts for 52 per cent of all listening

    This looks like another one of those statistics that's measured by population count rather than land mass, so is massively skewed by big cities with lots of people.

    I have a DAB receiver built into my car (2018 model) and have tried listening on DAB in preference to FM but it just doesn't work. In quite a lot of places, if DAB is available at all then it's only the BBC stations - the commercial ones (I'm a big fan of Planet Rock) just don't get transmitted from some masts.

    And head further north....on a recent trip in Scotland there were places where I could hardly get FM, never mind DAB. Obviously, in places like that mobile data coverage is GPRS at best, so online listening isn't a viable option either.

    Long live FM say I...although I am of an age where I still occasionally refer to radio as "the wireless" and remember talking about "VHF and medium wave" rather than "FM and AM".

    1. Jess--

      Sod VHF and MW, give me back my Atlantic 252 on LW

      1. Steve K Silver badge
        Coat

        Bah

        What's wrong with Morse Code ?-t works at a low (but variable) bit rate for talk radio! Tricky for phone-ins though.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Bah

          Works perfectly well with CW on the 40m amateur band, I can tell you.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Bah

            "Works perfectly well with CW on the 40m amateur band, I can tell you."

            I'll see your CW and raise you 5kW apiece on 6 transmitters running between 3MHz and 19MHz (marine weather broadcasts) - those were the days, noisy fans and a steady rumble until a rat decided to chew on the 13kVDC wiring occasionally (hint: they explode, scraping cases down is smelly)

            </oldfartmode>

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Bah

              Excellent. Mine is 5W QRP.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        so most sets made in the last 10 years should support it ...

        Funny, I was thinking that just a minute ago. One of the things I need DAB for is to get the cricket (Test Match Special - though it won't be the same without Blowers) on 5L SX, considering that I don't have anything with LW on it any more to listen on R4. I do recall using the ADF in the plane once tuned to it's lowest setting of 200kHz (near enough to 198) to listen to TMS :-)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "And head further north....on a recent trip in Scotland there were places where I could hardly get FM, never mind DAB. Obviously, in places like that mobile data coverage is GPRS at best, so online listening isn't a viable option either."

      I drive. A lot. Have done for 25 years. Right back at the start, I realised that most so-called music stations have quite small play lists that repeat throughout the day. The first solution was a portable CD player which could also play MP3 from data disks using a fake cassette adapter pushed into the car stereo tape unit. Then it was portable MP3 players, same adapter. Later cars had a 3.5mm AUX jack input avoiding the adapter. Later still came onboard USB ports and I just plug in a USB stick. Current car also has a couple of GB onboard storage you can fill from a USB device as well as playing from the USB stick. Another device I had at one time was a small cigar lighter FM transmitter with 3.5mm audio input jack. I also had a dash mounted small DAB radio that plugged into it, leaving the radio AUX input for the MP3 player.

      There are many and creative options to get the car stereo to play your choice of audio so long you have a car radio capable of working with FM.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        My last car had.

        MD head unit with FM and stuff

        CD Changer with MP3 compatability

        Amp

        But the kit ain't compatible with current.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Right back at the start, I realised that most so-called music stations have quite small play lists that repeat throughout the day."

        A-rotate, B rotate, etc etc.

        The psychology of what gets played when and how often was always rather interesting and gave far more insight into the heads of program directors than listener preferences (you can tell which stations are listener focussed and which ones are being controlled from top to bottom by sales dweebs)

  18. SVV Silver badge

    Needs a big rethink

    Spotify and other wifi radio station streaming have made it look a bit like a trend whose time came and went. To me it has almost become a bit of a naff cliche : the unnecessarily expensive fake bakelite retro 1940s style "wireless" tuned permanently to Radio 4 in millions of middle class kitchens.

    The horrid local commercial radiio stations, where musically it is still and always will be the mid 1980s are not going to succeed by moving away from their solidly FM listeners. No, we need to reimagine the use of digital radio.....

    I know : bin DAB, bring in DCB. Yes digital citizens band radio can now succeed where the analogue original failed in what was then still a rather socially reserved country. A citizenry now entirely used to broadcasting inane crap about themselves on social media platforms all day long could take the principle into the local randomsphere and jabber away mindlessly with an endless array of other such likeminded folk..

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Needs a big rethink

      That already exists

      https://www.pscp.tv/

      and there's Tik Tok,Twitch, YouTube and plenty of others.

    2. teebie

      Re: Needs a big rethink

      "a trend whose time came and went."

      I'm not sure DAB's time ever came

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Needs a big rethink

      bin DAB, bring in DCB. Yes digital citizens band radio can now succeed where the analogue original failed in what was then still a rather socially reserved country

      ---

      AM CB in the UK absolutely boomed when it was illegal. As soon as we got legal FM around 10 metres it died a death. Of course, if you want digital CB then just get on of the network radios already available by companies like Inrico. No license required. WiFi or cell network SIM.

      Licensed Amateurs have digital modes, basically DMR as the independent and then a whole load of practically incompatible manufacturer ones. Like Yaesu Fusion and ICOM D-Star. You can connect a tiny handheld to a "hotspot" on your broadband, and talk to the entire world, using RF at mW power over a distance of a few metres. It's very busy at the moment with people discussing lock downs in their various countries.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Needs a big rethink

      "the unnecessarily expensive fake bakelite retro 1940s style "wireless" tuned permanently to Radio 4 in millions of middle class kitchens."

      Oops, rumbled.. <Covers webcam with a Post-It note>

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Needs a big rethink

      "Spotify and other wifi radio station streaming have made it look a bit like a trend whose time came and went."

