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Digital Radio: A Mediocre Alternative Chosen by the FCC

By imrdkl in Technology
Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 02:30:34 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Digital Radio, also called DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast), provides a superior alternative to its analog counterpart - the good, old AM/FM radio broadcast which has been the standard for the past 100 years or so. The services offered on digital radio make it possible to receive data (including pictures, text, and even video), right along with a crystal-clear, near-CD quality audio signal. Using an enhanced receiver, the digital radio listener can experience a completely new and satisfying form of entertainment, albeit dependent on the standard used for the broadcast.

Early last October, the FCC approved something called In Band On Channel (IBOC) as the new digital radio broadcasting standard for the US. That decision is now being contested for several reasons, including the alleged failure to consider alternative DAB techniques, as well as the eventual impact which IBOC DAB may have on low-power stations. Some critics are even calling the decision a sellout by the FCC. IBOC purports to enable DAB for a broadcaster without radical changes, but digital radio is radically different from old radio, and we should consider carefully the choices which are about to be made for the US radio audience. As we've seen with mobile telephony, it's not hard to get started on the wrong foot.


IBOC is a proprietary, but licensable DAB technique which is being sold by a company called Ibiquity. Ibiquity claims that IBOC enables DAB for existing broadcasters without the need for allocating new spectrum, and without increasing their existing bandwidth requirements. In reality, this claim is misleading, since IBOC is broadcast using FM radio sidebands (pdf). Nevertheless, any given radio station in the US which can afford the licensing fees and other costs (payable to Ibiquity) may soon be broadcasting an IBOC digital signal for your entertainment and information pleasure.

The coalition which is contesting the FCC's decision are calling it premature, and in violation of due process - because they didn't consider Eureka 147 (EU147), the alternative DAB standard. EU147 has already been adopted by most of Europe, Canada, Australia and East Asia, and even China. As mentioned, the plaintiffs are also not happy about the fact that IBOC DAB will "jam" existing low-power stations which broadcast near the IBOC-enabled frequencies, due to the use of sidebands, and something which Ibiquity calls adjacent cancellation to broadcast the hybrid analog/digital signal. The IBOC hybrid signal is, in fact, nearly twice the width of the standard analog FM signal. IBOC DAB is further enabled for broadcasters via installation of their digital broadcast exciter, which applies power gain techniques to avoid data-loss in the sidebands. Taken together, these techniques will effectively silence distant or low-powered stations which are nearby on the dial in metropolitan areas, without providing any additional benefit to remote listeners.

EU147, unlike IBOC, utilizes unused VHF or UHF frequency and allocates a 1.5mhz stripe for each station to use for DAB. The capabilities attained with EU147 are superior, when compared to those attained with IBOC - and without affecting any broadcaster in the analog range. Since EU147 utilizes much higher frequencies, it requires different broadcast equipment, including antenna. However, the nature of the higher frequency broadcast significantly reduces power requirements compared to IBOC, while substantially improving coverage and signal strength, especially in mountainous areas. This is achieved via a property built in to the EU147 specification called reflectors. Reflectors are signal which is received via an reflected source. As long as the "timeout" hasn't been reached, a reflected EU147 radio packet will be accepted as a valid input, thereby optimizing the ability to get a clear, uninterrupted signal. IBOC DAB, since it doesn't utilize new frequency, first fades to analog and is then subject to ordinary FM radio disruption in mountainous areas.

Both DAB standards, IBOC and EU147, seem to cost roughly the same amount of money for the broadcaster to implement, likely because of the added licensing cost related to DAB with IBOC via the Ibiquity-branded DB Radio equipment. Both use audio codecs to encode the outgoing signal from the radio station, before broadcasting it. EU147 uses an MPEG derivative called MUSICAM, while IBOC uses something called PAC (Perceptual Audio Coder), which was originally developed by Lucent. Both also require modified receivers at the listeners end, although price comparison is difficult as yet for IBOC receivers. EU147 comes standard in hi-end auto receivers in Europe and other locations where it is being broadcast, but the cost of a home audio setup with EU147 DAB is still pretty high (600-700 US).

I've heard (and seen) EU147 DAB, and it's impressive. A station can present six simultaneous CD-quality audio feeds, or a smaller number of crystal-clear audio feeds with some stunning graphics accompanying the music. Norway, the country where I live, has been on the forefront of DAB adoption in Europe, with the state-owned radio stations leading the way. They've managed to cover large areas of this (very mountainous) country, using only a small fraction of the power and transmitters required to transmit the FM signal to the same areas. In some areas, they've even utilized existing VHF transmitters to transmit EU147 DAB, generating additional savings. The major for-profit broadcasters here have been most interested in DAB after the state-owned stations, and the state stands to earn some extra income from the new medium (and spectrum). Eventually, DAB could open up the way for a whole new breed of broadcaster, if the licenses and spectrum are distributed fairly. I won't say whether that's better or worse than handing over the rights to existing for-profit broadcasters for free, as has been done in the US. Not to mention all of the technology profits going to a single company via IBOC licensing. You'll have to decide that for yourself.

With all of that said, I should point out that the IBOC standard does have value and usefulness. Recently in fact, the first amateur radio transatlantic HF digital voice QSO was successfully tested, using the Ten-Tec standard adopted by the International Telecommunication Union, which is quite similar to IBOC. Ten-Tec uses up to 10khz of additional bandwidth to encode the digital signal, and provides ham radio operators the ability to send digital data and voice signals over very long distances in a manner similar to IBOC DAB.

The FCC's adoption of IBOC might simply have been a hasty decision, or it might be a sellout to big radio. Did the FCC balk at the prospect of making analog radio obsolete, or perhaps this is simply preservation of available US spectrum for "more important" purposes? On their website (linked above), the group which is contesting the decision states that the US military is unwilling to give up the spectrum that the rest of the world is using for DAB. They've proposed another alternative, which is neither IBOC or EU147, if the military remains steadfast in their refusal. Alternatively, the FCC's decision may have been based on simplicity and ease of transition. In any case, it's clear that EU147 provides the most attractive DAB alternative for the listener. It seems to me that the FCC should think carefully before turning over the future of radio to a single corporation, even if the alternative isn't "Born in the USA".

Additional Links and Resources

  • WorldDAB - The World DAB Forum, an NGO which promotes and coordinates implementation of EU147 worldwide.
  • EU147 DAB in Canada - a recent (Dec 28) report on the status and progress of DAB in Canada. Laments the FCC decision, and discusses the limited popularity to date. Informative.
  • Radio World Coverage - of the FCC's decision to adopt IBOC.
  • The BBC Digital Radio Project - overview and discussion of DAB in England. Centered on the BBC's implementation, but including informative descriptions of existing and potential services offered.

