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More digital radio stations. Ofcom - finally - proposes DAB+ | free and easy
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More digital radio stations. Ofcom - finally - proposes DAB+

You can almost hear the sound of "beep, beep, vehicle reversing". After many years of dismissing DAB+ as a UK broadcasting standard, Ofcom have announced that the time of DAB+ is approaching.

  Photograph:
Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

From the new consultation document, Broadcast Digital Radio Technical Codes and Guidance Consultation on updates and amendments

The proposal is to allow the use of the High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding in addition to the MPEG-1 Audio Layer II that is used to encode the sound into the DAB broadcast. It does not change the fundamental levels, which remains Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing.

Ofcom says, in Section 2 Introduction of alternative audio encoding: DAB+

2.4 Use of HE-AAC encoded services within a DAB multiplex has been termed DAB+. The benefits of DAB+ are that it enables audio services to be broadcast at a higher sound quality for a given bitrate than MP2 or to fit additional services into a multiplex at a lower bitrate than MP2 but with equivalent quality. This provides the opportunity to carry many more services and/or better audio quality for services operating in the same spectral occupancy.

2.5 In our 2007 consultation The Future of Radio we said that adoption of DAB+ could be desirable if this was the future direction of DAB across the world. DAB+ is now being adopted in many countries across Europe as well as Australia and other parts of the world.

2.7 It is likely that a complet change to DAB+ in the UK would be a longer term transition that would take into account the installed base of DAB-only receivers in the UK and the current relatively low level of penetration of sets that are compatible with DAB+. It is however likely to be beneficial to include the DAB+ standard into the Digital Code and to permit its limited deployment now and therefore enable the future wider adoption of the technology in the UK.

2.10 Inclusion of DAB+ in the Digital Radio Technical Code does not provide consent for services on existing multiplexes to switch to DAB+. Ofcom would however consider requests for services to switch to DAB+ from operators of existing multiplexes, taking into account the reasons for the request and the potential impact upon listeners that such a change would entail.

I am going to make a guess that this is going to please all the readers of UK Free TV!



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Comments
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
A
Anthony
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

9:20 AM
Accrington

I would like to see DRM+ on FM and DRM on MW/LW/SW to complement DAB+ and kick it into gear. WDR Langenburg sounded excellent in NW England on MW after dark with stereo sound and good quality.

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Anthony's 70 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

10:51 AM

Anthony: Can you think of a broadcasting medium that goes through hills or concrete easily? pretty much all radio suffers in those conditions. As for poor quality - try listening to the difference between FM, DAB and internet on the same set. I did, and frankly, there wasn't that much in it. FM and streaming was a little better, but overall I wasn't bothered enough to stay with FM.

Brianist: Its a very good point. I know that pretty much all Pure's have DAB+, and have done for the past couple of years. However, looking at Roberts (and speaking to Roberts...you could improve the way you show the spec on the website), there are some, such as the £100 Expression (which is actually a nice set), but there is no sign of DAB+ even on their flagship Revival range, and certainly not on their smaller models. If its a cheapy from Tesco's - unlikely. So its reasonable to assume that the majority of the around 8m DAB sets sold in the last 5 years dont have DAB+.

Stan: Is it really the case that 90,000 people in the UK (and that figure is from a couple of years ago, so it might be less now) are totally reliant on a LW signal? Much as I love the idea of preserving past artifacts, its slightly unfair to assume everyone else is going to pay for a broadcasting system that gets about 0.2% nationally of a listening audience of 48.4m.

Its wonderful that someone might wish to use the radio they bought in 1954, but since they can also listen on MW, FM, DAB, Freeview, Freesat and the internet, there comes a point where the service is no longer viable, even as a public service.

Steve P - people have poured scorn on the idea of the valves becoming extinct, but as this comment from a Guardian article in 2011 pointed out - 'Most new valves are made in Russia these days. Even if the Russian factory could start a production line, it may be very expensive to do so. And they would almost inevitably not work exactly the same as the original valves.' Yes, solid state systems could be used - but for 90,000 people and falling, why would you do that? I notice that many of the comments on that article were expats in France etc. Since there is now this thing called the interenet, perhaps they could listen to that instead.

Stan: Its true that the French Resistance did use LW to get messages from London, but thats was 70 years ago. They also used pigeons to communicate. I doubt that anyone is advocating that we get our daily news via a bird (al la Harry Potter). Having said that, my kids would love the the idea of a daily owl....

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
A
Anthony
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

2:02 PM
Accrington

MikeB: I have heard DRM transmissions on MW LW and SW and listened to some DRM+ trials on VHF/FM at consumer electronic fairs and many sounded pretty excellent provided the transmission parameters, bit rates etc are right.

DRM and DRM+ provides big area coverage using existing transmission infrastructure and can work in tandem with DAB+ providing additional services and extend coverage to transmission areas where reception is likely to be poor ie built up areas, hilly regions and mountaineous parts of the country where DAB+ is unlikely to function well.