      In countries where royalties are paid, the likes of Spotify cost subscription money and/or have frequent adverts injected. Unless one has an unlimited data plan and/or never travels outside of urban areas, it's not reliable whilst on the move.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Needs a big rethink

        Not sure I agree ... I seem get better 4G coverage on uk main roads than I do with DAB. Maybe the buffering is better. I stream Spotify at Extreme Quality and I still never even approach my monthly limit - I think I'd have to do about 20 days solid to breach it. Even if you are frugal and drop to 80kpbs it still sounds better than DAB.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Ofcom not thinking - as usual

    FM can be received on simple low cost equipment with long battery life. (For years Poundland sold FM radios with earphones for £1.) DAB radios are much more complex, costly and power hungry. FM radio reception is built into many phones (provided that wired earphones are used - the phone uses the earphone wire as the aerial). In areas with low signal strength DAB fails completely but FM degrades more gracefully. Many cars on the road have FM radios not DAB.

    The only reason for Ofcom to want to push for the end of FM broadcasting is that they hope to sell DAB broadcasting licenses.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Ofcom not thinking - as usual

      Yes, the Tin-Niks are DAB/FM receivers with earphones that are smaller than 5cm. Still quite expensive and a full charge will last twice as long on FM as on DAB. Though I suspect nobody would test that using those awful headphones.

      But way back, a radio could be made for pennies with a cat's whisker and used zero power apart from what it could extract from the RF it was receiving. Is heterodyning and amplification progress over that?

      Of course it is.

    2. Getmo

      Re: Ofcom not thinking - as usual

      As a 'murican reader, we don't have DAB, I assume at first there was some technical reason for it trying to kill FM? E.g. we just recently (well, 2009) forced over-the-air TV broadcasts to switch to digital only, to free up the 700 MHz band to be auctioned off, and now we're starting to see some of the "low-band" 5G towers making use of the space, even though nobody has the phones that can talk to them yet.

      However it sounds like they don't have any planned use for the FM spectrum afterwards? If so, why kill it... as others already noted, FM works great, broad coverage, backwards compatible, power efficient, and you can prob build a working receiver from a tin can and some wire. The radio in my garage I got from my father is literally older than me, still works great. In fact I just bought 2 new FM radios, one is a portable waterproof radio for the shower, and the rechargeable battery lasts over a week. Hell, I'm even investing in more FM equipment for a home automation project, if they tried to take FM away from me I'd go mad...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Ofcom not thinking - as usual

        " I assume at first there was some technical reason for it trying to kill FM?"

        FM stereo+RDS has a bandwidth of over 200kHz per station. Even "mere" FM stereo is 165kHz, whilst broadcast AM is 12kHz per station - you can drop that to 9kHz (and your power requirements by 85%) using SSB, but SSB receivers are pricey and fiddly, or you can bring it down to 1-2kHz using bitstreams

        The _original_ intent was greater station density in the allocated band, allowing more local broadcasters

        It didn't work out that way thanks to messers Heath-Robinson, Rube-Goldberg and the control-freak desires of various civil servants coupled with attempts to "control" what people are listening to (who forget what the last part of that appellation means)

        Meantime, most of the SW broadcasters have moved to digital (Digital Radio Mondiale - aka DRM, not that rights management abomination)

        The USA has "digital AM/FM" broadcasting (some AM broadcast band transmitters are using DMR30, some FM band transmitters are using variants on HDR subcarriers to remain standalone whilst still sending out a nominal analog signal.

        https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/drm-recommends-drm30-for-fccs-am-revitalization

        Then there's all the satellite broadcasters. Sirius, XM, etc (the UK version is Freesat radio)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_radio#United_States

    3. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Ofcom not thinking - as usual

      "The only reason for Ofcom to want to push for the end of FM broadcasting is that they hope to sell DAB broadcasting licenses"

      And the government thinks it can sell off the FM band. Of course the politicos are too dumb to realise that a 20Mhz wide band is next to useless for modern digital coms except 2 way taxi/bus type TX and , err, broadcasting. So almost no one will be interested plus the minute the legit stations leave FM the pirates will pile in and take it over anyway.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Ofcom not thinking - as usual

        "Of course the politicos are too dumb to realise that a 20Mhz wide band is next to useless for modern digital coms except 2 way taxi/bus type TX and , err, broadcasting."

        Funnily enough, New Zealand spend 20 years (starting in the early 1980s) VACATING the 2way radio stuff that had been using the 80-110MHz band since 1946 to make way for FM broadcasters.

        A compelling reason was that from the 1970s onwards FM pirates kept wiping out chunks of the band and it was pretty much "whack-a-mole" despite trying strict import restrictions on equipment capable of transmitting into the bands (in a lot of cases the radio inspectors were sympathetic and would "anonymously" warn of impending raids to give operators time to move their kit or only move when forced to due to complaints about potty mouths on air)

  21. IGotOut Silver badge

    Local TV

    Are those the stations that are created by the Media Studies students from the nearest college?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Local TV

      They have to start somewhere. And there seem to be many, many more media studies course places than there are job vacancies. Those jobs don't just grow on magic money trees you know. Won't someone think of the poor media studies students?

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Local TV

        There should be a sliding scale of course fees for further education based on how pointless the course is.

        In fact , you shuldnt even be allowed on something so fucking pointless as media studies or film school unless you can prove you arnt going to be oin the dole office for years afterwards.

        ie a job promise or sponsorship or whatever

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Local TV

          And unlike some of these "qualified people" I have actually had material I shot on TV.

          OK a documentry on Amazon Prime with about 25% archive material, but it was 90% my material shot back in 80s, with a tripod.

          It is one of the Preserved Lines series.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Local TV

          Ah, shroedingers university student....

