Posted by: GW7AAV | November 4, 2009

DAB vs FM

I have already voiced on this blog and elsewhere my contention that while digital radio is the future DAB is probably an evolutionary dead end. The DAB+ system is better with more stations, better quality sound and cheaper transmission costs, but even this system would probably be just a halfway house solution and not a good one at that. The problem with DAB+ is that most DAB receivers are not compatible with DAB+. Having said that the numbers of homes in the UK with a DAB receiver is probably so low that it does not matter. In my own home on an inside antenna my hi-fi tuners reception is pathetic fortunately if I want to I can listen on amateur radio equipment connected to decent outside aerials. Bring a portable DAB radio into my lounge and you can receive zilch, zero, nothing at all.

According to the Guardian this morning Scott Taunton, head of TalkSport‘s parent, UTV Radio GB speaks out and it make interesting reading. According to Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report the plan is to switch off FM broadcasting in 20015, Scott’s contention is that this is unrealistic. What is somewhat surprising is that he represents a leading company that has invested heavily in DAB and not just some minor broadcaster or journalist.

I personally think the low up-take of DAB by the public will continue with more people listening via satellite, Freeview boxes and the Internet. Mobile telephone technology is at present limited to using expensive Internet airtime or built in FM receivers, but the potential is for always available for mobile phone service providers to set up free lines or free Internet streams from web enabled radio stations. It would be fairly simple to route the same audio data to thousands of listeners via their mobile telephones. I think the future of personalised radio listening is in the hands of mobile telephone service operators and manufacturers.

If indeed we are going down the road of DAB or DAB+ the first thing that should have been done is to force car manufacturers to fit compatible radios, which is not happening on a wide scale. In fact some manufactures are still supplying cars with cassette players in and how many people still use cassettes? It is even hard to buy blanks these days. The fact that the latest iPod has a built in FM radio may just be a clue that FM is not going away any time soon and the popularity of FM radio is growing in places like China, Korea and Taiwan, where a lot of the devices we buy are made. It has been suggested that Worldwide an FM revival is on the horizon so do we really want to kill the golden goose in six years time? How many people will just stop listening altogether if the powers that be insist on hurtling down this digital highway?

On a lighter note; One conspiracy theory has it that the authorities want to stop analogue transmissions because it could be picked up by hostile alien life forms whereas digital will just sound like noise to them. “Calling occupants of Interplanetary craft!”

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Responses

  1. DAB has a much higher level of electronic complexity compared with FM radio and costs much more. We can’t compare with Digital TV, we don’t make throw away TVs. Take up is going to be slow, Radio has a different purpose to TV.

    As well as a big job to change over, what about all those “cheap radios” that will not work or go obsolete overnight? We dont have the technology just yet to make a “throw away” DAB radio for a couple of dollars or offer them free with cereal packets.

    A memory stick with display and audio playback is cheaper to make and easier to design than a DAB radio.


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