AM and FM DRM/DRM+ transmissions can get further than a low power DAB/DAB+ transmission can and should be used as fillers to counteract this;DAB+/DRM/DRM+ radios would carry an autotune flag in the signals to retune to the same service on any of the platforms should one platform prove poor reception, this would also make for easier in-car reception too.

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Anthony's 70 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

5:25 PM

Anthony: DRM sounds interesting, but I then googled DRM receivers - and then found out there really weren't any!

Frankly, it's a big ask of people to buy a DAB plus radio when they already have a DAB one, (and many argue that since they have a FM/MW or even LW set, why buy a new one at all) although you could argue that if DAB plus is to become a standard feature on all new DAB radios, then eventually older models will be flushed through and DAB plus will be in the majority. But I can buy a DAB plus set in most stores.

If I google for a DRM set (and since it needs a new chip, I can't use existing kit), out of the first page I get a number of sites about DRM, but when actual sets are mentioned, they are both discontinued, and there is a review saying 'a waste of money, do not buy!' Its not encouraging me to chose DRM....

With the rise of the net and DAB, is this a technology that is really needed? If the mainstream brands haven't bothered, do they know something which DRM supporters cannot see?

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
M
michael
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:44 PM

"I simply do not believe the claims that without ancient valves it is impossible to transmit on LW frequencies. LW penetrates into the continent - maybe BBC don't care about those users. But it is also used for the Shipping Forecast - apparently also for receivability at a distance. And finally we need it as an emergency service for its robustness if complex networks fail." (Steve P.)

I concur, Steve. The 234kHz transmitter is a relatively recent solid-state installation. See below. 198kHz could do the same. One might hope that your rationale might prove determinant. However, in the event of a national emergency, more people would have access to a MW battery or car radio, not so many to one with LW capability, so 909 and 693kHz might be preferred.

"Long wave (LW) broadcasting is the forgotten stepchild of AM radio. While there are no LW radio stations in North America, they continue to operate throughout Europe, North Africa, Russia and Mongolia, due in part to their unparalleled signal coverage. Most stations are in the 155-281 Khz band. A new installation by Transradio Sender Systeme Berlin AG proves there is still interest in broadcasting at the lower end of the spectrum.

Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE) manages long- and shortwave broadcasts for Radio Television Luxembourg, including the French-language program RTL France', which is beamed from a station in Beidweiler, Luxembourg towards Paris on 234 Khz via a directional antenna system made up of three 290-meter masts.

Rising energy costs led BCE to replace the two Thompson-2175 1000 Kw tube transmitters with more efficient solid-state devices. Transradio was awarded the contract to design and deliver an air-cooled DRM capable LW transmitter with output powers of 1500 and 1000 Kw AM/DRM respectively.

Assigned the model number TRAM/P 1500 LS, the transmitter is made up of two TRAM 750 LS 750 Kw transmitters and a paralleling unit (PU) for loss-free combining of both transmitters. In the event of failure, or during maintenance, the PU switches the unaffected unit online so that the system remains on-air with a 3 dB reduction in power." » Transradio Equips BCE LW Site WHEAT:BLOG

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michael's 857 posts GB
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
C
Charles Stuart
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

9:55 AM
Bristol

I don't know about now but in the 1970s and '80s there were a few long wave transmitters in the US. WCBS New York simulcast its 880kHz news station on 200kHz and there were, I believe 11 other transmitters across the US broadcasting on long wave. Most Americans were unaware of this and one radio shop owner I spoke to denied that long wave transistor radios were even possible until I showed him a British one. I had found the CBS station on my radio, so that's how I know it existed. I subsequently did some research and found that these stations were popular with long-distance truckers, who often travelled out of range of regular AM/FM transmitters. A few years ago I read that the FCC proposed shutting down these stations but the long-distance truckers put in an objection and won. However, with the advent of satellite radio, I wonder if they're still there.

With regard to the main subject of this thread, I'd like to see the 30% of the 2nd national multiplex used for DAB+ to transmit stations in the highest possible quality. I would like to see Planet Rock, Absolute 80s and a classical music station, perhaps a Classic FM 2 - aimed at a more highbrow audience than Classic FM, if 30% will take three stations at highest quality. I choose this combination because I think that it's a combination that would spur sales of receivers. I think that Planet Rock has a very significant niche following, Absolute 80s is very popular and a Classic FM 2 station would appeal to a very small but important group who are currently poorly served by the commercial sector and could be profitable if run as a second station.

link to this comment
Charles Stuart's 159 posts GB
S
Stan
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

7:40 PM

Mike B - You can't always just look at sheer volume of listernership (for LW). It remains indespensable for deep-sea fishermen to tune into the Shipping Forecast. MW, FM and DAB are simply not up for the job as the frequencies are too high to be robust enough to reach many miles out to sea, especially in less-than-perfect weather conditions. LW is also about the only signal that will be audible in a submarine, for example, and I suspect that many of the tens of thousands of people reliant on LW are stuck with it for other reasons than nostalgia. As for the expats on the continent - I don't think the BBC is hugely worried about them as they don't even pay the licence fee!