          One the one hand there are far too many people sucking off the dole queues, they need to get jobs and get a life and on the other hand there aren't enough jobs to go around.

          A bit like Schroedingers immigrant (Simultaneously taking all the jobs and sucking the life out of the welfare system) or Schroedinger's ICU patents (Simultaneously on death's door in a ward where the only patents being admitted are sedated/intubated and on ventilators, yet also sitting up in bed, chatting to medics and running a country)

          Hint: White collar jobs are going to be pretty much gone over the next 20 years (so will most blue collar ones except burger flippers, plumbers/sparkies and ditch diggers). Creatives are about the only area left where we have a chance to do things better than the average computer/robot and you'd better get used to the idea of a universal basic income because the alternative is either mass starvation or civil uprising and my pick is that the former would result in the latter anyway.

  22. steelpillow Silver badge

    AM >FM > DAB > ?

    AM coverage used to degrade gracefully. Just fit a better antenna and boost your signal. Longer waves even go round corners; Long Wave AM is still unbeatable as an international broadcast medium. But even with techniques such as SSB (single sideband) it is subject to interference and fading, so for music junkies FM is much better. Sadly it lopped off the highest audio frequencies to save bandwidth, so HiFi enthusiasts turned against it. And it cuts out rudely instead of fading, for instance when going under bridges, so even truckers were left with their doubts. But it still didn't save enough bandwidth, hence DAB to push out more channels and make more money offer more choice. But early DAB was both crap, expensively license-encumbered and had poor coverage. Modern DAB is better, could be rolled out more widely, and the licensors are getting less greedy as they realise that "pile it high and sell it cheap" makes them more money in the long run. But even if the money were spent it would always be ridiculously broadcast-antenna dense and when it does degrade it will always makes filthy burps at full volume. Moreover you can cram more channels in by squeezing the digits, and what industry is not going to resist that?

    If I ruled the world I'd bring in FM2 - full 20kHz+ digital audio with modest compression and basic mobile techniques such as multipath equalization and error correction, carried over an FM signal with GMSK - basically just a HiFi version of GSM, somewhat simplified for one-way broadcast and and run over a much lower frequency band. A relaxed level of compression would allow introduction of compression/transmission algorithms which decay gracefully to listenable music rather than Volume Level 11 vomit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AM >FM > DAB > ?

      > when it does degrade it will always makes filthy burps at full volume

      There's no reason for it to do that. Data errors - even if not correctable - are detectable.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: AM >FM > DAB > ?

        My old car had a radio that would drop the volume on FM when the signal got weak to save you from that awful racket.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: AM >FM > DAB > ?

          My car, in DAB mode, also does that. Back when I had a dash mounted DAB from Pure, there was an option to let the muddy burble through or have it fade out. I preferred the muddy burble because it would have bits in it that was understandable and come back quicker than when the auto-fade/mute was in operation.

        2. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: AM >FM > DAB > ?

          "My old car had a radio that would drop the volume on FM when the signal got weak "

          Chances are it was dropping to mono (dual speaker). A simple trick that worked.

          Decent ones would auto correct the volume.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: AM >FM > DAB > ?

          "My old car had a radio that would drop the volume on FM"

          MOST FM receivers automatically switch from stereo to mono on a weak signal. The (L-R) subcarrier - being high frequency and lower power - gets affected well before the primary (L+R) signal degrades significantly - and our ears are very sensitive to the noise as well as the apparent phase shifts making things audibly jump around.

          The same problems apply on VCRs and analogue TV. The colour signal is on a high frequency subcarrier, so susceptable to noise disturbance, but the color itself is low frequency information where our eyes are sensiitve to phase changes causes by that noise disturbance (PAL solves the original NTSC colour problem by changing the phase 180 degrees every other line so the clour shifts cancel out at normal viewing distances, It's not "new" or "different" to NSTC, just a very minor fix.)

          This underscores the problem with "backwards compatible" extensions to the original analogue broadcasting standards - they work but they came with their own sets of problems to be solved.

          Who remembers AM-Stereo and the _4_ different incompatible analogue systems being pushed for it in the early 1980s? (It failed because the FCC adopted a stance of "let the market decide". None of the receivers being sold were compatible with all the standards, they were expensive to buy, the transmitter mods were expensive to implement, and for the most part users really didn't care about it - especially in the USA where stereo FM was already ubiquitous so anyone wanting stereo already had it)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So...the reception is terrible, cutting out every few seconds when driving along the motorway (You'd think of all the places it wouldn't be an issue...)

    ...when you CAN maintain the signal it sounds like ass because they're trying to squeeze as many channels as possible into the available space (48kbps mono FFS)

    ...the receivers are still far more expensive than a simple FM radio

    ...and the receivers use HUGE amounts of power compared to an FM radio

    ...what exactly is the benefit for the consumer?

    Perhaps we should just scrap DAB and push for internet radio instead

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      > Perhaps we should just scrap DAB and push for internet radio instead

      For free, no access payment or subscription or infact any account. Complete anonymous free access and coverage nationwide, then I'd consider it a replacement.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > "(48kbps mono FFS)"

      And now, DAB2 has 32kbps stereo! Better codec, but still!

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      and the receivers use HUGE amounts of power compared to an FM radio

      About twice as much and improving. I wouldn't invest in a three phase supply just yet.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "So...the reception is terrible, cutting out every few seconds when driving along the motorway"

      Err, no. I drive over most of the North of England, southern Scotland and much of the Midlands and DAB is almost never a problem on the main routes. About the only place where I know for sure it won't work is driving between the mountains of Lake distract on the M6. But then back in the day, Classic FM was the ONLY FM station you could get there too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My job is driving across the country. M62, M6, M1, M5, M42, M25, M23, M11, A74(M)....

