|Paris / January 2014|
As you may noticed, I posted two interviews on digital radio, one of which is with Mr. Patrick Hannon & the second is with Ms. Ruxandra Obreja. I am pleased to say that both interviews were very informative for me & also for the Turkish market. I was working on the digital radio transition project professionally when I posted those interviews. After a change in my position, although I am not directly involved in the project any more, I keep following the progress and still try to understand the technology.
This is the third interview with the same 4 questions. Mr. Attila Ladanyi is the CTO of T & C Holding and also a Board Member of the RDS - Forum. The photo in this post is from Paris.
1. There are many examples of digital radio transitions all over the world. Some are great success whereas some are total fail. I think there is not a one-right-path to follow. What do you recommend us, I mean in Turkey, with all those experiences?
I don't know from any transitions. I wrote the first DAB Data-Services 1995 and still wait for the follow-up order. Some countries have invested incredible sums and they could not go ahead much further developing DAB in the last 20 years. In my opinion, DAB is not a real successful system anywhere. Success is relative. The mobile Internet is much younger than DAB and you cannot even begin to compare the success of the two.
In fact, the listener had already denied oneself the temptation consistently over the last 20 years.
What is more, not every sold DAB tuner is also used. You often get it included when you buy receivers or automobile. However, all of the DAB radio has also an FM part. In this respect, DAB cannot surpass FM at all.
In Europe there are 5 or 6 countries where DAB has been reasonably well developed. The remaining countries have either no money for this fun, or no will to do it. Some have tried it and opt out again.
All in all, the most countries that have run ahead are trapped in their high cost at the end. The switch-off of the FM in solo action cannot work and it makes priceless endless simulcast.
In fact, there were only a very few customers could be convinced so far, which is not a big surprise. It does not provide additional advantage. The idea of switch-off FM which is often threatened by DAB activists scare the people. However, the result of that threat promotes more defiance in every country because they felt blackmailed.
The way to success is not the technology or coercion but the content. Let them offer meaningful formats and data, then goes something like this automatically. Who had to shoot all horses to sell more cars, or to cut the phone cables to sell more smartphones? The apps have sold the smartphones.
What Turkey makes is only limited on their budget. Getting them already millions of letters from impatient listeners who want to hear absolutely digital, before the Iranian or Bulgarian people do this? Are these listeners willing to pay something for it? Or they have to pay to the government some subsidies as usual? How long is going to take anyway more time even another 20 - 30 years?
The crucial question is whether anyone has an idea that can going beyond the simulcast; or simply a tunnel vision toward "digital"?
2. Simulcast period, the period of FM & DAB/DAB+, is a must but is also an extra cost for broadcasters. What do you suggest for the length of this simulcast period?
The length of the simulcast period has exceeded 20 years in Europe. The end cannot be seen. Simulcast was another not so smart idea. This was based on the faith that people were buying unconditionally everything what is propagated as “digital”. This was maybe the market in the late 70-s until the end of 80-s, but it is stopped later.
In broadcasting we have since decades a largely saturated market. The business fundamentals are the same for the next decades. The advertising markets are tailored to the coverage areas. Broadcasters, except the state funded EBU members, have absolutely no interest to change this status quo. Not even for free, because large SFNs destroy the local ad-business.
First of all, if you want to live from the market you need listeners. Secondly, one needs the market itself. DAB was designed in the 80-s for nationwide monster radio chains like BBC or ARD. For the medium and small private stations gave nothing. The problem is to send three times (or with satellite / cable even quadruple), on FM, Internet and DAB. What should the listeners do now? He does something very logical and simple thing: DAB can be left out. The normal family has several FM receivers but they certainly have computers and smart phones. Everybody has two of the three or four possible channels. Why need a third one that is not even built completed. It is logically not to buy, because you have already multiple chances to receive the same programme, and the additional benefits are nowhere to be seen. So it is clearly animated, to not buy the simulcasted thing.
FM was only successful because it has brought totally different formats than AM. In addition, the quality difference was enormous between AM and FM. However, listeners divided in the assessment and there is nothing new except the hardware between FM and DAB.
3. As far as I know some cars come with DAB+ in Europe, especially in C+ segment. Although, there are many cars on the roads only with FM radios. What is the solution for DAB?
The solution for the DAB receiver is clear, the receiver switches automatically to FM when DAB is not available. This is the case in all countries except 5 or 6 in West Europe. In case of simulcast, DAB is not absolutely necessary, you will miss nothing, and in connected cars you can get everything digitally when you want it. FM cannot be left out for at least 30 more years, and internet connection is standard in 2 or 3 years (connected car & smartphone); all this worldwide, not only in few European countries. Before there is a useful DAB+ coverage, 4G and 5G has long been standard in every pocket and dashboard. If someone really wants to have DAB in the car can replace the radio or install a DAB to FM converter. But what's that in aid of? Another simulcasted channels?
4.Some argue that 3G/4G/Internet Radio is the best solution for listening to radio and there is no need to built a new network for digital radio. They do not talk about unicast/multicast network & also the cost for the data on those solutions. How do you comment on this?
Something like Internet radio does not really exist. Radio channels are broadcasting. You have streaming services in different qualities, as well to download, which is called podcasts. These are useful for thematic channels. It has not sense to make radio broadcast for few 1,000 people. Moreover, it has also no sense to offer for many millions of listeners only internet streaming. Of course, nowadays every radio station has a streaming service system just for as a complementary service. (Except pseudo radios like “Spotify” & co)
Over cable for In-house usage, there is the streaming for radio and TV which are now standard technology, because the whole Turkish internet traffic has place on few fiber optics cable. With a few local servers/mirrors are using the internet radio over cable (and WiFi) an absolutely normal service. DAB has currently no real solution for the in-house supply.
The bottleneck outside is in the frequency management. LTE and UMTS micro-cells will help to build the necessary overcapacity also for the mobile usage, but the broadcasting itself never will be needless. Two-way networks cannot replace the broadcast and cannot compete in the cost-benefit calculation.
As a matter of fact, the (digital) music is no longer the main thing in the radios. Everyone has a lot of gigabytes with better music quality on his Smartphone as DAB could ever send. In addition, not the technology is in the foreground but the show. Real-time media like FM have uncatchable advantages. DAB comes too late, is neither real time nor Internet capacity, it is between them and will worn down.
Even worse, DAB+ working on frequencies that could also be used for mobile Internet. This is a big business, not the broadcasting. Therefore, the battle will be permanent between these two systems.
FM are working on the 3 to 4 meter band (64-108 MHz), for "digital dividend" totally inappropriate, and thus not under pressure. Moreover, this wavelength is ideal for regional supply. The frequency bottleneck can be opened down to 76 or even 64 MHz. That's only a political issue. (as many other things). Almost all FM chips can cover the range of 64 to 108 MHz. Thus, it is only software question. RDS2 can already support it
Clear could DRM+ also use these frequencies, but their sound quality will not animate to change the modulation method. Why make complicated when the simple is already worldwide existent? Medium wave is another story, as there are perhaps opportunities for DRM if AM stations have switched to FM, as already begun in Brazil and India.