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Poll
The FCC's decision was
o Hasty and ill-considered 20%
o A sellout to big radio 57%
o A political bone for the tossing 6%
o Subservience to the US military demands 13%
o The only logical choice 2%

Votes: 45
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Digital Radio
o FCC
o In Band On Channel
o being contested
o critics
o Ibiquity
o sidebands
o coalition
o Eureka 147
o "jam" existing low-power stations
o PAC
o utilized existing VHF transmitters
o transatlan tic HF digital voice QSO
o WorldDAB
o EU147 DAB in Canada
o Radio World Coverage
o The BBC Digital Radio Project
o Also by imrdkl


Display: Sort:
Digital Radio: A Mediocre Alternative Chosen by the FCC | 60 comments (49 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Broadcasting Models (4.80 / 5) (#11)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:44:37 PM EST

My understanding is that Eu147 was designed for the European broadcasting model, which is a relatively small number of countrywide radio networks. It also involves the broadcast of multiplexes (set of programs) from a single tower and transmitter. This is very different from the American model of a large number of independent stations, each one with its own transmitter and tower.

Eu147 could be implemented as a new service in the United States, assuming that sufficient spectrum could be found. The problem would be how to license the service. Would licenses be available to new broadcasters or would existing broadcasters have priority? A new model of station licensing would have to be created for the shared transmitter/tower facilities, which might also create antitrust problems.

IBOC (In-Band On-Channel) avoids these problems by being an added service to existing broadcast stations. This simplifies licensing and keeps existing broadcasters happy. The FCC does not have to deal with the political fallout of thousands of pissed off FM broadcasters and the inevitable lawsuits that would be generated. Just think of a major market where all of the existing broadcasters and new applicants are competing for a relatively small number of Eu147 channels.

5440' or Fight!

Have an auction, perhaps (4.50 / 2) (#14)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 02:58:43 PM EST

And let the best-monied stations win the bandwidth. With the capability to broadcast up to 30 distinct analog quality signals on the Eu147 multiplex, the winners will likely be looking to resell bandwidth anyways, which could give the little guys a presence in the new frequency. And nobody gets new bandwidth on the existing frequencies, again avoiding thousands of pissed off broadcasters, albeit not necessarily the same group which you mention. At least dont give the damn rights away, for crying out loud. America has got bills to pay.

The tower problem is lessened both by power requirements and improved coverage of Eu147. A broadcaster, theoretically, could cover a large metro area with a single tower, with good signal even between cities. The overlap is likely a bigger concern than the lack of tower space, imho.

[ Parent ]

Alternatively (none / 0) (#36)
by Herring on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:28:55 AM EST

A slightly different and possibly more effecient business model would be for a company to just own the frequency and the transmitter(s). They could then lease channels to the "content providers". That way you need fewer transmitters but you get more channels.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
DAB could have promised a "third service" (none / 0) (#17)
by artsygeek on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 05:40:19 PM EST

When FM came on the horizon, there was an explosion of ownership and diversity when the big boys moved up to FM from AM, and abandoned their AM programs when the FCC required stations to do more than simulcast.  DAB could have allowed folks to break in on FM and AM when some stations moved up to DAB.  DAB could also have allowed multiplex broadcasting, like digital TV does.  But with IBOC there just ain't enough bandwidth unless some magic compression technique gets invented, and frankly, I wonder if AM IBOC isn't just pure snake oil.  So many opportunities wasted.  It's a shame Kennard isn't still Chairman, and Tristani and Ness aren't still on.  And don't get me started on the TV/Radio Cross-Ownership barrier business GROWL

[ Parent ]
Solving problems is perpetuating problems. (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by HypoLuxa on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:52:20 PM EST

I think that going out of your way to accommodate the desires of existing broadcasters isn't a requirement in my mind. Have a spectrum auction. Every available slice will be bought. Broadcasts will ensue. It's not that hard.

Designing a solution to please the monopolists who have destroyed American radio and enable them to continue their practices in a new spectrum is not needed.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]

EU-147 Approved for Ottawa, Canada (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by Stavr0 on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 01:14:00 PM EST

CRTC Decision 2002-361

The stations are 'Cool FM' and 'CFRA Talk Radio'.
- - -
All your posse are belong to Andre the Giant

US frequencies are much harder to come by (4.50 / 4) (#15)
by isdnip on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 03:16:11 PM EST

I hate to sound a bit smug about it, but the OP's view indicates a serious lack of understanding of the United States.  Norway it ain't!

The radio spectrum here is very crowded.  Quite a lot of it is allocated to the military.  For instance, EU147 in the UK uses the 217-230 MHz band. In the US, that's shared between inland waterways two-way, land mobile two way, amateur radio, and military.  And every MHz of it is hard-fought-over. In Canada, they use 1487 MHz, which I'm sure is  the subject of considerable covetousness here too, though I don't remember offhand by whom.  Remember, we've just gotten our "3G" frequencies tentatively identified, based on relocating existing users (largely military and fixed-microwave).

So IBOC solves a big problem.  It lets existing licensees (Clear Channel and CBS-Viacom, alas, being most of them) stay in place while advertising digital service.  It is far from perfect but avoids the conflict over other bands.


On my lack of understanding (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 03:47:52 PM EST

I hope it's only w.r.t. US radio frequency allocation, but that's beside the point. The nice thing about Eu147 is that it's adaptable to just about any old section of bandwidth that's available. In Korea, they reassigned the 6mhz from channel 12 VHF (television) to get 3 Eu147 blocks free.

Honestly, I'm thinking that the lack of bandwidth argument is something of a red herring for the FCC, given the adaptability of the protocol. A standardized band is needed, perhaps, but there do seem to be some additional possibilities. Again tho, I'm no RF.

[ Parent ]

That's funny... (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by artsygeek on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:31:54 PM EST

They're soon going to abandon the VHF TV band..... and auction it off for "commercial" use. It'd be a really nice band for that use. There are also plenty of bits of public service band that are also being slowly phased out, which'll soon be used by the FCC for either Amateur use or for commercial(probably commercial).