But I am sure that if resources are optimum-utilised by the BBC and common sence brought into play again, a way could be found to broadcast Radio 4 on 198kHz for next to nothing, ad infinitum.

Steve - LW would have been THE perfect medium in the event of a national emergency if it hadn't been allowed to die out. Unfortunately, I suspect very few new radios sold now include LW reception. Relatively few people posess a LW - recieving radio. Therefore, should some kind of crisis occur which would shut down DAB and the internet, we would probably have to rely on local FM/MW transmitters to recieve emergency information.

It may seem pointless to some to continue to invest in Analogue technologies. But that is unfortunately the way it has to work. To allow those technologies to die out completely rules them out as an asset in any would-be future emergency, in the event of which newer, more complex and less robust and time-tested technologies cannot be called upon.

link to this comment
Stan's 27 posts GB
S
Stan
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

7:51 PM

Anyway, back to the original topic of this thread: I tend to think that any more tinkering about with digital broadcasting (and broadcasting in general) will only serve to further confuse and disorientate joe public.

Re. the growth in digital listening - most of that is MAINLY youngsters consuming radio vial smart phones and the internet, NOT DAB itself.


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Stan's 27 posts GB
M
michael
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:43 PM

Very pertinent insights! With the ongoing struggle to establish DAB, it would be even more uphill to supplant it with DAB+, despite its technical superiority. A new national network with coverage limited to main population centres and motorways might be a first option for DAB+, perhaps with DAB retained as a basic service for the many who have already invested in a DAB-only receiver. Broadcasters understandably eschew multiple provision on different platforms, so minimal duplication of services must be expected. But then, quo vadis FM? Quo vadis AM? Local radio on FM and DAB could be discontinued to limit duplication. National Radio5 and BBC local radio on AM only could be retained for remote area and emergency national coverage. Ideally 198kHz (perhaps with a combination of R5 and R4?) should also be retained, perhaps with new solid-state equipment as on 234kHz to reduce running costs. Even more ideally, 198kHz could become DRM, but .... India is actively investing in DRM, so it may still have a future in some parts of the world. Many DRM experimental broadcasts continue, although reception is mainly restricted to shortwave receivers with a 12kHz IF output to a SDR computer. Pragmatism and cost factors will doubtless reign - sigh...

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michael's 857 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

11:08 PM

Charles Stuart: Looking at the LW Wiki, it seems that those US transmitters have long gone, and the Russians have followed suite. Longwave - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As for Classic FM have a more 'highbrow' station - I suspect that they know where their market is! They would probably argue that thats what Radio 3 is for... If you look on the net, there are a huge number of very good 'highbrow' classical stations - start here: Classical Music Radio Stations - Commercial free classical streaming live
online radio stations


Stan: After reading about LW, I thought about the various arguments in favour of its retention - but ultimately none of them really pass muster. Its perfectly true that some people still use LW, but even if there are still 90,000 listeners (and that figure seems to be some years old, so if anyone has some up-to-date figures, it would be interesting to know what they are), Radio 4 has some 11m listeners, which means that less than 1% of its audience listens on LW.
Could they get new valves or update entirely to new technology? Yes. Is it worth it for such a tiny audience? Not really. I suspect that the BBC though that the LW audience would expire just before the equipment did. Its cost for updating the system will certainly not be 'next to nothing'.

LW might be a perfect emergency system, but since most people (as you point out) dont have a LW radio any longer, or if they do, dont use it (I had to check today as to whether my car's radio had LW - it did, but since I've had the car for two years, it shows how much use I've made of LW). Which raises the interesting point - how would we know how to listen to LW, if we dont use LW?

The idea of deep sea fisherman relying on LW for information sounds strange, when you consider that they must have GPS, VHF, sonar and probably satellite-based systems for weather updates, etc. Even the average weekend sailor has access to a fairly high standard of electronic kit, including Winlink, etc. Its nice to have LW as a backup, but how many actually use it? As for the idea that without LW, a nuclear sub might think Britain has been attacked ....
I agree with your thoughts about the expats...I actually resisted adding that though in my original comment!

Digital listening http://stakeholders.ofcom….pdf is increasing year on year and in all age groups, although most strongly amoungst younger listeners. However, apart from the 64-75, and 75 plus age groups, its already over 50% of listeners (and last year was 46% in the 64-75 range). Thats only going to grow. And once again, this is a zero sum game - if you listening on a digital platform, your not listening to an analogue station. DAB's loss is not LW's gain.

'Pragmatism and cost factors will doubtless reign' - it could be argued that perhaps it should do more often!

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
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