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Ofcom Small-Scale DAB

 
Nuvistor
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Doz
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I was  involved with the pilot program about 18 months ago. They spent a lot of money motorising goalposts .... 

Studio > Ethernet First Mile > 2 off Raspi + Hack RF one> Filter> PA> Filter> Antenna.

Worked well enough, even with DAB+

Didn't win a license though ....

 

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Posted : 05/07/2019 3:39 pm
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Nuvistor
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This is just consultation, I couldn’t find a start date for new stations to be on air. Have to see if it is a practical solution, I have no doubt the technical challenges can be dealt with but I am not sure about the stations viability. The DAB system already has many stations to choose from, just wonder if it will dilute audiences to a level that causes problems for established stations.

Time will tell.

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Topic starter Posted : 06/07/2019 8:55 am
hamid_1
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Small scale DAB trials have been running for a few years now. There's a very useful website which lists DAB transmissions around the world, including the UK. It's frequently updated.

http://www.wohnort.org/DAB/index.html

Click on 'UK Local' in the list of countries. The trial multiplexes are included in that list. The trial licences have already been extended beyond their initial period, which implies that the trial is going well. It's due to end in March 2020. I assume that's why another consultation has been launched, to decide what happens next.

Although DAB has been relatively successful in the UK, I'm not sure about the long term. Streaming is now taking off and threatening traditional broadcast media. Who knows - maybe in 10 - 20 years time, some people will be building DAB micro-transmitters to bring their obsolete radios back to life, much like we now have standards converters, modulators and digital set-top boxes for old TVs.

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Posted : 10/07/2019 11:54 pm
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Thanks for the link, I didn’t know about the Manchester small scale DAB, it looks like I am well out of the service area but I will give one of the sets a full scan and see what I get. The station list is not to my taste but that is a different problem.

 

The rise of streaming does raise an interesting problem for terrestrial/satellite  broadcasters but streaming does require a much larger common infrastructure, this could be seen as a disadvantage in “times of emergency “ floods, power outages etc. Whereas a small scale transmitter of any modulation type could quickly be setup if the transmitter site was damaged. Portable radios would still work, one of my DAB radios has 20 hours on its rechargeable batteries. The old FM/AM transistor radios could play much longer.

 

There is the 5G network that could used instead of wires to each premises but I understand much of that will be “ micro cells” so if the power is out in your street the 5G unit on the lamp post will also be out of action.

 

I don’t know what technology has to offer in the future, a TV/telephone/ music player etc that will fit in your shirt pocket was Science Fiction when I was fixing BW 405 televisions but they are here and many of use use them every day.

 

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Topic starter Posted : 11/07/2019 8:09 am
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Nuvistor
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I did a manual tune on the Mux but nothing heard, not surprising.

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Topic starter Posted : 11/07/2019 8:55 am
Pye Man
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Radio Caroline is on the Birmingham Trial. I am out of the service area but I tried a rescan just to see if there was a chance. Caroline comes up on the screen but there's no sound when selected. Apparently DAB+ doesn't do 'bubbling mud' unlike below the threshold transmissions on bog standard DAB.

Given that MW and LW, whilst breathing their last, are still going, I think it will be a long time before terrestrial radio dies as a whole. It's simple - actually DAB would have suited my mother as she couldn't tune an analogue radio set - and there's no ISP fee to pay. There's lots of ancient cars around like mine - the radio in my current one is my most sophisticated yet: AM as well as FM and a CD player to boot. A first for me!

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Posted : 11/07/2019 9:46 pm
hamid_1
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You might be able to get reception using an outdoor aerial, even if you are outside the normal service area. An old Band III 405-line TV aerial pointed at the DAB transmitter would be ideal. You could also try connecting your rooftop UHF TV aerial to your DAB radio. This is less than ideal, but sometimes the extra height of the external aerial is enough to bring in a signal.

Of course, you could take a battery-powered DAB radio with you when you next visit a trial area, and tune in there.

Bear in mind that an increasing number of stations are transmitting in DAB+ mode, including Radio Caroline. If your radio is an older model without DAB+ you may see the name of the DAB+ station on the display, but you won't hear any sound or see any scrolling text.

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Posted : 12/07/2019 12:32 am
Nuvistor
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One of the problems with portable radios is the lack of a suitable aerial socket. Of course they change to not being portable if used with an external aerial.

My Pure Evoke One, DAB only, can take an F plug if the telescopic aerial is removed. This radio is now 16 years old and used as a radio in the garage. In 2003 the DAB coverage of Radio Manchester was poor were I live so I put a dipole in the attic and this worked very well, Radio Manchester was the only station my late wife wanted to listen to. DAB coverage as been greatly improved in this area so the dipole is no longer required.