[ Parent ]
VHF TV (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:53:27 PM EST

The initial FCC plan was to move all television broadcasting to a shrunken UHF band, after the DTV migration was complete. That plan didn't survive the protests of VHF station owners who did not want to give up the greater coverage and lower electric bills associated with VHF. The current plan is that a television station must return one of the two channels allocated to them during the transition. The station gets to choose which channel they return to the FCC.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

It's an outrage (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by artsygeek on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 05:40:28 PM EST

IBOC for AM (which either has been approved, or soon will be approved by the FCC) is really worthless, from the studies I've read, it's only worth its salt in the communities that the transmitter directly serves.  Part of the point of the AM service is that a station can cover very wide areas and even at night be inter-regional.

For FM, IBOC's okay in terms of its technical value, except it may block some distant stations and weak stations, further hobbling the NCEs(non-commercial/educationals), which means that small religious (as opposed to the clear channel-esque religious stations), public, community, and college stations could have all sorts of problems (especially those close to the commercial chunk of the band).  Furthermore, in markets where stations are REALLY close together, the sidebands can step on one another, causing a REALLY BIG mess.  But, still, it doesn't offer the same technical promise.

I also think that it may go the way of AM stereo, since there'll be people trying to jump in and produce something that'll fill the shoes of ibiquity's junk.

IBOC on AM (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by ennui on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:56:48 AM EST

AM IBOC, or any broadcast digital service within the "AM" broadcast band (which is relatively huge and underutilized) is actually an excellent idea. AM broadcast is intended to be a regional service, the same reason you can hear a 50,000 watt NY station for a 1,000 mile radius is the same reason you hear 3 2,500 watt stations on the same channel, which stinks. Broadcast AM audio generally sounds terrible, too, and is terribly inefficient in terms of sharing the bandwidth.

If you want this "wide-area" stuff, the so-called shortwave bands are the place to be. The equipment is relatively cheap, the licenses are really cheap, the required field work is minimal, and a small amount of power will get your AM signal across the country or around the world.

What I'd like to see, especially in the AM band, is say 128kbps of bandwidth (or whatever fits reasonably) tacked on to the carrier or sideband of existing AM stations, and say the station gets a 64kbps channel they can do whatever they want with and can sell one 32kbps channel and has to make the other 32kbps available for public access/public service similar to how cable companies provide a public access channel.

<(='_'=<)
kirby loves you
[ Parent ]

Why aren't the broadcasters supporting EU147? (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by squigly on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:08:08 PM EST

Surely for electronics companies still have to devlop a suitable IBOC receiver, whereas there are already a number of DAB receivers available in England from about £100 (US$160).  A new type of receiver would most likely be much more expensive.  I've never known any electronics device where the manufacturers didn't try to recoup initial development cost in price of the early models.

The point to this ramble is that surely the lower entry price would allow potentially more listeners.  And surely tht's what the broadcasters would like.  And I'd have thought that the electronic companies would rather only have to make a single model, rather than a totally different model for export.

Interesting (none / 0) (#21)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:48:35 PM EST

I'm assuming that's the price for auto receivers with dual-band and no graphics, right? That's even less expensive than I thought, although the home-units are still pretty fancy and expensive, from what I understand.

[ Parent ]
The 100 radio (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by bil on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 05:40:17 AM EST

Details can for the bottom of the range digital radio be found here but it seems pretty basic, just the normal radio functionality plus artist/track/radio station names

There were news reports that one department store (John Lewis) had sold approx 3000 of these in the christmas run up and could have sold twice that if the stock had been available.

bil

bil
Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

Fucking UK DAB (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by wabbitwatcher on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:24:49 AM EST

Recievers may be available for 100 in the UK, but the shortsightedness of the broadcasters means that 128k joint stereo MP2 is just about the best available for most stations (equivalent to 112 kbit MP3). As a result I can hear artefacts on lots of material rssulting in me NOT listening. The latest scam is to transmit in 80kbit mono thus stepping back several decades technologically.

In my opinion, in the UK, DAB is dead and buried already - FM stereo is subjectively better.

[ Parent ]

It was a problem for digital TV too. (none / 0) (#46)
by squigly on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 08:37:30 AM EST

Although there were great claims made about the potential quality of digital TV, they ended up trying to cram too many channels in.  Hopefully DAB will sort itself out over time.  It depends how much demand there is for the multiplexes.

Digital artefacts are a pain though.  Random noise on analogue is a lot more tolerable, and easier to ignore.  A friend of mine is highly enthusiastic about DAB right now though.  London stations rebroadcasting in the rest of the country leave out the advertising from their national digital broadcast.  Shame this isn't going to last.  

[ Parent ]

Don't I know it (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by wabbitwatcher on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 12:42:21 PM EST

I'm in the industry, and it pains me greatly to generate a really clean 270 Megabit SDI output from a studio with sharp well matched pictures, to then have them crammed into a 6 megabit (or less) statmuxed mpeg stream with all of its associated problems

We had a chance to have radio and television signals of real quality and what do we get - low quality crap, whose parameters are dictated by fucking accountants and know-nothing upstart caterers (apologies to John Cleese for nicking the last comment).

[ Parent ]

Near-CD Quality? (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 07:06:37 PM EST

What's the point in rolling out a transmission system that can deliver "near-CD quality" when the vast majority of FM broadcast stations butcher their audio so badly that a switch to unadulterated WBFM would be a major improvement?

5440' or Fight!

Because "Digital" sells (none / 0) (#56)
by metalfan on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 06:59:06 PM EST

Most likely people will are more interested in a product that says "digital" on it than they are in actual sound quality.

That's why you can go to your local electronics superstore and buy a pair of "digital" headphones with a regular 1/8" stereo jack (I think the ones i saw were Sony), but you will be hard pressed to find a set of good speakers. Just look at the huge variety of 3-speaker (left/right+sub) sets that have less kick than a soggy sandwich hitting a wet cardboard box.

[ Parent ]

EU147 isn't a panacea for the US market. (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 07:07:39 PM EST

OK, I've read through enough of the technical materials to convince myself I follow the standards. I'm a RF/DSP/comm guy, so hopefully I can shed some light here.

Sure, EU147 could be adapted to just about any band. It's fundamentally just a OFDM transmission scheme, which is a very adaptable digital communication technique. You could, more or less, just change the carrier of EU147 and plop it just about anywhere.

But this would require some tweaking of the format, and the transmissions wouldn't be compatible with existing EU147 receivers in Europe. In the future, it would be possible to design "dual band" receivers, analagous to the (few) GSM phones that work both in Europe and the states.