        ...and there are VERY few regions where I can listen for more than 30 seconds without it cutting out. Perhaps the problem is it can't degrade gracefully like FM, it just stops completely.

        Although reviews suggest DAB+ is better at coping with signal loss, though of course we're too "forward-thinking" to consider replacing DAB with it...

  24. Andy 97

    Puppy drowning in mud.

    I've setup and run a couple of small radio stations, please forgive my dislike of DAB, but it is not fit for purpose.

    1) DAB is not popular: If you're a small station, you'll need listeners to attract advertisers (or demonstrate success to your sponsors and donors).

    2) DAB is expensive! To receive and transmit. You won't believe how expensive it is to get on a DAB mux.

    3) DAB sounds crap! There's no argument, DAB sounds like a puppy drowning in mud (at times).

    FM may be hissy, but if you employ some reasonable compression to the dynamic range, it sounds great in a car (or at home).

    DAB just sounds crap, even the DAB+ nonsense, which many radio owners can't receive, thanks to their radio not being upgradable.

    If you want to broadcast in the digital area, encode your output to for streaming, and compress the dynamic range to compensate and make sure you test the output with differing types of audio content. Listeners do not want to hear music that sounds like a 12yr old's YouTube 'rip'.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Puppy drowning in mud.

      You won't believe how expensive it is to get on a DAB mux

      Pity there's no plans to allow micro-networks running cheap open-source encoders. Oh, so there are, or at least were.

      1. Andy 97

        Re: Puppy drowning in mud.

        Agreed; small scale should be workable... Except, the next problem is getting the listener to retune their device. Unlike an FM station, a retune on a DAB receiver for most people is not a trivial matter.

        If your small, local station is part of a large mux, you can be discovered by accident. But finding someone radiating 25W (horizontal) in a car would be miracle.

  25. Cynical Shopper

    DAB not mandatory in new cars until 2022

    20 years after that should be the minimum for consideration of analogue switch off.

  26. tiggity Silver badge

    Depends where you are

    Out in the sticks, DAB reception often a total joke - typically dire sound, when its not cut out totally.

    FM is often poor in places, but it degrades nicely and is always listenable (degraded DAB is often just total ear pain)

    I'm sure OFCOM claim areas I travel frequently are covered by DAB .. but its teh same as various telcos claim there is mobile coverage there - the DAB equivalent of edge! and not fit for purpose.

  27. Mr Dogshit

    And another thing

    Why are all DAB radios weird, ugly, wooden boxes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And another thing

      By design. "Retro", or something.

      And whilst I feel your pain, it's hardly all of them, by a long shot!

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: And another thing

      Why are all DAB radios weird, ugly, wooden boxes?

      If you put DAB radio into an Amazon search, very few of the results have that woody effect.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: And another thing

        "If you put DAB radio into an Amazon search, very few of the results have that woody effect."

        There's no wood left in the Amazon to make them with :-)

  28. Barrie Shepherd

    DAB receivers are power hungry compared to FM - I don't think anyone disagrees with that.

    So who is going to model the extra power and resources (for batteries) that would needed should FM be closed down?

    Yes Aquiva may save energy/money at the MUX, broadcasting less power, but the population uses more power to listen. So how does promoting DAB help 'save the world?'

    Mind you as DAB causes corona virus, trees to die, birds to drop out of the sky, along with reading your brainwaves and triggering cancer clusters I guess the conspiracy theorists, that lurk in social media, could well cause it's downfall /s

  29. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If only they hadnt invented the mobile phone

    then there would be perhaps a very small reason to get a DAB radio.

  30. reubs007

    Tech equivalent of fracking

    DAB reminds me of fracking. The state keeps trying to force it on people despite nobody actually wanting it. 53% of listenership after TWENTY FIVE YEARS of high pressure sales tactics. Give it up.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Tech equivalent of fracking

      Nowhere near 53% of listenership. 53% is the share of all digital channels, and by far the largest of those is internet streaming. If you listen to radio on your TV, that is DVB-A, not DAB, so another digital channel.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Tech equivalent of fracking

        Maybe El Reg could put in an FOI to OFCOM for the original breakdown report or the raw data. Clearly OFCOM are massaging the report to show the results they want. Lies, damned lies and statistics!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tech equivalent of fracking

        DVB-A? There is no such thing. It's audio over DVB-T.

        Otherwise, yes.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A redundant jack of all trades and master of none?

    If I want cheap and low powered radio, I go FM.

    If I want all the bells and whistles I use a mobile phone/smart device and stream off the internet (mobile or wifi).

    Sooo.... what point is DAB now then?

    1. Piro

      Re: A redundant jack of all trades and master of none?

      You're absolutely spot on. It's all there is to it. DAB is the answer to a question that existed at some point, but doesn't any longer. It just needs to be quietly phased out.

  32. Piro

    They need to stop

    FM radio works well, and it's not buffered, giving cheap, low power access to instant broadcasts.

    DAB fills a need that doesn't exist, and never did exist.

    If we want varied broadcasts that lag behind real-time, head to the internet. Most people have a smartphone.

    DAB is the technology that needs to be phased out, not FM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They need to stop

      There was a need. When it seemed that the radio world was exploding, SFN and better codecs were a great idea, ruined by broadcasters nuking the bandwidth to get in more channels.

      Remember, there was no effective internet or mobile equivalent back then.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: They need to stop

        And using the internet instead of RF broadcast will always mean that there is somebody watching you.

        Just like using the web as I am now, no anonymity.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: They need to stop

          No, when listening to Radio, you Radio connects back to the mast and gets the signal it needs.

          DAB is just more accurate at getting your location.

