|The DAB family – international and versatile digital broadcasting standards
|President, World DAB and Chief Executive
|Digital One, UK
Quentin Howard is the President of WorldDAB and the Chief Executive of Digital One in the UK. Howard founded Digital One, which was awarded the sole UK National Multiplex licence for Digital Radio. Digital One now operates the largest digital radio network in the world. Previously, Quentin Howard was chief engineer at a number of radio stations before joining GWR Group, where he created GWR’s Digital Broadcasting Division. He has also been a Programme Director and is a radio presenter with several Sony Radio Awards to his credit. Whilst presenting The Classic Quiz for Classic FM, Howard developed a system of using ISDN to broadcast from home. Howard has served as a member of the WorldDAB Steering Board. WorldDAB is the international promotional and lobbying body for DAB (digital audio broadcasting). He is also on the Board of the UK’s Digital Radio Development Bureau (DRDB) and the Board of Frontier Silicon. Quentin Howard is an electrical and electronics graduate.
Traditional analogue radio broadcast is subject to interference from other signals, the weather, buildings and natural obstacles. Digital technology, such as DAB, Digital Audio Broadcasting, optimises the receiver sensitivity and permits interference free, high-quality reception. The multimedia version of DAB, DMB, permits text, data and video transmission as well. DAB trials are now underway in New Delhi, so by the end of 2006 India might be able to join the growing list of countries throughout the world offering DAB service.
The WorldDAB Forum is an international, non-governmental organisation whose role is to promote global awareness, adoption and implementation of the DAB family of standards. Its members include public and commercial broadcasters, receiver manufacturers, network operators and other companies and bodies committed to converting the technology behind DAB into a commercial marketing success for radio, mobile TV and multimedia data broadcasting. WorldDAB was in India in February, demonstrating the latest DAB and multimedia technology to broadcasters, network providers and manufacturers. It is the first time the international promotional and lobbying body for DAB had hosted an event in India. DAB audio trials are already underway in New Delhi from All India Radio (AIR). A further rollout of DAB services is expected once the government, possibly by the end of 2006, has determined spectrum allocation. DAB has become an internationally adopted standard heard in nearly 40 countries on all five continents. It is available commercially across Europe and the Far East. More than 500 million people worldwide are within range of DAB transmissions. Mature receiver development is in place with an extensive range of mass production receiver devices on the market, from as low as US$50. They cover all formats from hi-fi units to handheld devices and even mobile phones. DAB is a robust, reliable and flexible technology, created specifically to enable high-quality mobile and portable reception with audio, video and data capabilities as part of its core infrastructure. It involves two broad types of service: – DAB as Digital Radio: audio and data services to replace current FM or AM analogue offerings, allowing the radio industry to access the digital world together with all the advantages and opportunities of digitisation, to deliver enriched radio content to listeners and consumers. – DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and DAB IP: compatible DAB-based applications developed to enable the transfer of video, audio and other multimedia content onto mobile and portable devices with screens, such as mobile phones, PDA’s, PMP’s, digital cameras, etc. DMB is a method of delivering video content. The technology, originally developed in conjunction with Korea and their mobile phone industries, has become a global standard (ETSI). DMB uses the MPEG 4 coding system to stream the content over DAB. The other way to deliver video over DAB is via an IP application in conjunction with DAB’s Enhanced Packet Mode standard; the BT Movio project in the UK currently uses this technology. Both DMB and DAB are part of the same system and as such intrinsically complementary: DMB runs on the same network as DAB; DMB receivers are also DAB receivers. When compared with other broadcasting technologies for the mobile environment, DAB’s capabilities to transmit video and multimedia present a number of clear advantages. Perhaps most important of these is that the technology is fully proven; networks and spectrum are available in many countries and devices are now in mass production. DMB and DAB IP allow immediate access to the world of media and technology convergence. By the end of 2005, an estimated four million people around the world were listening to unique new radio services in digital quality sound through a DAB digital radio. With mobile television and multimedia delivered via DMB, this number is set to escalate rapidly. Leading the charge are the UK, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Korea and China, with other countries close behind. Mature audience The UK has the most mature DAB listening audience with sales of over 483,500 in the 2005 Christmas period, contributing to a cumulative total of 2.716 million sets in homes. In 2005, 1.449 million DAB devices were sold in the UK, according to GfK. An estimated 5.4 million people listen to digital radio on a DAB set and 11.1 per cent of the population live in a DAB household (Rajar Q4, 05), up from 5.3 per cent in December 2004. The DAB market was worth £135 million in 2005, up from £86 million in 2004 (Gfk). Denmark has recorded cumulative sales of 143,000 DAB receivers up to the end of November 2005, which does not include sales during the busy Christmas period. However, this represents an increase of 100,000 over the same period in 2004. Official sales figures for the month of December 2005 are expected to be released by TSN Gallup at the beginning of April 2006. Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) plans to add another 20 transmitters to the DAB network in 2006/07, bringing coverage up from 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the population. The commercial sector has recently joined DR and between them they broadcast 17 DAB services, many of which are unique stations not available on analogue. Denmark enjoys strong government support, commitment from both public and commercial broadcasters and a vigorous promotional campaign from a newly formed DAB marketing bureau. In Norway, where coverage is set to increase to 80 per cent, and public broadcaster NRK has set an analogue switch-off target of 2014, sales of DAB digital radios also increased significantly. Sales of 51,000 units in 2005 easily beat the industry forecast of just 15,000. Korea is the first country to go beyond trials and commercially launch DMB services, with a mixture of television, data and radio services. A wide range DMB receivers from LG, Samsung, Perstel and others were on the market in time for the service launch in December. In just over a month since the official DMB launch in December 2005, sales of DMB enabled receivers exceeded 110,000 and sales should top two million by the end of 2006. There are positive signals coming from other countries where DAB has only recently launched competitively. DAB sales are also growing in Belgium with many more DAB products entering the market and the major retailers and the majority of independents selling receivers. In the Netherlands, a DMB trial is to be extended and one of the major importers for DAB radios, Music Matters, is setting up a DAB marketing bureau. Coverage In Switzerland, DAB receivers only arrived in shops in 2005, so there are no sales figures currently available. Coverage is set to rise to 73 per cent of the population by early Spring 2006, and to 90 per cent of the German and Italian speaking population by the end of the year. There are already a total of 30 French and German speaking DAB channels broadcasting. SRG, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, has said it will not invest in expanding the FM network but will focus on growing DAB coverage instead. A new DAB marketing bureau will launch in the Spring 2006 with major marketing campaigns promoting products and services to consumers planned for the Autumn. We expect the market to take off this year. In China, where the majority of DAB devices are made, the market is growing rapidly. Eighty million people in Guangdong Province can receive DMB trial services; Trials began in Beijing, in 2005, broadcasting two DAB radio services to 12 million people. Six more services are planned; and video and multimedia trials using DAB’s IP application are broadcasting to 16 million potential listeners in Shanghai. The plans call for six video and 12 audio services. Manufacturer Samsung Electronics has agreed to supply 500,000 DMB phones to two major Chinese mobile TV operators. Both companies plan to begin commercial DMB broadcasting in Spring 2006. DAB digital radio services are part of the package that comes with DMB broadcasting. Sports This is a big year for sports. The 2006 Winter Olympics, the World Cup and the Ryder Cup, among other events, will all help swell overall radio listening, and DAB will take its share of this market. Germany will lead two major DMB trials in 2006 focused on the World Cup with radio and television services. One, called Mi Friends, is an official European project with a budget of around 18 million euros over the next two years. Meanwhile, services broadcasting on DAB radio in Germany continue to grow with at least 10 new stations launching in 2005, bringing the total on-air to around 90 and indoor reception is set to improve exponentially throughout 2006. These examples of international growth and commitment to DAB and its family of standards are just the tip of the iceberg. DAB services recently launched in the Dublin area of Eire. Slovenia will launch a DAB service in the Ljubljana area and the Maltese Communications Authority has received requests, exceeding the supply, for four terrestrial DAB frequencies. Taiwan has awarded DAB licences and services should begin in 2006. Italy issued new regulations for DAB in 2005; it will award licenses in 2006. A legal framework for digital radio is now in place in Australia, and in Singapore, a country of approximately one million households, 1 per cent of households now have a DAB digital radio. With new technology, there are always isolated hiccups. Stations come and go, governments backtrack on legislation and broadcasters fear to embrace new technology. Ultimately, if the medium is appealing and delivers added-value, consumers will drive innovation. DAB radio and mobile TV standards are proving themselves in nearly 40 countries around the world. The market is growing and it shows little sign of slowing down.