This would also be possible with IBOC, but more difficult. An IBOC radio and a EU147 radio wouldn't have a lot in common. They could share a couple components, but basically building a raddio that could handle both would be about as hard as building two radios. This is the same reason that you can't get CDMA phones that can work on GSM networks in Europe.

So, what's the advantage of IBOC? It basically comes down to an issue of backwards compatibility. IBOC is designed to fit in the USA analog radio spectrum, and allows stations to simultaneously transmit digital and analog in (roughly!) the same slot of the spectrum. This allows stations to switch over to digital without changing their station numbers, which is a big plus; this will allow a gradual evolution to digital.

By contrast, even if EU147 were adapted to the US spectrum, it would put radio stations in a funny bind. They would basically have to buy a new slot for digital bradcast. "1500 on your AM dial, 1400 for AM digital, 102.7 on your FM dial, 100.3 for FM digital." How many stations are going to try and pitch a whole new station number for the digital band? How many car buyers are going to spend the extra for a digital radio if the stations don't broadcast it? It's a viscous cycle, and it's far worse in the states than in Europe, since there are so many more stations here. Using EU147, even adapted to the US band, will really slow down the already-slow adoption of digital radio.

Furthermore, if EU147 were adapted to the US spectrum band, it would no longer have significant transmission advantages over IBOC. In fact, it would be less robust, since IBOC can fall back to analog, where EU147 would have no such (practical) fallback ability.

So, sounds like I'm a big IBOC fan, right? Well, not really. IBOC's problem is pretty obvious; it's a bandwidth hog. It basically doubles up the width that each radio station needs. Allowing IBOC's use without changing the spacing of the radio stations strikes me as stupid. It's going to cause a lot of interference in the next station over. This should have been as obvious as sunrise to the FCC folks. I guess that, given that EU147 wasn't really an acceptable standard for the US market, they decided on the next best thing avaiable, which happened to be the only thing available. Too bad it has some big drawbacks.

So, if I don't like IBOC or EU147, then what do I like? Well, I can think of a couple somewhat reasonable options. For digital to work in the US market, it has to satisfy a couple requirements:

- it has to fit in the US radio spectrum
- it has to allow broadcasters to transmit in both analog and digital, while still only pitching one station frequency
- it has to be able to fall back to analog if the digital signal breaks up
- it has to work with existing transmission equipment

IBOC passes these standards, while EU147 does not. Can you satisfy these standards without hogging spectrum like IBOC? Well, not really. You WILL need double the spectrum to broadcast in analog and digital simultaneously. So there's no easy solution. Some ideas:

- Make IBOC sit on EVEN multiples in the FM dial. No other station can use the adjacent odds. This keeps IBOC from interfering, and it doesn't waste any bandwidth. The only problem is that the dumb computer that digitally tunes most existing FM radios (like the one in your car) will want to skip over the station. The reprogramming would be easy, but somewhat impractical.

- Make IBOC bradcasters pay for 1/2 of the adjacent slots. Two IBOC broadcasters could sit next to each other (say, at 100.1 and 100.5) and no station would be allowed to use the station between them (100.3 in this case). This would be expensive for the stations and impractical when two popular stations are next to one another. (Of course, that would suck even more the way IBOC is currently set up.) Also, this only makes sense if a bunch of IBOC broadcasters end up clustered together in one part of the spectrum. Otherwise you end up with lots of wasted half-slices of bandwidth.

- Some EU147-type standard, but the digital station (on a seperate band) carries a pointer to the analog station, and vice versa. This seems very appealing at first, but then you realize that the stations need tow transmitters to handle two frequencies, and the radio needs two tuners to handle two frequencies. This is really impractical.

- Do what they're doing, and just let the poorer, less popular stations flee to cleaner slots where no IBOC broadcaster is next to them. After digital becomes popular, they can just start phasing out every other radio slot (i.e. 100.1 and 100.5 are available, but you can't use 99.9, 100.3, or 100.7 any more). I imagine that there are some folks at the FCC that understood the interference issue, and this is, more or less, how they plan to deal with it. It is the cheapest solution.

---------------------

Bottom line: The US radio market is very big, higly distributed, and entrenched in existing analog technology. A standard like IBOC, which allows stations to step over gradually, is basically the only road to large-scale digital radio here. Frankly, there isn't a really elegant way around IBOC's spectrum-hogging nature. The FCC may not have shown the wisdom of Solomon in adopting IBOC, but I don't see a drmatically better way.

-Adam

A gradual transition (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 08:11:56 PM EST

Perhaps should have been a poll option. I considered that in the article as possible motivation for the FCC, although I am not convinced that today's analog broadcasters should in all cases be tomorrows digital broadcasters.

Your comment blends discussion of receivers in with transmitters in a way which confused me a bit, as well. A tri-band mobile phone which does GSM1900 is really just a third crystal - the protocol is the same. Compared to making a tri-band radio receiver which can play analog, IBOC and Eu147 is more like making a phone which does NMT, GSM, and CDMA. The point is that Eu147-compatible receivers are also built to "fallback" to analog FM automatically. It's not a feature exclusive to IBOC, even though the analog FM signal for IBOC-compatible radios is "closer by". Switching to ordinary FM will require a standard FM tuner in both types of digital receiver.

As to your contention that entrenchment justifies the ease of "gradual transition", well, I just don't agree. Eu147 is simple and open enough that just about anyone could qualify as a broadcaster, and the fact that the standard has been awarded to the corporate heavyweights is a damn shame. Putting the radio stations in a "funny bind", or identity crisis simply isn't a big concern for me.

All that said, I do appreciate your comment. Perhaps you could clarify a bit why adapting IBOC to the US spectrum band would lessen the transmission advantages?

[ Parent ]

Er, rather (none / 0) (#26)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 08:19:36 PM EST

Could clarify a bit why adapting Eu147 to the US spectrum band would lessen the transmission advantages?

[ Parent ]
DAB in FM (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by Aztech on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 10:13:24 PM EST

It wouldn't, DAB is quite flexible and includes 5 different Protection Levels (FEC) and six  different transmission modes that suit different frequencies ranging from 30MHz VHF through UHF, L-Band (1.4GHz) and including up to many GHz satellite ranges.

The original contention was to use the upper Band-II (FM) frequency ranges in Europe but they were assigned to traditional commercial FM stations instead. Also, China ran DAB trials at 85MHz before 1998 when they decided on Band-III and L-Band as initial starting points, there's nothing that inherently prevents it from being used in the traditional FM allocations, apart from the fact they're packed in many places. In fact no doubt DAB will migrate back to traditional Band-II ranges once (or if) it proves itself.

