[opendtv] DAB experience in the UK

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "OpenDTV (E-mail)" <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 18:05:11 -0400

Here's an interesting article. It appears that content rules,
as always, but that the average Joe also understands audio
quality, beyond the simple mono vs stereo concepts.

So in the UK, it appears Eureka is for the time being
successful mostly in homes rather than cars, and the
content appeals to the graying generation.

(To make links work in my posts, please remove any "2D" or "3D"
characters that follow immediately after an =3D (equals) sign.
(Which will probably also appear in this instruction.)


Digital radio hits home in England
By Junko Yoshida , EE Times
July 09, 2004 (2:19 PM EDT)
URL: http://www.eet.com/article/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=3D22104615

Paris - While digital audio broadcast has thus far had little
impact on England's cars, it appears to be capturing that
nation's hearth.

Tuning in to vintage comedies and re-run dramas in their kitchens,
little old ladies and baby boomers contradict the conventional
wisdom - indeed, the near unanimous view of the engineering
community - that car radios would become the killer app to
catapult digital audio broadcast to success.

Instead, cost considerations, clear reception and specialized
programming are creating an audience for digital audio broadcast
(DAB) in the cozier confines of the home.

Take Dot Perry, 78. Dot lives in a retirement home in Rugby,
Warwickshire, in the English Midlands and has had her
digital-broadcast radio since last Christmas. "I just love the
clarity of the sound," she said. "It's so much clearer that I
don't need to use my hearing aid." Her favorite programs include
classical music, dramas and plays and current-events discussions.

Ross Silver, a 57-year-old sales trainer living in the London
suburbs, has two DAB receivers - one in his kitchen and another
in the living room. "I have two so that I don't have to miss a
show when I go back and forth between the two rooms," he said.
Silver bought the receivers for himself and his wife as a
Christmas gift in 2002, "when the price was right - under 100

With his receivers, Silver listens to old comedies, like the
"Goon Show," that are only available on BBC7, a digital-broadcast
channel. "Although I am a bit old to be a rock fan," he said, I
also like 'Planet Rock,' " another program not offered on regular
FM radio. Silver also depends on DAB to listen to sports.
Although the sports channels provide basically the same
programming as AM stations, "they come in a much clearer sound
quality. We all love that," he said.

In sum, "guaranteed, interference-free quality" and a "choice"
of programming are the reasons Silver is a big digital broadcast
fan, he said.

After years of struggle since its market introduction in 1998,
Europe's terrestrial digital radio - based on the Eureka 147
system developed by an international consortium - is evolving
from niche product to mass consumer item. Digital audio
broadcast radio receiver sales in the U.K. alone this year are
projected at a million units.

Fledgling digital radio broadcast operators in the United States
- whether XM Satellite Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. or
iBiquity Digital Corp. - all continue to focus on penetrating
the automotive market, paying little attention to radio
listeners at home. But the U.K's kitchen trend suggests that U.S.
digital broadcasters might be aiming their signals at the wrong

One of the original design goals for the Eureka 147 system - and
for that matter, any other satellite or terrestrial digital
radio specifications developed in the United States - was to
assure that the new spec could handle the challenge of receiving
signals in a fast-moving vehicle while coping with complex
echoes and signal-fading conditions. "We all thought the
mobility of this technology was the breakthrough," said Rebecca
Dorta, project director of the World DAB Project Office based in

But in reality, she notes, "a majority of people listen to the
radio at home." In the U.K., 45 percent of listeners are at home,
Dorta said, but only 14 percent in automobiles.

Mandy Green, spokesperson for the Digital Radio Development
Bureau, a trade body funded by the BBC and commercial radio
multiplex operators to promote digital audio broadcasting in the
U.K., acknowledged that less than 5 percent of the digital
receivers sold so far in the U.K. were car radios. "It's a very
insignificant number."

Europeans, of course, did their level best to crack the car radio
market with Eureka 147. But the digital car audio market had "a
bumpy start," said Andrew Moloney, marketing manager of receivers
at RadioScape, a U.K.-based software-defined radio technology

RadioScape, which is designing a family of DAB/FM modules using a
Texas Instruments DSP, is entering the car audio market this week
after years of developing and marketing cost-effective digital
broadcast software/hardware solutions for kitchen radios and radio
clock alarms.

But Moloney takes no credit for his company's foresight.
RadioScape decided to head for the kitchen rather than car audio
simply because the company was too small to pursue more than one
market segment at a time.