          It's true, Stephen Fry told me so.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: They need to stop

      "DAB fills a need that doesn't exist, and never did exist."

      In parts of the UK, the 88-108MHz spectrum is full and has been for years. DAB, if done properly, is the answer to that problem. But it does need to be done PROPERLY, not some half-arsed, minimal transmitter coverage, shitty bit-rate mono transmissions. Of course, that doesn't solve the receiver power requirements issue or the licensing/operating costs due to patent encumbrances.

      I wonder how well a DAB-on-a-chip with only the bare essentials would work out in power usage terms?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: They need to stop

        "But it does need to be done PROPERLY, not some half-arsed, minimal transmitter coverage, shitty bit-rate mono transmissions."

        BUT, BUT, BUT

        Doing a shonky half-arsed mostly-broken implementation is the TRADITIONAL BRITISH WAY of doing EVERYTHING!

        We can't break that tradition, think of the poor bulldogs!

    3. Timbo

      Re: They need to stop

      "DAB fills a need that doesn't exist, and never did exist."

      Errr..not quite

      The issue is the FM band (if one is talking about receiving good quality, non-fading radio broadcasts. (hence discounting AM, inc MW, LW and DW).

      The problem with FM is that there is a limited bandwidth (88-98 MHz originally and it was widened to 88-108 MHz when the emergency services were moved off FM to a higher frequency (which also solved the issues of prisoners in jail only being allowed to use AM-only radios which became increasingly difficult to buy in the late 1980s).

      And so trying to fit multiple FM broadcasts into a 20 Mhz bandwidth is tricky esp given that the BBC (as a national broadcaster) has mutliple frequencies allocated to it (hence Radio 2 is broadcast on 88-92 Mhz and depending on where you live - ditto with Radios 1, 3 and 4). These alone swallow up lots of frequencies and hence local stations have to somehow "fit in" between the BBC allocations.

      Allocating the same (or very similar frequencies) to competing broadcasts causes "beating" and you get unsatisfactory covereage of both...esp if the "selectivity" of cheap FM radios is quite poor.

      So, DAB was invented as a way to help solve the issue of having a limited bandwidth (and hence limited range of stations), plus the way the DAB signal is transmitted is that "beating" does not occur and instead DAB radios are designed to work by receiving different signals from different transmitters operating on the SAME frequency, as the combined signal gives you better reception.

      DAB thus solved the issues of:

      1) Better sound and no "hiss" (if they all broadcast at CD quality, which they don't in practice due to transmission costs)

      2) More choice of stations (but limited by Arqiva charging very high rates) and limited by OFCOM for not awarding licences freely)

      3) Better use of available frequencies as not only was Band 3 VHF set aside for DAB but also L band was available too - ideal for local DAB stations due to the limited transmission range of broadcasts and therefore Band 3 could be kept for National broadcasters and L-band just for local use.

      4) DAB can also carry other types of information on the carrier - some DAB tuners actually have a digital output socket that could have been used to carry visual information, such as subtitles, travel information for those on the move, or graphical information about the station or even the lyrics to the music being played....but this has not been championed by anyone.

      FM is still plagued by the same issues as it was back in 1992 when DAB launched...hissy broadcasts, and limited range of station choice and interference due to beating or from pirate FM radio stations in many cities (London, Birmingham and Manchester for instance).

  33. irg

    Ofcom - Only offering what nobody asks for.

    One assumes that nobody at Ofcom uses a radio. DAB sounds like crap, and typically relies on a static and uninterrupted aerial placement. DAB signal is at its best in residential areas, poor on motorways and office/commercial sites. DAB could sound better, but the broadcasters & Ofcom have for quantity over quality with radio licenses. If music copied off someone's terrible YouTube re-upload sounds better than broadcast, I might as well stock up on MP3s.

    To compare: FM is a better medium at home, work and on the move. Receivers are cheaper, and lower power(I had a little solar powered one). FM is clearly better for most listeners, even while it has been neglected by Ofcom et al.

    Obviously, the DAB local broadcasting proposal is a laugh - national broadcasters can't be bothered with anything more local than existing broadcast regions, and it's even more digital competition. FM is obviously a better medium locally, not least because it is already regularly used for short range broadcasts of all sizes.

    As ever, Ofcom display their incompetence and ignorance in equal measure. The idea that they any more than an extension of the DCMS is for the birds.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ofcom - Only offering what nobody asks for.

      "As ever, Ofcom display their incompetence and ignorance in equal measure. The idea that they any more than an extension of the DCMS is for the birds."

      They probably see it as two interchangeable broadcast spectrum allocations. They can already charge and arm and a leg for DAB "because digital" while FM is historically relatively cheap to licence and they can't just bump the prices up. If they can shut down FM they cal sell of the spectrum for a whacking great price increase "because digital" of course.

  34. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Flame

    Just forget it

    Literally. Switch off DAB, totally. Don't even bother.

    Let FM radio continue to broadcast - it's still around in most countries in Europe, it'll be around in most other countries forever, to be fair.

    However digital radio is already being supplanted by Internet radio. We don't need another digital device doing radio when the phone can do Spotify and a gazillion internet radio stations (including the wonderful Arctic Outpost AM1270), and we don't need to upgrade our car radios every five minutes either thanks, so if I were in charge I'd just shut down all the DAB stations and say "no, sorry, FM, MW and LW will carry on, but we're giving up on digital radio because it's a total and utter waste of everyone's time".

    Flame icon because reading this back it seems the closest. (Maybe we need an "honestly why are they bothering" icon?)

  35. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Boffin

    And another thing

    Sitting on my desk is a home-made amp with FM radio. I built the lot from a mixture of available drawings and my own ideas. That was in the early 1970s. It's been pretty much in daily use ever since. The only change being a replacement volume control a couple of years ago. I could probably still get the parts for, and fix anything else that might go wrong.