[ Parent ]

Ease of entry (none / 0) (#30)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:14:32 PM EST

A tri-band mobile phone which does GSM1900 is really just a third crystal - the protocol is the same. Compared to making a tri-band radio receiver which can play analog, IBOC and Eu147 is more like making a phone which does NMT, GSM, and CDMA.
Right; all you need to do to have the other band in a GSM phone is add another oscillator. I guess I wasn't clear, but I agree with everything you say here. The part where I address this is when I said,

"This would also be possible with IBOC, but more difficult. An IBOC radio and a EU147 radio wouldn't have a lot in common. They could share a couple components, but basically building a raddio that could handle both would be about as hard as building two radios. This is the same reason that you can't get CDMA phones that can work on GSM networks in Europe."

So you're right, making EU147 radios that would work in two different bands would be a lot easier than making radios that work for EU147 and IBOC. Sorry for any confusion.

The point is that Eu147-compatible receivers are also built to "fallback" to analog FM automatically. It's not a feature exclusive to IBOC, even though the analog FM signal for IBOC-compatible radios is "closer by".
While Eu147 can "fall back" as you say, it wouldn't be able to do it seamlessly as signals degrade. This is because analog and digital signals would be on different carriers. In IBOC they're on the same carrier, so they can be simultaneously captured by one oscillator.

For Eu147 to pull this off, it would have to have two oscillators pulling out two carriers at the same time, which would make for more expensive equipment. (Having two oscillators is one thing, having two oscillators running simultaneously is another.) Not to mention that the radio stations would have to broadcast at both frequencies.

As to your contention that entrenchment justifies the ease of "gradual transition", well, I just don't agree. Eu147 is simple and open enough that just about anyone could qualify as a broadcaster,
The key to making digital radio catch on in the US market is ease of entry. That means it has to be cheap to boradcast digital, cheap to receive digital, and backwards compatible on both ends. If you don't do this, it just won't catch on.

If you look at the way the spec for IBOC is set up, it allows a transition to full digital later on. This sort of step-down could work just fine. In this hypothetical final state, IBOC wouldn't be too different from Eu147.

and the fact that the standard has been awarded to the corporate heavyweights is a damn shame.
I've got no reason to think badly of iBiquity; they've come up with a fairly clever standard and managed to get it adopted. Just because they're not Eu147 they're automatically the evil empire?? Somebody has to develop this stuff, and if the government doesn't pay them on the front end (to develop it) then someone has to pay them on the back end (to liscence it). Personally, I think paying on the back end is is good public policy, because it keeps the government from throwing money at bad ideas. This applies to lots of other government programs. Ack, I'm getting off-topic.
Putting the radio stations in a "funny bind", or identity crisis simply isn't a big concern for me.
It should be; if the radio stations see that buying new equipment and more bandwidth to adopt digital technology will cost them name recognition and advertising dollars, then they won't adopt it. And if the radio stations don't want to pick it up, it won't catch on. Ease of entry into the market is key.
Perhaps you could clarify a bit why adapting IBOC to the US spectrum band would lessen the transmission advantages?
Just because a lot of those advantages hinge on the difference in the spectrum used. I don't expect one OFDM standard would dramatically outperform another given the same slice of spectrum to work with. The digital chunk of IBOC uses some different techniques from Eu147, but I don't have any reason to suspect that Eu147's approach is vastly superior.

The only exception to this would be if IBOC does not support multiple transmitters like Eu147 does; this is definitely significant. I can't quite figure out if IBOC does. The IBOC standard mentions "custom interleaving techniques are tailored to the VHF Rayleigh fading environment" but that to me just says that the transmission is tailored to minimize multipath effects, not to take advantage of them. Again, I'm not really sure.

-Adam

[ Parent ]

Some counterpoints (none / 0) (#35)
by imrdkl on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 03:38:12 AM EST

> While Eu147 can "fall back" as you say, it wouldn't be able to do it seamlessly as signals degrade. This is because analog and digital signals would be on different carriers. In IBOC they're on the same carrier, so they can be simultaneously captured by one oscillator.

While this is true in theory, the real cost savings of fallback from IBOC to analog vs. fallback from Eu147 to analog will be next to nil Building a simple analog tuner into an Eu147 chassis can basically be done for pennies, due to the real cost of analog tuners in general. What's not clear, yet, is the price that the average American will have to pay for the IBOC digital functionality, which will require more power and longer antenna than a Eu147 unit. As you may have read in another thread under this article, the real cost of Eu147 (dual-mode) units is already in the $150 range in the UK. I don't expect anything like that level for some time from IBOC units. To sum up, using the same frequency will give no cost advantage to the consumer of IBOC, in spite of the theoretical reusability of the oscillator.

> ... The key to making digital radio catch on in the US market is ease of entry. That means it has to be cheap to boradcast (sic) digital, cheap to receive digital, and backwards compatible on both ends. If you don't do this, it just won't catch on.

Again, this contention seems to be based upon a market POV, which is fine, but I believe if the receivers are cheap enough, as they already are with Eu147, it will catch on in spite of what the media wants us to do. Backwards compatibility, as per the previous paragraph, is a red herring, imho.

>> ...and the fact that the standard has been awarded to the corporate heavyweights is a damn shame.
> I've got no reason to think badly of iBiquity; they've come up with a fairly clever standard and managed to get it adopted.

I wasn't referring to Ibiquty per se, but rather the existing licensees. They're the ones that get to broadcast digital radio by default.

>> Perhaps you could clarify a bit why adapting IBOC to the US spectrum band would lessen the transmission advantages?
> Just because a lot of those advantages hinge on the difference in the spectrum used. I don't expect one OFDM standard would dramatically outperform another given the same slice of spectrum to work with. The digital chunk of IBOC uses some different techniques from Eu147, but I don't have any reason to suspect that Eu147's approach is vastly superior.

I'm not seeing it. The reflector properties of Eu147 (mentioned in the article) are not available in IBOC, are they? Tests have shown, all over Europe, that Eu147 is the superior standard, in power consumption, coverage, and clarity of signal over all terrains. If adapting it to a lower frequency (due to complete lack of frequencies over 200mhz, which I also doubt) will somehow reduce these effects, I'm interested in understanding more about that, but nobody is proposing to fit Eu147 over the existing FM frequencies, as far as I can tell.

