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DAB vs mobile for radio - the reality

By Art Grainger
Posted 20 April 2015, 1.43am edt
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As we have read many, many times on Planet Radio Forum, DAB is poor and a dead duck, listening via mobile phone is the future and everyone should embrace it now.

Yet...

We are now witnessing a radio station that is taking the "leap" from DAB to mobile app listening and by golly gosh, you ought to see the uproar from ordinary members of the public who are not radio forumites, not anoraks and are just the lowlife scum that are merely listeners who clearly know nothing about radio and how it works.

On TeamRock's Facebook page, it is stunning to see how animated their FB members (and listeners) are on the issue. Poor TeamRock can't even post a simple message to promote a single part of a program that is about to go on air, without it being commented on (with very choice language) that listening to it is going to be pointless because they're coming off DAB in 2 months. Even more telling is that it's not just one or two people who make the comments. I see new names appearing on their FB page all the time, making yet more comments about it, showing their disgust over the decision, with many of them saying that mobile coverage isn't good enough for App listening and others not prepared to sacrifice their data usage for the new service. There's even a petition on the go (as if that would do any good).

So, if mobile listening really is the future over DAB, do we need to transport ourselves a little further into the future to see for sure - or should we just wise up and admit that, for a considerable amount of time yet, this is not going to be the case?

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Comments

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

I agree that the infrastructure simply isn't there yet for mobile listening, not to mention how much a smartphone consumes when streaming online in comparison to an average portable DAB radio.

While I understand why TeamRock are going online only, I can understand from the Rock listeners point of view that they've been continually frustrated by broadcasters who can't monitise DAB for such a niche service, which has led to Kerrang coming off FM and then DAB outside London, Real XS becoming a FM only service in Manchester and next year Planet Rock moving from D1 to the new D2 mux which will have poorer coverage.

2 years, 5 months ago

If or when we reach the OUTERNET era, this new method of service delivery should fix the ills of signal continuity for in-car-mobile-broadband-entertainment!
Despite an outernet enhancement, I suspect DAB/FM/AM radio will be around for a long time to come.
As an example, the Westerglen AM transmission site in Stirlingshire was established at the end of the cat's whisker era in the early 1930s. There is no sign of of any decommissioning date for grand old Westerglen which may last another decade, at least! (The BBC is even too afraid to switch off Radio 4 long wave.)
Mobile software applications will not eclipse DAB radio as a means of service delivery because most listeners are not too adventurous when it boils down to channel surfing, if most surf at all.

PS I used to love listening to yesteryear's shortwave radio, but most folk prefer BBC Radio 2 or Capital Radio compared to Radio Habana 2 (English) or the Polish Radio Warsaw!
Kind Regards..Willie

2 years, 5 months ago

Aye. The end-user technology is fantastic. Shame about the infrastructure needed to make it all happen.

No doubt in the densely populated areas where city and town wi-fi is available for people walking the streets, most stores, coffee shops, restaurants and shoppng centres have wi-fi available in some form, railways stations are getting them, trains have them and whatever - it will eventually be a justified decision - but for just now, the technology still has a few hurdles to cross.

Just now, since the last update, TuneIn has become a pile of crap because even with wi-fi on a train (and it's worse over 3G), the st-reami-ng is d-oin-g a bi-t of thi-s for m-ost o-f the- ti-me whe-neve-r I try t-o list-en, ev-en to B-BC stat-ions, wh-ich are s-uppo-sed t-o be th-e most s-table. Sadly, my back-up strategy is just as bad because ............... RadioPlayer gives me about 3 or 4 minutes.........................................................of audio and then it just ....................................cuts off and re-buffers, by which time I have missed most of the really interest part of the conve! Then it starts somewhere else.

Now, 3G coverage for mobile listening in the car is really quite good if you're in a densely populated area and driving at low speed. On the motorways and trunk roads it does not too bad either, even at 60 MPH. Unfortunately, if you drive 3 or 4 miles inland from a trunk road or a larger town or village and out into the sticks, the mobile phone degrades very, very quickly and at best you get 2G reception.

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

As an aside: the availability of wifi in "stores, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping centres" isn't necessarily good news.

Walk down my street, and I get good 4G coverage and then I pass a coffee shop, whereupon my phone goes "ooh! yeah! wifi!" and connects to the wifi, which then has the effect of blocking all connection until I fish my phone out of my pocket to open a web browser and hit the "I AGREE TO THE TERMS" button. This then gives me wifi connection, but not for long because the next door down is a pub which has a different wifi connection whereupon my phone goes "oooh! yeah! wifi!" and connects to the wifi which then has the effect of blocking all connections to... etc.