I still believe a socket would be worthwhile but I have not seen any portable radios with them, perhaps not looked hard enough.

DAB reception of the National and Regional stations at this location is excellent, appreciate its not like that everywhere but nether is FM or AM. Audio quality, it’s good enough or me, any better and I wouldn’t know but there are enough complaints about audio quality on many stations that transmit on FM/AM.

I understand your comments Hamid about streaming, it’s being used by an increasing number of listeners, indeed Ofcom include all digital types of programme delivery in their target to justify switching off FM. Lack of DAB in cars won’t be a consideration now adapters are available to receive DAB on older radios. 

Interesting times ahead, technical reasons for switching off FM are perhaps not far away, political reasons  are probably very different. How long DAB will continue time will tell but I cannot see it being switched off in the next 20 years, probably a shift to all stations into DAB+ will occur, FM will probably still be here as well.

Just thoughts, I have no idea how it will evolve.

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Topic starter Posted : 12/07/2019 9:11 am
Pye Man
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I have a DAB+ receiver. I bought it when I discovered that Jazz FM (though it had not been on FM for donkey's years of course) was receivable nationally again on DAB+. It is a Panasonic but alas no aerial socket. My other sets are Pure. I have an Evoke One in use on the desk here. FM reception is a bit iffy here. The terrain is hilly and it's noticeable in a car. In my district DAB is far more robust but I also know a mile or two away it's vice versa. What is curious with the FM reception is that it wasn't always so bad. I had the same kitchen radio for years - Grundig Party Boy - but gave up in the end because I couldn't find an aerial position to get a decent signal - yet for Radios 2, 3 and 4 I could hear each on three different frequencies. I have the same problem with my vintage Sony tuner. I have an indoor dipole and a good position varies from day to day. (A roof mounted job is the answer.)

I can hear Caroline on 648kHz though it's 'anorak' quality here. I say, can - that's now mostly could as one of my neigbours has recently installed something that is very very noisy. Shame as I had had some respite since my other neighbour ditched their plasma screen telly!

Probably the best plan for traditional broadcasting would for the nationals to go to DAB and leave FM to local broadcasters though this would probably mean more DAB infill for the difficult areas. I think this was what was initially envisaged years ago (with in the case of London abandoning FM to the pirates!). Local stations - at least local commercial stations as we once knew them - are on the wane because because that content model is no longer commercially viable and with many having been gobbled up by big operators to construct pseudo-national particular genre 24/7 pop stations, those operators will not want to give up FM because of the car audience. Consequently an awful lot FM channels are wasted broadcasting the same station.

DAB development is not helped by the fact that many of the sets on offer, especially those found in supermarkets, are not DAB+ capable. Look at the descriptions on the boxes and this lack of facility is anything but obvious. Very similar names that obscure a dividing line that is just as great a technical divide as that between DAB and FM or FM and AM. Sadly, a lot of people are buying these sets not realising they're only getting half the facility and for all the promotion of the wonders of DAB little is mentioned about making sure the set you buy is DAB+ capable. Having said that, you can now buy a DAB set for less than you pay for a month's phone/online access.

However, I still think point-to-point radio has a lot going for it. Ultimately, it is a wonderfully simple concept. A lot of people say that the kids won't use radio as they'll stream the particular genres they want to hear but Radio 1 still has 9 million listeners. When I was a kid there was no streaming but we all streamed our preferred music on the record player or going to specialist clubs. The stuff played on the ageing school common room radiogram was rarely anything you'd hear on Radio 1!

I bought a cheapish DAB/DAB+ adapter for the car from Aldi - seemed worth a punt but have yet to install it. It's a bit of a rigmarole to figure out how to get all the moulded panels off to fit the aerial. When I get around to fitting it, and then fill the tank with petrol, this will probably double the value of the vehicle...

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Posted : 12/07/2019 1:04 pm
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Nuvistor
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Knowing what is DAB and DAB+ is not that easy, the digital tick should show the capabilities but sometimes not on the box. Tesco some 12-18 months ago had a special offer on a Goodmans Oxford radio, no mention of + or tick. I ask would it receive DAB+ and received blank looks, the technical section has been closed.

 

I told them if it didn’t work I will bring it back, anyway it works extremely well, bought also for the reception of Jazz FM.

 

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Topic starter Posted : 12/07/2019 3:15 pm
Pye Man
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That's interesting. I have disregarded such sets because I have assumed that if it doesn't say DAB+ on the box I assume that it doesn't have the capability.

In that case I'd say the Goodmans marketing department is falling down in not emphasising an important selling point.

My Panasonic was on special 'to clear' offer at Sainsbury's but DAB+ was plainly stated on the packaging. It was the last on the shelf. A week later the Nectar people sent me some Sainsbury's money-off vouchers. I went to another Sainsbury's store where I found the same model with the same offer and got another with a further fiver off!