[ Parent ]

How many stations are directly adjacent? (none / 0) (#27)
by chrisbolt on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:18:23 PM EST

How common is it to have radio stations directly adjacent to one another? I did a random google search for radio stations in LA, and the list I found had at least 0.4 mhz spaces between each station.

---
<panner> When making backups, take a lesson from rusty: it doesn't matter if you make them, only that you _think_ you made them.
[ Parent ]
Fourth-adjacent rule (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by isdnip on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:54:34 PM EST

Current FM allocation guidelines go like this:

Every FM station (except very low power "unprotected" educationals, but they're a special case) has a "protected" contour.  The map (30 MB MapInfo file) is downloadable from the FCC web site, for serious junkies.  Within that contour, stations on the adjacent channel must be weaker than themselves, in order to not interfere.  Thus no two protected contours can overlap on adjacent channels.  

Second-adjacent (400 kHz) and third-adjacent (600 kHz) requires the other station to be no more than something like (from memory; I don't have the exact rule in front of me) 40 dB stronger.  So the rules assume that receiver selectivity is so poor that 3rd adjacent signals at +50 dB would cause interference.  

The net effect of this is to prohibit a station whose transmitter is within the protected contour of another from being less than 800 kHz away (4-channel spacing) unless the transmitters are collocated or one of them has its transmitter high enough above ground so that its signal strength at ground level (all that counts is signal strength 10 meters above ground) is not more than 40 dB stronger than the station 400 or 600 kHz away.

So going back to the start of this thread, no, there are no even-fraction channels, and they wouldn't do any good as an alternative to IBOC.

IBOC's problem is that it does bleed heavily into the first-adjacent channel. That should be vacant, by the above rules.  But it might get into the receiver that's trying to pick up a station on the second-adjacent channel.  What today is an empty channel (guard band) will become digital noise.


[ Parent ]

Distant Stations (none / 0) (#42)
by artsygeek on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 02:24:31 PM EST

In large markets, just about every channel is filled with some signal, only some channels are very weak because they're fairly distant. With this, some of the distant stations will get hacked off.

[ Parent ]
Frequencies (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by Aztech on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 10:03:15 PM EST

"By contrast, even if EU147 were adapted to the US spectrum, it would put radio stations in a funny bind. They would basically have to buy a new slot for digital bradcast. "1500 on your AM dial, 1400 for AM digital, 102.7 on your FM dial, 100.3 for FM digital." How many stations are going to try and pitch a whole new station number for the digital band?"
Your preoccupation with frequencies is curious; I guess it stems from the same thinking that results in the confusion of all those four letter call signs that have persisted for over 80 years :)

With Eureka147, at least, the baseband frequency isn't a concern, you get the tuner out the box and hit the 'scan' button and it finds all the multiplexes available in your area and you're presented with a list of station titles to scroll through, you find one you like and there you go, you don't have to worry about frequencies. If you loose the DAB signal then it drops back to its FM counterpart with the usual automatic retuning from RDS.

Because I'm techie I know the BBC broadcast on the same frequency all across the UK on 225MHz using Single Frequency Network (extremely spectrum efficient), however you don't have to key this into the tuner. I've listened to other local and regional services over the past couple of years without knowing their exactly frequencies, they're somewhere in 217-230MHz but to the end user this is irrelevant, everything has been abstracted to station titles, it's more about 'selecting' than 'tuning'.

However, I don't know how this structure of shared multiplexes and huge national/regional networks would operate in the US, considering there's just a few big radio groups carrying syndicated content it probably wouldn't be too bad, but I suspect these companies aren't interested in spectrum efficiency if it means more competition from emergent broadcasters.

On a related note, a new technology called DRM will debut internationally this year for digitising the LW/MW/SW bands (i.e. AM). There was a stereo ShortWave sample on the RNW a while ago, not to shoddy for a transmission from a few thousand miles away.

[ Parent ]

A few simple questions (3.66 / 3) (#31)
by johnny on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:22:15 PM EST

Please forbear my ignorance. I think the article is great, but a lot of it is over my head-- or at least far outside my current competence. Anyway here's what I want to know:
  1. I have a room in metropolitan Boston. Unless it's baseball season, the only stations I listen to are college stations (Tufts, MIT, Boston College, Emerson), which play, of course, obscure punk & third world & non-English & traditional & other non-corporate music and which also have non-corporate news. What will be the impact of the new standard on these stations both in Boston and across the USA? The Tufts station, my favorite, for example, has a broadcast radius of about five miles, I think.
  2. Related to above: my permanent home is on the island of Martha's Vineyard, home of WMVY, a small FM station. What will be the impact of this ruling there? The way in which this situation differs from Boston is that in Boston there are lots of competing stations, but on the Vineyard you can only get a few stations anyway. It's a much smaller market and fewer stations care about it.
  3. In three sentences or fewer, does this new proposed standard further increase the (political, economic, market, what-have-you) power of the large radio conglomerates?
  4. Is there any reasonable way for independents ("pirates", etc) to subvert this technology? If so, what are the penalties for so doing?
  5. As somebody who values hearing stuff I've never heard before-- whether music or opinion or whatever--, and as somebody who basically despises everything on every station on the dial that is not a college station (except, rarely, NPR), and as somebody who values informality, disorganization, and goofiness--in other words, humanity-- in the college stations that I love, and as somebody who is perfectly happy with the sound quality of current radio broadcasts, is there any benefit to me, at all, from this proposed change?
  6. Given the performance of the Bush administration in all other matters, and given the political lineage of the current FCC chairman, is there any reason to hope that corporate interests will not prevail?
The above questions are for real. Any guidance appreciated, as I'm preparing a letter to my congressman.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
a few quick answers (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:44:14 PM EST

1)  Those stations could get beaten down a little if, say, WBRU (yeah Brown) was on an adjacent channel and the fatter digital signal bled into your reception of the puny Tufts signal.

OTOH, if these stations switch to digital (unlikely in the short run, but possible if it gets cheap and popular in a few years) then you could get all that music coming in crystal-clear.

2)  The impact in an isolated spot like the Vineyard would be basically nil.  Maybe it would go digital later.  But the bleed-though problem just isn't a problem there.

3)  Only insofar as they can "accidentally" shoulder out a couple of small stations on adjacent channels; but this is not really too likely and doesn't make them more powerful.  Maybe some stations will become more poular because they offer digital radio and others don't.  It's hard to say.

4)  It's reasonable to imagine someone pirating the standard, but you still need a radio station to actually do anything with it, and it's hard to hide a radio station.  If someone was sufficiently pissed off at a station they could jam the digital portion, but this would be hard to do (significantly harder than jamming analog) and also hard to hide.

