Entering into the DAB trials was, for me, something of a ‘born again’ experience. I’d remained deeply sceptical about the UK’s handling of DAB until quite recently. DAB was like a private club – the members being the BBC and commercial radio’s big groups – meaning there was no route to DAB for hundreds of small IR, internet and community radio stations. More importantly, the listener had been badly let down. Having been promised ‘more choice’ and ‘higher audio quality’, the new platform delivered neither.
In TV that did happen – and why wouldn’t it with the massive explosion of choice and the clear benefits of Widescreen, HD, 3D and now Ultra HD? For radio, though, it was a very different story. Did we really expect people to replace all their radio sets to hear pretty much the same stations – in poorer quality?
The Turning Point - Small-Scale DAB
Ofcom’s decision back in 2014 to stage a number of small-scale DAB trials was, for me, one of those ‘lightbulb moments’. The trials were to rely on ‘software defined’ techniques running on low-cost and readily-available computer equipment as opposed to the expensive bespoke hardware in use elsewhere.
- A cost-effective solution for existing and new radio stations bringing greater choice and interesting new formats to DAB;
- A chance to explore new ways of managing digital capacity to improve the audio quality of services;
- To test the function, capability and stability of software-defined DAB multiplex technology;
- To test how well the available technology lends itself to several parties coordinating their services into the multiplex; and
- To give the market an opportunity to learn about the software-defined DAB platform and the potential opportunities the technology affords.
Niocast Manchester - Formats at Launch
- Chris Country
- Panjab Radio
- Manchester Business Radio
- Revolution 96.2
- The Steve Penk Wind-Up Channel
More Choice and Higher Quality? Bring on DAB
By now, we were past the half-way mark in our nine month life-cycle so Ofcom’s decision to extend the trial by two years came as welcome news, giving us the time and security we needed in order to invest in new codecs and reconfigure our systems.
A trip to the WorldDAB Automotive conference in Brussels further strengthened our resolve to commit to DAB+. Chatting to delegates it became apparent that most countries in Europe and others around the globe are now looking to DAB+ as the long-term solution.
Niocast's John Evington & David Duffy at WorldDAB, Brussels
Niocast Manchester – Formats One Year-In
- 19 stations
- 9 in stereo
- 14 of them using DAB+