[opendtv] Re: DAB experience in the UK

  • From: S J Birkill <sjb@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 09:58:25 +0100

Yoshida's opening paragraphs are misleading and lean too heavily on the
Radioscape publicity machine. The reason the first DAB offerings were
automotive was simply the bulk and power demand of the first-generation
(multi-chip) COFDM demod/decoders: the product was a trunk-mounted shoebox;
the reason it didn't take off was that it was an after-market solution at a
time (1995) when the only DAB broadcasts were in the UK -- there was no
incentive for the international auto manufacturers to fit DAB, and only the
most dedicated early adopter would shell out the (then) necessary 700
pounds plus installation.

This model was shattered in 2001 when Frontier Silicon, in concert with
Imagination Technologies, introduced Chorus, a dedicated DAB SoC solution.
It was teamed with an innovative 3-dollar RF front-end from RWT, allowing
Frontier to manufacture inexpensive add-on DAB modules integrating all the
necessary baseband, control and display interfaces on a small card, which
could be sold to all the major radio set manufacturers. This is what made
possible the 99-pound "kitchen radio" (the Pure 'Evoke' was the first), and
the explosion of sales and interest in DAB over the past three years. The
phrase "kitchen radio" is all it takes to explain the demographic -- the
UK's DAB network has no shortage of 'youth' programming, just look at the
list of stations:

Radioscape followed on some 18 months later with an RF front end that,
remarkably, was almost identical to the RWT one: it used the same MOPLL and
IF amp, and the same SAW filter, but instead of the SoC they teamed with
TI, performing the channel and source decoding in DSP. They have had some
success in following the Frontier marketing model.

The second half of the piece is accurate: next-generation modules are now
sampling from Frontier, and include the international L-Band (1452-1492
MHz) as well as the UK's Band III (high-band VHF), making them suitable for
continental Europe and emerging Eureka-147 markets such as Canada. The
inclusion of VHF/FM processing means the DAB module can replace, rather
than augment, the conventional analog tuner. And of course at this point
the car manufacturers start to become interested, especially as the module
now takes up only a small part of the standard automobile radio housing; of
course the antenna needs to cover the appropriate bands, but that's not
brain surgery: in only a matter of a couple of years DAB will become common
equipment in new cars. And with public recognition (largely through
familiarity with MP3) that the meagre 128 kbits/s allocated to most UK DAB
channels is *not* "CD quality", though good enough in a noisy environment,
in-car usage may at last catch up with home use. The US digital radio
operators and suppliers may well be right in targeting the automotive market.

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