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UK's TechRadar: Dump DAB in Favor of DAB+
Jan 26, 2014 - Jeremy Laird, writing in the U.K.'s TechRadar, says that the DAB system there should be ditched in favor of DAB+. "DAB in the UK is badly broken and needs fixing," he writes. "That's right, fixing, and not replacing with Internet streaming..."
"Firstly, let's be clear about one thing - the real challenge isn't coverage, even if that does need improving. That's a well understood issue and the solution is obvious enough. Nope, the main problem is bandwidth.
"Did you know, for instance, that many DAB radio stations in the UK are broadcast at just 64kb/s mono using the MP2 codec? Do not adjust your screen that really is just 64kb/s. That really is mono not stereo. That really is MP2 and not MP3."
Laird goes on to explain that each DAB multiplex transmitter has a "data budget" that is inflexible. As more streams are added, each stream gets less bandwidth. "...Every time you add a station, something somewhere has to give. Immediately, you realize DAB is fundamentally at conflict with itself. It's supposed to offer better quality and more stations, but the more it does the latter, the less it can deliver the former."
Laird also goes on to assert that using streaming audio via the Internet is not the ultimate solution. "Of course, you may argue that none of this matters. Simply use streaming data over the Internet and dump DAB. Simple. And that's actually not a bad idea for most people in a home or office context - anywhere you can have an Internet connection delivered by a landline.
"But as soon as you are on the move, the streaming proposition breaks down. We tried streaming music over EE's 4G network from London to Bath via the M4 - one of the UK's major trunk roads. It just doesn't work.
"OK, buffering technology helps a lot. But it's not really a solution for live broadcast. If you want to listen to the news when it's actually news, you need an essentially unbroken stream and certainly no major breaks in connectivity. The UK's 3G and 4G networks aren't even close to being able to delivering that. Fundamentally, then, streaming over the Internet is a woefully inefficient way to go about getting live audio into cars."
"As for what is to be done, part of the answer is simple. Switch the UK to DAB+. That's the follow up to DAB that supports the AAC codec which is more efficient even than MP3."
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