Is DAB Radio Dead Even Before It’s Launched In OZ?

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Bush Australia which also sells LCD TVs under the Grundig label, has pulled the plug on LCD TVs with the exception of a small LCD TV with built in DVD player. Now the UK company is attempting to spruik the Bush radio brand and DAB radio in OZ in an effort to get traction in the market. The move comes only days after one of the biggest commercial radio groups in the UK quits DAB radio saying it is a dud technology.

The move to launch DAB radio in Australia comes only months before commercial radio stations in Australia starts trialing DAB radio broadcasts. In the UK DAB has got a lukewarm reception with some saying that the technology could end up the technology grave yard along with HD DVD players and movies.


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UK GCap, owners of Classic FM, London’s Capital Radio and a major player in the commercial sector, is to close two more DAB-only stations, Planet Rock and theJazz. It says that digital radio, which was once heralded as the future of the medium, is simply not economically viable. There is also talk that consumers who have purchased a DAB radio could end up with a redundant radio.
 
In justifying its decision, GCap drew attention to official ratings figures that say DAB accounts for only nine per cent of all radio listening; digital-only stations are less than half of that. Listening over the internet – although currently limited – is expected to grow on a massive scale, because everyone with a computer already has everything they need to tune into thousands of stations from around the world.

 

 

 

For Australians wanting to listen to radio streamed over the Internet, the barrier could be broadband cost with BigPond admitting that constant streaming of Internet radio content does drive up broadband costs.

British brands like Pure and Bush are desperate to establish awareness for DAB radio in Australia due to the failure of the technology in the UK. The Bush brand which is linked with radio of the past is set to face competition from brands like Pure which later this year will roll out DAB+ radio for the car and home.

Commercial Radio operators in Australia plan to go live with DAB radio in time for the January 1 2009 digital broadcasting launch. Government legislation passed in 2007 has mandated that free-to-air digital radio broadcasts are required to begin on 1 January, 2009.

Yesterday PR practitioners for Bush, A Little Extra, were trying to spuik DAB radio and a Bush deal with Harvey Norman however it appears that they had little if any knowledge of technology publications that cover the consumer technology channel. Press releases syndicated as a PDF file were locked and no images were attached to the release. 

 

Commercial Radio Australia claim that digital radio is simply a new way of transmitting radio signals, which brings with it a host of exciting new features and added value to the listening experience. Since it uses the radio spectrum more efficiently, digital radio offers many significant advantages over normal analogue radio.

Digital radio is different to AM and FM radio as, instead of being made up of analogue waves, the radio signal is transmitted digitally. Digital radio signals are far less likely to be affected by adverse weather conditions or local sources of interference.

Digital radio uses a combination of MPEG-2 Audio Layer II and COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex) technology that converts the music or speech from analogue signal into a digital stream. This robust method of transmission ensures digital radio signals are far less likely to be affected by adverse weather conditions or local sources of interference.

 

FM radio signals tend to bounce off tall buildings and hills, creating multipath interference. This results in signal disturbance, which manifests as swishing and crackling sounds on an FM radio. Digital radios actually use multipath signals to their advantage. By combining signals, filtering out interference and correcting reception errors, digital radios effectively rebuild the radio signal.

Digital radio can be received using a radio displaying the DAB digital radio logo. Digital radios use a conventional aerial to pick up signals.


According to the BBC who have been supporters of DAB radio, GCap also plans to sell its stake in Digital One, a national broadcasting platform for digital stations. They raise the question as to whether this mean the last rites for DAB? It is not just the closing of the stations that is a blow for the format, but the comments made by GCap’s chief executive Fru Hazlitt say the BBC on their web site.

GCap sees better prospects in FM and broadband radio, that digital radio was too expensive and that it has not been embraced by consumers in the way GCap anticipated. Richard Wheatley, the chief executive of The Local Radio company in the UK , has recently conjured up the spectre of Betamax, in unfavourable relation to digital radio. He said that DAB did not have any killer application, and that listeners were moving more to the internet for their radio experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

His comments were made in a report by media and telecoms specialist Enders Analysis which called into question the whole future of DAB. Are there other potential stumbling blocks to the future progress of DAB?  Only a minuscule number of cars in the UK have a DAB radio installed.

This alone may have convinced the government that the country is not yet ready for a switchover to digital radio, of a type seen in the planned switchover to digital television. With more than one million DAB radios sold in the UK in the last three months of 2007, taking the total figure in households to 6.5 million some are saying that there could be some expensive lemons left on shelves.

BBC Radio and 4 Digital Group have confirmed their commitment to developing digital radio in the UK. They have pledged to look at ways of “encouraging more rapid consumer take-up of digital radio” and developing the available technology to secure a successful future for DAB.

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