With 20/20 hindsight, many in digital audio broadcast can explain
that the car radio market is the most difficult place to start
building a broad base of digital radio listeners and a volume
digital radio receiver market. First, there's the long process of
convincing carmakers to include digital radio as a line-fit
option. The after-sale market for digital radio receivers in cars
is equally difficult, since it means installing not just a new
receiver but a new antenna as well. Moreover, it's not easy to
get a car salesman excited about digital radio when all he wants
to do is sell a car.

The car radio market is also complicated by the technology of
radio antennas, RadioScape's Moloney said. A high-quality antenna
used for FM car radios often comes with its own amplifier to
enhance FM signal reception. Some of those temperamental antennas,
it turned out, "were trashing the DAB signals - they saw digital
signals as noise," Moloney explained. To resolve the issue for car
audio suppliers, a RadioScape DAB/FM receiver module launching
this week carries a special provision to address the amplifier

The high cost of car radios is another problem, notes the World
DAB Project's Dorta. A DAB kitchen radio today costs under 100
euros, she said, while the high spec'd DAB car audio, including
its fitting cost, is about 420 euros. DAB user Silver, although
he has a car and drives it often, does not have a DAB car radio.
"I can't justify the cost," he said. "Maybe when I buy my next

Still, the Digital Radio Development Bureau estimates late 2004
and early 2005 for the birth of the DAB car audio market. The
booming consumer market, combined with lower prices for the
digital receivers, is helping to overcome the automakers'
resistance to Eureka 147-based receivers. "The auto
manufacturers now see the home DAB market as proof for DAB
being a mass market and that it's here to stay," said Moloney.

For any new digital broadcast standards to take off - whether TV
or radio - the broadcast industry and equipment vendors need to
meet three basic requirements: broader signal coverage,
differentiated programming and cheaper hardware. And while the
DAB market in Europe, particularly in the U.K., appears to have
figured this out, the situation in the United States diverges
widely - in technologies, business models and market focus.

The U.S. terrestrial digital radio broadcast based on iBiquity's
HD Radio, for example, is designed to enable AM and FM radio
stations to broadcast their programs digitally. Satellite
digital radio broadcasters like Sirius and XM Radio are focused
on subscription-based services. Michelle Abraham, senior analyst
for research house In-Stat/MDR (Scottsdale, Ariz.), acknowledged
that all the U.S. digital radio operators are "targeting the car
first." Both XM and Sirius have investments from auto
manufacturers, she said. "XM, for example, allows GM customers
to roll their subscription into their monthly [car] payment."

In-Stat/MDR's Abraham doesn't think the U.S. digital radio
industry is going after the wrong market. "I think they are on
the right track." Because the first of these digital radios is
still expensive, she said, "the cost is easier to absorb in the
car, so I don't think it's the hardest to enter."

But even in the United States, listening locations for regular
radios are almost equally split among home, car and workplace,
although they shift dramatically depending on the time of day.
According to a report this year by Arbitron Inc., 39.9 percent
of the nation's weekday, 6 to 10 a.m. radio audience is
listening at home, compared with 35.2 percent in cars and 23.6
percent at work.

Those who pioneered the home DAB market are taking steps toward
the day when a digital radio becomes a personal audio recorder,
just as personal video recorders have been developed for TV.

Indeed, many digital broadcast listeners are already hooked on
a feature that displays the title of the music being played,
the artist and a Web site or further information. Praising
this feature, Silver said, "Once you have it, you just don't
want to give it up."

By offering support for an electronic programming guide and
the ability to simultaneously decode up to three channels on
the same multiplex system in RadioScape's next-generation DAB
module, "We are only taking our software-defined radio to the
next logical level," said Moloney. RadioScape's advanced
digital radio module, launched this week along with a
separate automotive module, will feature a direct interface
with MultiMedia Card (MMC) and Secure Digital (SD) removable
memory cards, as well as a USB connection. It will enable
audio transfer to a PC and allow the PC to control the

Chip vendors offering the DAB solution include RadioScape/TI;
Frontier Silicon with Imagination Technology; Atmel, Sonarics
and Panasonic. A growing list of consumer electronics
companies jumping into the digital receiver market includes
Sony, Panasonic, Sanyo, Samsung, JVC and LG Electronics,
joining Hitachi TEACs, Grundig and Philips, which were already
in the market.

The World DAB Project's Dorta said that the latest Eureka
Research report projects 40 million DAB receivers in Europe by
the end of 2010. That translates into a $1.31 billion market
opportunity for DAB radio receiver makers, she said.

Copyright 2003 CMP Media
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