5)  No short-run benefits for you, if you like the music quality the way it is.  In the far long run, after things go all digital, you may see the cost of radio trnsmission equipment go way down, which will ease the entry into the market and make alternative radio more available.  But the same technology would also allow the creation of regional mega-stations.

6)  Clearly, nobody's going to put in the money to go digital if they don't see the profits in it.  I'm not sure this is a huge honeypot, though.  We'll see.  I'm not making any predictions on this one.

-Adam

[ Parent ]

Thanks for very helpful answers and (none / 0) (#33)
by johnny on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 11:57:33 PM EST

Go boilers! Where do you reside? I was 1 year on 6th street east side and two years on Pierce Street up by Krannert.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
*Who's* writing to Congress? (none / 0) (#40)
by smithmc on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 01:07:06 PM EST

You're going to write a letter to your Congressman, to express the opinions and judgments of other people you've never met, who probably don't even live in your constituency? I thought the point of writing your Congressman was to tell him what you wanted...

[ Parent ]
I simply ask for help (none / 0) (#41)
by johnny on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 01:49:37 PM EST

in getting my facts right. Seems like I misread some of the implications of the original article. There's a pretty knowledgeable readership here and I tap into that from time to time. That's why I come here, actually: to listen as well as to speak.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Digital broadcast radio? (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by Hizonner on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 12:53:24 AM EST

OK, so it seems to me that there are only a few things you can get from digital broadcast:

  1. More channels squeezed into the same bandwidth.
  2. Better sound quality.
  3. Gewgaws like text and pictures along with the sound.
  4. Maybe better reception in some remote areas.
The FCC has obviously rejected the first of these, since they're requiring people to broadcast the analog and digital signals, because of their old-receiver compatibility fetish. No bandwidth savings.

The next two are basically not useful for mobile receivers. When you're moving around, and especially if you're driving in a car, there's too much ambient noise for you to notice a difference in sound quality. Most people frankly probably wouldn't hear it on a good receiver in a good listening room, let alone on the road. Likewise, you're probably not going to have a display for the text and graphics, and if you do it's not likely to be safe to look at it. So this stuff is really useful only for fixed receivers. I'm not saying it won't be marketed for mobiles, but we all know it doesn't have to be useful to be marketed. And, marketing or no, even for fixed receivers, I'm not sure that that many people want either better sound than they get from FM right now, or the text stuff.

The last, better remote reception, benefits only relatively few people... and I'm not sure those people don't have other things they'd rather be able to get out where they are, like say decent broadband Internet.

So my question is why we're wasting bandwidth, over huge areas, in nice bands with good propagation properties, on broadcasting music to fixed receivers in the first place. OK, I can see one or two news/weather/emergency stations, but a whole wodge of music? When everybody has a CD player, and everybody who's not way out in the boonies can reasonably be expected to have certainly cable, and probably a reasonably fast Internet connection, by the time this stuff gets into the market, what's the point?

Seems to me that we should be phasing out radio (and especially TV) broadcast, and using that bandwidth for something more interesting, like maybe relatively directional beams (I know it takes a huge antenna to make a really tight beam at 100MHz) to deliver data service to those people out in the middle of nowhere. Or some sort of cell-based service, again perhaps for remote areas. Or at least some service targeted to mobiles, which really need to be wireless. Or something.

... but I don't pay a lot of attention to broadcasting. Maybe somebody can tell me what I'm missing?

Satellite Radio (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by Jamie Re on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:47:13 AM EST

It seems that Digital Radio has already been ousted by Satellite Radio. I am not sure of the technological limitations when comparing these two technologies but I do know that Satellite Radio has programable channels, tells you what song is playing etc. What I do know is that there a reasonably priced car units and many bars and restaurants have Satellite Radio installed already. As a viable alternative that is already proven and on the market it seems the only drawback is the live performance aspect of radio, but that seems to be a problem that could be worked out fairly easily with uplinks from the stations perhaps. -jamie

Satellite broadcast (none / 0) (#44)
by imrdkl on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:20:44 AM EST

Is another potential advantage of Eu147, and higher frequency allocation. The technique hasn't yet caught on in Europe, however. Perhaps because of international boundaries and overlap considerations. The services you're referring to are available in the US, and have indeed shown that subscription radio has a market. The broadcast standard used by these for-profit companies is not Eu147, AFAIK.

The WorldDAB site linked above has a recent white paper about the status and progress of satellite radio.

[ Parent ]

Different market (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by Aztech on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 08:09:59 PM EST

Subscription radio via satellite/terrestrial and even free DAB faces problems in Europe, generally in Europe you find lots of high quality publicly funded FM stations that don't broadcast any advertising. The BBC in the UK for instance broadcast five national stations that reach 99.4% of the country (another six can be found on DAB) without advertising.

What people are willing to pay for in the US, namely "commercial-light" somewhat specialist programming that can only be found on new digital services are often the norm on free FM broadcasts in any countries. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of appalling commercial players in the same vein as ClearChannel and Charter, so it isn't universally good, in fact many may end up being owned by ClearChannel in a few months, it's hard to say what that will do for quality, but it's basically a lost cause anyway.

[ Parent ]

Consider the price (none / 0) (#55)
by imrdkl on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 03:20:58 PM EST

Your other comments on this story tell me you've been pretty disappointed by DAB, even though the BBC still has decent bandwidth and gives the digitized signal the sampling rate it deserves. Likely you don't find all the music you want on BBC, and try the other channels. What I'm still curious about is why things went wrong in the UK. Naturally, the public stations (BBC) gots it good, but is it perhaps the case that the commercial stations didn't pay enough for the rest? In other words, are the multiplexes being too finely divided among the commercial players in the UK? Or, perhaps everyone should everyone get a shot at it?

[ Parent ]
Auntie Beeb has let herself go (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Aztech on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 07:32:02 PM EST

"Your other comments on this story tell me you've been pretty disappointed by DAB, even though the BBC still has decent bandwidth and gives the digitized signal the sampling rate it deserves. Likely you don't find all the music you want on BBC, and try the other channels."
When my DAB tuners was in common usage it was almost permanently locked onto the BBC multiplex, but unfortunately the BBC are now amongst the worst offenders, dropping to sub-commercial levels on many occasions, the only station to remain unscathed is Radio 3, a classical station that remains an improvement on FM.