Forgetting the wifi, so it won't automatically connect, means that if I go into the pub and sit down and have a beer, my phone loses all connection because the mobile signal is too poor inside the pub, so I need to then connect to the wifi, which...

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

I have to keep switching off the wifi on my Android handset when out on the bus because it keeps connecting to the free wifi services which is bad enough when trying to use it for general browsing, not to mention radio!

2 years, 5 months ago

All good points, but you're all talking about mobile, not DAB. Mobile has tonnes of flaws, no doubt, but it's where an increasing number of us want to do our listening. James, you talked about walking down the street, going into a pub etc: how would you propose listening to DAB in that situation? Do we need new DAB products? DAB included in smart phone, which I know Virgin tried several years ago. It worked but the phone was huge. Despite flaws, I think the demand for mobile radio listening is such that they'll be overcome, probably relatively quickly. And then there's the next generation: walk down Camden High Street on any given day and there's not a lot of DAB listening going on.

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

Mobile has tonnes of flaws, no doubt, but it's where an increasing number of us want to do our listening.

I'm not sure I agree with that, Colin. For music-intensive radio, I'm not convinced there's a clamour to listen to someone else's iPod on the most interactive device we have in our pockets. The data appears to agree with that, at least in some countries. Not saying that radio shouldn't be there - of course it should - but I think radio needs to do more than a non-interactive stream.

James, you talked about walking down the street, going into a pub etc: how would you propose listening to DAB in that situation?

Turn my portable DAB receiver on. Walk down the street. Walk into a pub. Theoretically there's no issue there, assuming that the signal strength is good enough and the RF stage of the receiver is good enough. That's a big assumption.

But I don't know if you've actually tried walking down the street and walking into a pub with a portable FM receiver. I find that impossible to listen to. In fact, back in the days when I had a 3G phone with an FM chip inside, I got better results listening to LBC on the move via 3G than via FM.

And then there's the next generation: walk down Camden High Street on any given day and there's not a lot of DAB listening going on.

Walk down Camden High Street on any given day and there's not a lot of radio listening going on. Which is my point really.

My view is that live, simulcast radio for speech is, of course, almost irreplaceable. I can't listen to LBC's breakfast show, or sporting coverage, on-demand. NPR One gets close; but NPR programming is rather different in content, and is designed to be listened-to in a non-live situation (given the US's timezones).

Virgin Mobile did try a DAB-equipped mobile phone. They promoted it as a device to watch TV on; yet it was the most sensitive portable DAB radio out there. People didn't use it for the TV, but they used it for the radio, according to the research. It did astonishingly well for radio, but was marketed as the telly-phone. Accordingly, it failed, because the TV experience was fairly dreadful.

2 years, 5 months ago

Did I read rightly that the latest versions of Android won't switch you to WiFi until it's genuinely sending Internet traffic down it (ie. you've agreed to the T&Cs or logged in?)

Which would be a good idea.

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

The latest version of Android, which I run, will - I think - ensure that if you have a working cell connection but a wifi connection that's stuck on a captive login page, your data still goes through the working cell connection.

I haven't actually tried this. But I'm sitting in a coffee shop, so let's go.

Nope. What oddly appears to happen is that it connects to the wifi (Harris + Hoole), and then cuts off both wifi and 4G entirely. Which isn't really very helpful.

2 years, 5 months ago

It's also particularly annoying when you drive around uban areas. There's a bar I drive by in town which I have the WiFi network remembered for, which also happens to have a set of lights outside.

You can guess what happens if I've Spotify, TuneIn, Radioplayer or the like running.

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

The Cloud have an app which will automatically connect from cellular to wifi for it's own hotspots, however the rest don't which lead to either registering or having to go to their home page before it'll reconnect.

PRO2 years, 5 months ago

Actually, if you are a BT customer, you can get a BT app to do similar.

2 years, 4 months ago

Here in East Kent 2/3/4G are depending on the Network either poor or non existent .DAB is available from Dover, but for many stations only if you hang out of the window , the notable exception being the BBC national network. I accept this is not typical for most of us, but as a result most of my radio listening at home is with my iPhone via blue tooth and I thank all the local businesses for their free wifi as without it the High Street would be an almost data free zone!
so for me at least WiFi beats DAB.

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