    I wonder if anyone could home-build a DAB radio? Any takers?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: And another thing

      DAB dev board

      I'm a licensed Amateur and I like building QRP radios, antenna designs and filters etc. But if I wanted to do DAB then there are little black box components that do the DSP, you can go cheaper than this too, and attach them to a Raspberry Pi. It's the way the hobby development world is now.

      And then there is SDR.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: And another thing

        "there are little black box components"

        And there's the issue. Patented, licenced "black box" components. You can't just build your own from available parts like transistors, resistors and capacitors, or even a bit of basic logic ICs.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: And another thing

          Of course you can. There's an RF front end and an audio amp to consider.

  36. Dwarf Silver badge

    Greed killed DAB

    In an attempt to squeeze more channels into the available spectrum so that they could sell more licences, they managed to make it unusable for the vast majority due to how it degrades through the bubbling mud sound into silence.

    The net effects is that :

    1. They failed to move everyone over to DAB and enable the removal of AM and FM

    2. Its too expensive for local radio stations, so less coverage on local topics - which people tend to care about more than national stations that don't have local info

    3. People stopped buying them as the didn't do as they wanted

    4. The issues never got fixed.

    The ultimate effect - the companies failed to make any profits due to lower volumes and customers wasted a lot of time and money on useless kit.

    Given that a lot of these radios are at their heart digital, I've always wondered why they couldn't do a strategy change to permanently fix the problem - make the channels further apart, add in additional error correction data, then do a firmware change to all the radios to allow it to work as expected.

    OK, some of the cheaper units might have to be replaced at their costs and there is a technical impact in doing firmware updates in place.

    It does make you wonder why they can't do over the air firmware updates - unless its because that its not reliable enough due to the poor quality signal issue again.

    Conversely, other parts of the same planet can get message all around the world reliably and across millions of miles of space to other planets (probes and spaceships etc), so its not exactly leading edge tech to get a digital signal a couple of hundred miles in an error free manner.

    A self inflicted wound killed DAB.

  37. Wibble
    Facepalm

    To summarise

    Most people here think:

    * DAB has problems, especially mobile

    * DAB can be expensive to install, especially mobile

    * DAB uses a lot of power, especially portable

    * FM just works, uses less power, is ubiquitous, is popular

    * Offcom sucks donkey balls

    (I made the last one up)

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: To summarise

      And now it's a duplication of stations on DTT. Also niche nationwide stations are far cheaper to run on the Internet. The only use for Broadcast is mass market content. FM does that very well locally and a few totally nationwide sport / talk / news stations get better coverage on LW and MW.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: To summarise

        "The only use for Broadcast is mass market content"

        Got it in one.

        Nicolas Negroponte pointed this out in "Being Digital" 25+ years ago

        Clifford Stoll ALSO pointed this out in "Silicon Snake Oil" a couple of years later

        Stoll's point was that multicasting has failed because broadcasting exists and that streaming compared to broadcasting is extremely wasteful (but we really don't care about that anymore, honestly. Bandwidth is Cheap. It isn't 1994 anymore Cliff)

        Negroponte's point was that niche operators can get a worldwide audience over the internet instead of having to worry about a few hundred listeners in the local area and the relatively huge expense of setting up a transmitter + linking to it

        And of course if you're GOING to "broadcast", then local transmitters covering limited areas are a waste of time anyway - the best location for broadcast transmitters is in Geostationary orbit. That way you only need a couple and the antenna requirements are frequently easier than trying to get a gnat's fart of a UHF signal from Crystal Palace when you're in Horsham (otherwise you only get 4 channels)

  38. HorseflySteve

    Dead duck

    DAB is a dead duck. I have 3 DAB radios & never turn them on. When I got them, there were some good commercial stations broadcasting in 192kbps stereo, but the kept coming & going & had to rescan every other week. Then they all went 80kbps mono and later to 48kbps. I had to run the bigger ones on the mains because their power drain is measured in Watts not milliWatts. The 'personal' one that drives headphones & doesn't have its own speakers I ran on sets of rechargeable cells which I had to change every other day. Then they announced DAB+ and told me my radios were obsolete so I gave up on it. I now only listen to 2 stations: Radio 4 FM in the car and internet station Morow.com via the mobile phone, PC or the Silvercrest box I got from Lidl. They can turn off DAB tomorrow and I wouldn't care. It was always a lame duck but now it's dead as far as I'm concerned

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Dead duck

      "DAB is a dead duck. I have 3 DAB radios & never turn them on"

      This is one of the problems.

      Ofcom clutch at straws and count every single one of those sold radios as active, even if they were tossed in the bin years ago or are only used for FM

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Dead duck

        It's worse than that sales figures were used by the DRDB to show comparative sales of FM and DAB. There's a company* that was or still is producing these sales figures. *I can't remember what they're called sorry. They were accused of not counting FM radios if they were included as part of a product. So for example mobile phones weren't counted even if they had an FM radio. That skewed the figures to a certain extent.

  39. Ste Van De Mull

    Very limited DAB or 3G in Wales, Gloucester or Forest Of Dean.

    Very limited DAB in Wales, Gloucester or Forest Of Dean, Very patchy it's the same for 3G never mind 4G it's 2G if your very lucky

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got a dab radio for my car as I used to drive to Birmingham from the north for my job. It was pretty useless. The only stations I could get reliably were the BBC. As for local they cut out quite quickly and much sooner than FM. Then you have the problem that they aren't really the proper local stations so anything location locked is not broadcast on the DAB so you have to switch back to FM, I'm guessing they use the internet radio feed for DAB. There are also annoying dead zones such as ones on the M60 which just happen to be just before a stretch of the busiest junctions in Europe. Don't even get me started with the myriad antenna and connections. All in all a piss poor show.

