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Digital Radio Mondiale, a Better Standard Than US-Adopted IBOC? 134

Posted by timothy
from the why-do-you-hate-freedom dept.
Gsparky2004 writes "Over at Engineering Radio, Paul suggests that Digital Radio Mondiale (or 'Digital Radio Worldwide') may be a better alternative than the US-adopted, proprietary IBOC system. But he's concerned that the FCC is too far down the 'IBOC is the way!' road and won't accept an open source alternative, even one that may work better." For a slightly more pointed take on the matter, check out this anti-IBOC site, which paints IBOC as something akin to the devil himself.
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Digital Radio Mondiale, a Better Standard Than US-Adopted IBOC?

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  • by Ecuador (740021) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @11:33AM (#33696932) Homepage

    RTFA, it seems the fight is over the AM band! Interesting, given the fact that I am over 30 but still I don't remember a time when anyone cared about the AM band...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851)
      You obviously aren't into either sports or conservative talk radio. I think those have been the major uses of AM radio in recent years.
      • by Ecuador (740021)

        Where I live, we only have church and low quality classical music on AM. But anyway, I guess if digital broadcasting brings good quality to AM it could become relevant again? Or as relevant as the rest of the radio broadcasts will be in a few years...

      • Liberal Talk Radio is on there as well.

        • And all seven listeners appreciate it!

        • by OzPeter (195038)

          Liberal Talk Radio is on there as well.

          There's Liberal Talk radio?? Not from what I hear in VA. Here they even repeat weekly live conservative talk radio shows on the weekend as if no one notices.

          • by hedwards (940851)
            Yeah, that's my thought, this is a liberal area, and I can't recall having seen or heard of any liberal talk radio stations around here. I think the only liberal talk radio that I've ever heard of was Air America, and didn't that fold a while back?

            The closest thing I've heard of is NPR and that's really not the same thing, not by a long shot. Regardless of ones political views it's not analogous at all.
            • Some public stations (e.g. WAMU [wamu.org]) have quite a few "talk" programs. I don't like the format, so I can't attest to the degree of liberalism. NPR news isn't talk. It's news, although it's news for people with long attention spans.

            • Look up Ed Schultz, Tom Hartman, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Ron Reagan.

              All are on he air in Detroit and have their stations listed on their sites.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by theaveng (1243528)

            Try the internet. I listen to AM Liberal Talk radio from Chicago. http://www.streamingradioguide.com/ [streamingradioguide.com] and a search for Rachel Maddow is how I originally discovered it.

            IBOC/HD Radio vs. DRM - there's no real difference

            (1) Both broadcast analog-and-digital side by side
            (2) Both are designed to transition to 100% digital broadcast at ~60 kbps on AM and ~250 kbps on FM.
            (3) Both cause interference with long distance stations ~100 miles away. Oh well.
            (4) Both will eliminate that problem when moved to 100% di

    • I dunno, seems like they're talking about making it, like, not worthless.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      I think there are different groups with different aims here. The anti-IBOC page given seemed to want to keep it analog-only, they say IBOC causes interference with the analog part. They aren't promoting Digital Radio Mondiale that I can tell. IBOC will at least retain analog compatibility, Digital Radio Mondiale will eliminate any analog compatibility completely, so their antique radio from 1930 won't work anymore. Or for that matter, the radio in my car from just a few years ago, not that I use its rad

      • I don't listen to AM/FM radio anymore, it's podcasts and playlists for me.
        I don't think it makes sense to keep a century-old format alive just to keep antiques (literal and figurative) alive. For that, I'd suggest hooking up an AM modulator to the line out of a music device, and they'll get their mushy distorted sound the way they like it.

        AM radio doesn't have to sound mushy and distorted. "Nothing New Under The AM Sun" [hhscott.com] [1977]

        AM radio has range and reach when you need it. Programming is - or can be - disti

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "I'd suggest hooking up an AM modulator to the line out of a music device, and they'll get their mushy distorted sound the way they like it."

        That is exactly what I do to show off my antique radio collection. Too bad you are so young that you have never heard a high-quality AM radio. They are neither mushy, nor distorted. Most AM radios made between 1953 and 1973 are of very high quality and high fidelity, capable of audio frequency response in excess of 15 KHz. AM radio sounded VERY good back in the day

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        Maybe we could sell the AM Band to ATT or some other company. Let's see: 1710 - 530 == 1180 kHZ. Digital techniques can squeeze 60kb/s per 10 kHZ, so that would be 7000k total.

        You could give 1 Mbit/s wireless internet to a whopping 7 customers per cell.