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Posted : 12/07/2019 9:28 pm
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The car I bought last year has DAB facilities, no marking for +or tick, I asked would it receive DAB+, again got blank looks, anyway I did a scan on the radio and up came Jazz FM.  I frequently drive from Greater Manchester to Suffolk, rarely misses a beat on any of the national DAB stations including Jazz FM, a couple of places near my destination it drops out for a few seconds.

Still it’s wise to be careful about the capabilities of anything we buy.

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Topic starter Posted : 12/07/2019 10:29 pm
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My 2015 VW Polo DSG I bought in may after passing my test has DAB, but I haven't used this band a great deal (and have no idea yet if it has DAB+) as there isn't anything on DAB I'd particularly want to listen to at the moment!

I usually only listen to ICR-FM, Felixstowe Community Radio and Radio Caroline on 648 (I sometimes help the first two out with tech stuff, the other young lad there was asking me about the small scale DAB+projects as they want to set up a mini-mux for the community stations).

A couple of weeks ago I drove back to Caversham to see my relatives who still live there and was impressed that Caroline on 648 KHz was (just) about still receivable, although there was a lot more noise. As expected 648 KHz is very good signal back home in Suffolk but it would be good to have Caroline on DAB/+ here for the music quality!

As for listening to streaming audio in cars, the Police are starting to take a dim view of it as they believe its encouraging drivers to fiddle around with mobile phones whilst driving and its considered as a potential risk factor in a rise in collisions across Suffolk - if a young/new driver is caught for that they might get a licence suspension and have to retake both their driving tests, so I suspect Band II and DAB will remain popular for some time (eg: many young people discover ICR-FM when they get their first car)

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Posted : 13/07/2019 2:51 pm
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My 2012 Passat has DAB+ so I'd expect your Polo to have it too. I suspect that most receivers of current design would use a chipset that supports both DAB and DAB+. It is a shame though that the manufacturers don't see fit to mention DAB+.

 

John

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Posted : 14/07/2019 8:23 am
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Pye Man
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If you can get Jazz FM it is DAB+ capable.

I can't imagine a car manufacturer not providing DAB+ compatibility, especially European manufacturers as DAB+ is the main standard on the continent. It is the better platform. I think the UK is one of a few countries that has vanilla DAB as its original standard - probably because we were early adopters of the possibilities digital broadcasting. I think either Norway or Denmark, or both, are the others that have vanilla DAB as their standard though I stand to be corrected.

I also understand that why some of the very cheapest sets are vanilla DAB only is down to the cost of licensing the software. Adding DAB+ = more cost.

However, given Frank's experience, if you want a cheap set, a supermarket set might be worth a punt. In my limited experience they will take things back that don't come up to spec. I bought a cheap portable DVD player from Sainsbury's and found that the aspect ratio was fixed which was particularly annoying given I have a lot of stuff that is in 4:3. They took it back without quibble. (Whether the customer service person understood my complaint I don't know.)

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Posted : 14/07/2019 12:16 pm
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Pye Man
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Post Script:

In London Jazz FM is still available on DAB as well as DAB+. I think the plain DAB outlet is only in mono.

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Posted : 15/07/2019 8:34 pm
Nuvistor
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That’s worth pointing out, must admit I avoid London, find it too hectic although I flew out of city airport a couple of years ago. If I go to Manchester or Liverpool I only go to the museums and art galleries, then it’s home time.

Wouldn’t do for us all to be the same, daughter loves going to London.

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Topic starter Posted : 15/07/2019 8:47 pm
Pye Man
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Well, Frank, I'm somewhat the same. Only go to London for galleries and museums. I've got friends on the south side and usually stay there and travel into the centre with them on the train. This is handy, of course, as they know their way around but I just can't believe what an ocean of heaving humanity the place is - I could never live there. On the main streets seems you can't walk more than a yard or two in a straight line. Trains and tube are always rammed and everyone is in a screaming hurry.

I rarely go into Birmingham for anything other than concerts. This used to be a nice canal-side walk through the bars and restaurants to Symphony Hall - especially on a summer evening - but our 'secret' parking spot has gone to residents' permits. There is the once a year visit to the Frankfurt Christmas Market - okay after dusk but before the rowdies with too much lager inside them start wandering... The annual Jazz Festival is on at the moment so there might be a trip in if there is something to take my fancy.

Must be getting old! When I was a youngster a bus ride to Brum with my pals was something to look forward to. There were loads of electronics hobby shops to have a nose around, not to mention all sorts of record shops. All gone now, except perhaps the Diskery.

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Posted : 16/07/2019 3:57 pm