  41. Timbo

    OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

    The issues are thus:

    1) There are a total of 37 multiplex frequencies available for DAB in the UK and so far OFCOM have licenced 3 nationally: BBC, Digital One and Sound Sigital which was only awarded it's licence in the last 2 or so years. OFCOM have deluded themselves in terms of making licences freely available since 1999 when Digital One launched (and 1995 when the BBC launched their DAB services). 25 years on and at last OFCOM think they might solve the issue....hahahahaha

    2) Arqiva who own 99% of all the UK transmitters (it's essentialy a monopoly if you want to broadcast on DAB nationally) want to keep their shareholders so their fees are based on the amount of data their customers want to bradcsat at - so a radio station transmitting in stereo and using 128kb will cost about twice that of one transmitting with the same quality but in mono.

    So, many stations want to be on DAB but are put off by the cost and hence they will transmit at the lower bitrate...so they have a presence and can earn some advertising bucks, but don't have to pay lots. And this situtation is compunded by the trend for radio manufacturers to make DAB radios fitted with ONE speaker (even if the electronics support stereo, so stereo headhones would still work on a stereo signal).

    And the quote about "cross-channel interference" from Arqiva - that would only happen if the "local" DAB transmitter was awarded a frequency that was already in local use by Arqive - but with 34 others to choose from that's hardly likely...

    3) The roll out of new transmitters to cover a wider area (and to fill in the patchy DAB reception in some areas) has not happened. DAB transmitters are using the same masts as what was used for the old UK B&W 405 line TV service. But where there were multiple local transmitters (to give good TV coverage), not all of these have been converted to cover DAB and new transmitters are not being erected to cover areas where new houses have been built and where B&W TV was never required.

    4) The new DAB+ system just makes it worse as Arqiva are filling up the available bandwidth (approx 1Mb per multiplex) with lots of mono radio stations broadcasting at lower bitrates and sounding not much better than lower bitrate DAB stations.

    The one station that is still offering a great service is Radio 3 which mostly broadcasts at 192kb in stereo although sometimes it drops to 160kb to allow other BBC broadcasts to air, for certain times (ie Radio 5 Live Sport extra).

    So, the entire DAB rollout of offering "digital sound quality" has been completing messed up by the commercial aims of Arqiva and by the intransigence of OFCOM to actually open up the airwaves and allow more stations to broadcast at CD quality and at reasonable costs...

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

      Also 128K is too low for stereo even if AAC / DAB+

      In practice DAB+ is used to offer 64K stereo at slightly less quality.

      Ironically the artefacts are worse for people with impaired hearing as the compression schemes are based on a normal healthy person average perception.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

        Impaired hearing

        I AM NOT DEAF! I AM HEARING IMPAIRED! Do not shout at me!

        I can hear clear sounds fine, but tinnitus is an ever present annoyance.

        Imagine having a constant 16kHz tone going off, and a really low top end of 12kHz (I remember 18kHz when I was younger).

        At the moment the tinnitus is as loud as the TV.

        MP3 artifacts are horrid.

        So my brain is already working harder to hear.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

          "MP3 artifacts are horrid."

          Forget mp3 artifacts. The heterodyne effects in a lot of cases are intolerable.

          If you only have ONE tone whistling away in each ear then you're doing well.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

            Mainly left ear (infection) but right is not much better.

            Due to infection tinnitus seems to be centralised.

            Even had a ride in a giant washing machine to look inside my head.

            Favourite masking method is at home is News24.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

              "Even had a ride in a giant washing machine to look inside my head."

              Ditto.

              The really annoying thing about my form of tinnitus is that it can't be masked by turning the volume up and the NHS white-noise generator "things" are useless apart from making it hard to hear anything except the white noise.

              It's an annoying set of whistles in a dead silent room and it's an annoying set of whistles at a motorhead concert. Actual thresholds and falloffs are better than most people my age - I can still hear out to 16kHz which I'm told is ok for a mid 50s geezer who spent far too many hours in seriously noisy environments.

              About the only way to get any relief is to rig a tone generator to match the whistle frequencies. They go away for 20-30 minutes if this is done.

    2. ElectricPics

      Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

      Another major issue is that most BBC multiplex transmitters radiate far more wattage than their independent equivalents leading to more signal drop for commercial broadcasters unless you have clear LOS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

        Partly correct. The BBC have many more sites than the commercials so the total power from all their transmitters is greater, but individual transmitter powers are similar. It's lack of geographical coverage that's the issue for the commercials.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

      Re point 2: When you transmit on the same frequency you can cause co-channel interference, not 'cross-channel interference' (which isn't a thing). But Arqiva aren't talking about that, they talk about adjacent channel interference - as mentioned in the article.

      Re point 3: DAB is on VHF band 3, TV is on UHF, and UHF needs essentially line-of-sight coverage whereas band 3 does not. There is no need to put a DAB transmitter at every TV site.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

        "There is no need to put a DAB transmitter at every TV site."

        405 line TV was on VHF too.

        VHF band 1 (channels 1,2,3 - 45-80MHz) are below FM and will get reasonable penetration into hilly areas due to refraction/diffraction effects.

        VHF band 2 (channels 4-13) are 174-250 odd MHz and suffer more or less the same penetration issues as low band UHF. I experienced this first hand as a kid living in rural valleys where channels 1-3 worked, but the only people able to receive 4-13 would be higher up the surrounding hills. [625 line TV works fine at VHF (PAL-B) and is common worldwide. The only reason the UK doesn't do it is because of the 405 line legacy]

        Guess what DAB use as their transmitting frequencies?