In a sense they're no worse than the commercial players, their content is immeasurably better, on a totally different level, but people automatically expect more of them because their job is to raise the bar rather than make profits, so people feel somewhat cheated, especially when they have provided a service then they later obliterated the quality level. The early adopters quite justifiably feel like they've been taken for a ride, especially when early tuners cost >$1500 (I wasn't daft enough to buy in that early, not matter how good it sounded).

It should be said that broadcast regulation in the UK is undergoing a massive shake up right now, a new deregulatory body is in the process of being set up and ownership restrictions and quality floors are being removed, so it's quite likely that within 18 months the commercial multiplexes will be packed with sub-112k streams all owned by the big US radio groups. I can't abide Clear Channel for example, but please don't interpret that as a dislike of the US.

Anyway, I've switched to satellite now, which is still decent quality because of the abundance of bandwidth, but obviously this isn't much good for car/personal/portable use, plus it makes a mockery of my dusty old DAB tuner, if they justify crappy quality then the same may follow on satellite especially if its high quality makes DAB look like a joke. In a way it's a matter of principle, if DAB is meant to replace FM it should be an improvement upon it, maybe I have an old fashioned mindset and define 'progress' as being successive improvements upon the incumbent system, rather than progressing backwards. If we follow this backward trend then we can expect the re-emergence of black and white TV then eventually our devolution to cave dwellers.

Everyone is diving up their cake too thinly, each multiplex delivers around 1.2Mbit/s and this is then divided up into a number of streams, just over a year ago for instance the BBC had six streams packed into this space, now they have 11 (there's also ancillary stuff like broadcast web site, TPEG traffic alerts, Electronic Programme Guide).

Though only inconsequential in the great scheme of things it's sort of emblematic of a worn-out country now run by bean counters who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. It's like Chinese water tourture in a way, nothing works properly and those things that escaped this trend have to be needlessly interfered with and cut down to run ineffectively, maybe someone takes a sadistic pleasure in all this.

[ Parent ]

Dumber and dumber (none / 0) (#59)
by Aztech on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 08:33:20 PM EST

I forgot to add this pretty much sums up the mentality of the majority of our commercial radio, regardless of who owns them I think it's practically impossible for them to sink any lower. Incidentally Clear Channel believe this group to be a very attractive prospect, I think that speaks for itself.

[ Parent ]
The technology level is nearly irrelevant in radio (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by stpna5 on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 03:23:06 AM EST

as the humble crystal set proved a couple of generations ago. And internet radio was one of the less stupid possibilities that the WWW offered. It's now on life support. The sad reality about the FCC and other such bodies appearing to do anything besides bend over and spread 'em at the request of corporate leviathans is obvious even to dumb beasts at this point. Compare the competition, variety, talent, musicality, information and entertainment that emanated from even the cheesiest radios all over the country 30 years ago to the black hole all of that disappeared into now that a handful of mutant greedheads have vanquished free enterprise. They couldn't do this by themselves. The Feds rolled over then and play dead now.

Costs more (none / 0) (#48)
by cpt kangarooski on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:43:55 PM EST

Due to the additional fees charged for broadcast per 17 U.S.C. 106(6) that aren't present for current radio broadcasts, piled on top of whatever costs of conversion there would be, and the slow pace of adoption (see the HDTV rollout), I don't see this taking off anytime at all soon.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
The US and standards (5.00 / 3) (#49)
by Magnetic North on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:54:45 PM EST

Why is it that the US almost consistently chooses other standards than the rest of the world?

No, it's not quality (NTSC vs. PAL for example) nor 'first adaptee' (for exapmle GSM).

Is it politics of some kind or is it based in a general disdain for the rest of the world?

Standards (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Bad Harmony on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 05:17:28 AM EST

In some cases the standard is implemented in the USA first, then Europe implements a different standard because of technical advances or a desire to protect European manufacturers. The USA had a widely deployed cellular system (AMPS) before Europe. It would be many years before a digital system like GSM could be implemented at a reasonable cost. Increases in semiconductor density have now made CDMA, a better technology, practical to deploy.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Standards: Examples? (none / 0) (#60)
by leandro on Fri Jan 24, 2003 at 11:59:32 AM EST

Would you care giving a better example?  USA has two protocols, CDMA & IS-386 TDMA, none of which is a standard.  Meanwhile GSM has enable cheaper, better services in Europe, while avoiding the Qualcom hoarding that CDMA (and 3G) will submit operators and customers to.

[ Parent ]
Declining Standards (5.00 / 3) (#51)
by Aztech on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 05:27:27 PM EST

I bought a Digital Radio a couple of years ago and life was good, until they cut the bitrates in the UK by 33% around a year ago, instead of a 192k MP2 stream, which is the lower end of MP2's design threshold, we now have 128k joint stereo which sounds ropey, it's a downgrade from decent FM reception. It is possibly the only advancement in broadcast technology that progressed backwards in terms of quality.

Certain speech radio that has plays etc, have dropped to a low quality mono carrier for great chunks of time whilst it's still in glorious stereo on FM, it's a retrograde step and should be avoided.

Technologies like MPEG are self-defeating, I can imagine some engineer sitting in a lab in the early 90's marvelling at being able to compress a raw stream by over x5 yet still maintain near transparent CD quality, i.e. 256k MPEG Layer II, the problem is the poor beggar failed to implement quality floors, hence his technology is misapplied by broadcasters run by cloth-eared bean counters, including eminent public broadcasters that should be solely interested in quality since they're excluded from the negative influences of the market.

However, I should say that some of the new stations available on digital are interesting but the carrier doesn't do them justice. Other new stations that brought about the reduction in quality of existing Beeb services are worthy, there's probably a lot there for geeks, but we shouldn't have to choose between quality and quality... or have other people decide for us.

As for IBOC in the states, it seems to simply maintain the ownership and control status quo without openning up spectrum to new content or players in the market, with the added disadvantage of compromising the existing system. Regardless of how bad DAB/Eureka147 gets it won't impact on FM... unless they start feeding the FM transmitters with the DAB feed, lets just hope the bean counters don't catch on.

Motorola's competing standard (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by proletariat on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 11:04:42 PM EST

The Economist has an article about a new Motorola digital radio standard called "Symphony"

http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=1476763

"Symphony costs the broadcaster nothing, and consumers next to nothing--and the average listener can barely hear the difference between the two digital forms of AM or FM radio reception"

Also Symphony has some "big advantages" mentioned in the article.

Digital Radio: A Mediocre Alternative Chosen by the FCC | 60 comments (49 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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