        There's a reason that TV broadcasters always preferred the lowest possible VHF channel they could get, particularly if needing to cover wide areas

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OFCOM really have screwed DAB in the UK

          "405 line TV was on VHF too." That ended in the 1980s. VHF band 2 is 88-108 MHz, btw.

          All TV sites in the UK are on UHF. The BBC gets 95% population coverage with 300 DAB transmitters. There is no point putting a DAB transmitter on every one of the 1100+ TV sites, and it would be hugely less efficient in infrastructure than having a smaller number of high power transmitters. Think power supply, buildings, masts, antennas, plus the number of maintenance visits.

  42. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    It's political.

    Though the only beneficiaries of DAB are national stations.

    There is no other use for FM. Community stations would still be on FM.

    We know Ofcom is usually in the pockets of the Mobile Operators, but not in this case.

    1. Timbo

      Re: It's political.

      "There is no other use for FM. Community stations would still be on FM."

      This can only occur if there is a spare FM frequency available...and in some areas, licenced community stations could easily get drowned out by stupid pirate radio stations broadcasting at high SPLs to a few hundred of their followers.

      Quite why FM pirates till exist is beyond me as they could easily set up an internet streaming service and they wouldn't cause so much hassle on FM.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It's political.

        "Quite why FM pirates till exist is beyond me"

        There are very few of them left and they tend to use flea power these days. Streaming was always broken enough to be annoying until the advent of widespread 4G

        What's left is mainly "sticking it to the man"

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It's political.

        Why would community "radio stations" WANT to use FM transmitters?

        It's extra faff in licensing, power and locations. Much easier to just stream and if you really want a low power community station then flea-power AM is both a LOT easier to implement and goes a surprising distance

  43. JohnG Silver badge

    Internet radio better than DAB

    Given that cellular data coverage is typically better than DAB and the wide choice of content on the Internet, DAB appears doomed to failure. Like some other car manufacturers, Tesla cars have Spotify and TuneIn. Mine also has DAB but I never use it.

  44. Bob C McKenzie

    I think I’m an outlier, I really enjoy the old British films they screen on London Live. Films poured out of Elstree, Pinewood, Ealing and others...pure nostalgia

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      @Bob

      DAB is audio only - Digital Audio Broadcasting.

      Whats this got to do with old films ?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        @Dwarf

        Did read the article? Comparing local radio to local TV.

  45. mark4155
    Coat

    Longwave with a valve radiogram.... just my cup of tea and pipe slippers...et al.

  46. Nifty Bronze badge

    The Boombox in the picture

    I owned that very model in the 80s. The lower small knob on the side is the shortwave fine tuning.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Adjacent channel interference'

    I don't know why ACI was put in inverted commas in the article, as it really is a thing. Anyway, Arqiva citing it as a reason not to allow more DAB multiplexes is a bit rich, as many of their transmissions use adjacent channels already.

  48. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    DAB is a pointless waste of money.

    With adequate 3G phone coverage DAB becomes irrelevant. Already the networks are selling "unlimited" data contracts and once those become more common, everyone with coverage will be able to listen to ANY internet radio station from anywhere on the planet, rather than being limited to the "popular" dross that currently infests the airwaves, digital or otherwise. At home I listen to purchased music and Internet Radio and given adequate coverage I could also listen to Internet Radio when in the car/train/walking. Many of my friends already listen to Spotify and other streaming services when they have adequate coverage as well as Internet Radio stations. If you are in an area with spotty 3G (or better) coverage then chances are you can't receive DAB either. FM or even AM for you I'm afraid, but if you chose to live way out there, don't come moaning to us about it. Many of us would swap our suburban semis or city flats for your quiet country cottage in a heartbeat.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: DAB is a pointless waste of money.

      Yup, DAB is a solution in search of a problem these days.

      I commented about shitty coverage in my car. There is a single stretch of road (about a mile) where streaming on my mobile doesn't work (although FM is fine there) - but you can't make calls in that location either.

      Not to mention that streaming has significantly higher audio quality. I may have tinnitus but even I can hear that the average DAB broadcast has the audio qualities of a 2 inch speaker from a 1970s handheld transistor radio, under a pile of potato sacks and being listened to from the next room with the door closed (Interestingly when I was involved in radio broadcasting we used to have analog toys like "aural exciters", "companders" and all sorts of other fragile trickery to try and make the audio sound half decent on those kinds of radios. Purists hated it, but it's better than sounding like a screechbox)

  49. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "Only half the nation prefers digital radio to analogue, though"

    I tried putting a DAB receiver in my car.

    Even with an _external_ aerial, it only works for 10% of my commute.

    FM works almost all of the time. AM, ALL the time.

    If/When DAB can provide 100% coverage, then its ready to replace a mature technology.

    Until then it will result in cementing in the current situation of "haves" in urban areas and "have-nots" in rural ones

    1. roblightbody

      Re: "Only half the nation prefers digital radio to analogue, though"

      I retro-fitted an Alpine DAB unit to my 2012 VW Golf, that makes use of the built-in amplified FM/DAB aerial in the rear spoiler. The reception is outstanding across most of the West of Scotland where I live, no problems at all. However the low bitrate stations let it down, and heading too far out to the countryside causes it to go altogether.

  50. roblightbody

    FM Radio with a strong signal is FAR better quality than any of the low-bitrate DAB stations that have been squeezed into the UK.

    Also, across swathes of less populated areas of the UK, FM Radio is the only one that works - and on occasion you still need to go to AM!

  51. RogerT

    90% of land or 90% of population?

    I would imagine that this 90% refers to the population which means digital is unusable in a car. Is there a mobile phone with DAB yet?

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