        Oooo.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717)

        I think there are different groups with different aims here. The anti-IBOC page given seemed to want to keep it analog-only, they say IBOC causes interference with the analog part. They aren't promoting Digital Radio Mondiale that I can tell. IBOC will at least retain analog compatibility, Digital Radio Mondiale will eliminate any analog compatibility completely, so their antique radio from 1930 won't work anymore. Or for that matter, the radio in my car from just a few years ago, not that I use its radio.

        .

        I've sparred with these people myself, and that's exactly their attitude: keep AM analog. Many of them are DX'ers; they like to see how many AM stations they can receive from across the country (or even around the world).

        .

        I'm ambivalent about it. I don't listen to AM/FM radio anymore, it's podcasts and playlists for me.

        .

        That's because my industry took its greatest strength -- live, local talent and the resources to provide locally-pertinent information around the clock -- and automated it, with playlists containing a couple of dozen songs that are repeated over and over. The industry, by and large, is r

        • The main rock station in my high school town had literally 6 songs in heaviest rotation. You could hear the latest top-5 'dance/rock/pop', whatever the hell that was supposed to mean, every hour in the same order. No automation; a live DJ was spinning those CD's, but was required by management to play those six songs every hour. Live operators do not automatically mean better radio. We need to be focusing on better programming, and the additional channels allowed by HD and streaming help give us more chanc

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        P.S.

        Creating an all-digital service band for DRM or DAB would not work either. Why? No free space in the spectrum. In Europe they were able to eliminate the old analog TV channels 2-13 and repurpose them for DAB, but here in the US this option does not exist (2-13 are occupied by digital TV).

        The reason the FCC chose to shoehorn Digital IBOC/HD Radio on top of AM/FM bands was because (1) there was no other place to put it and (2) they knew it was only temporary; that analog would eventually be turned off as

    • I carry a small AA powered AM radio, in case of emergency when all your digital packet, cell stuff is down, analog modulated stuff can and usually does survive.

       

      • So what would be the difference between that and carrying a small AA powered digital receiver, exactly. Either way, if the transmitter is down, you get nothing.
        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Actually there is a pretty big difference. With analog you can actually get a pretty decent distance, and there is still a ton of rural area here in the USA. Also digital screws the poor (just like everything else it seems) because you end up having to buy boosters and other crap to get a signal. Where I live when they went from analog to digital TV I went from picking up a half a dozen OTA broadcasts to exactly 1, and if I'm not outside my apt with a tuner hooked to my laptop I don't get that. While this d

    • Not just the typical AM/MW/BC band - shortwave, too. Regular analog shortwave is hardly a vibrant medium right now, and if it really solves the fading issues (very improbable, from my knowledge of the topic) increasing the voice quality could certainly be a worthwhile endeavor. I doubt that it will replace regular analog in any case, any more than HD is going to displace analog FM or AM.

                Brett

      • The sound you end up hearing is decoded by the receiver, so no audible fading but you may end up with some signal loss instead if it's very weak. I have only listened to DRM on shortwave a few times, but it was quite shocking how clear it was. Weak stations maintained the clarity as long as enough data was received.

  • by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @11:42AM (#33696986) Journal
    Seems like these guys really know what they are talking about. Not only are they criticizing a position - they actually back it up with a bit of science. It really is disgusting to see any proprietary format, complete with royalty payments, forced by the government onto the populace. Makes me hate Clear Channel, et. al. even more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      Your color TV is proprietary (developed by RCA in the 1930s and again in the 1950s). Ditto your radio (FM also developed by RCA) and your VCR (developed by JVC) and your CD (Sony/Philips) and DVD (DVD Consortium).

      I don't see how that has destroyed society. Do you? On the contrary NTSC-I and NTSC-Color and FM and VHS (but not SVHS or DVHS) are all patent-free and open standards that benefit citizens everywhere. Eventually ATSC and HDR will be open too (around 2020).

    • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @02:56PM (#33698038) Homepage

      I'm a broadcast engineer who has installed several HD-R systems (two AM, three FM). My biggest complaint, and one that I've shared quite vocally in my own industry, is the *extremely* closed-source nature of HD radio. It's not just, "we've copyrighted it and you must pay for each use," it's, "we own it, the WHOLE THING is a top secret, and unless you pay us a huge fee, you can't even think about making modifications or adding anything to what we deem useful or appropriate."

      Just one example of many: the first exciters that we received used a very simple ID3 tagging scheme for the PAD data, sent via UDP to a well-known port. The "exporters" (the non-intuitive name for the devices that allow us to multicast, i.e., put more than one format on a single FM signal) use a closed, proprietary client-server model. I've looked at it with Wireshark and it appears that ID3 is imbedded in the packets, but it just wasn't worth the bother to try to figure out the whole thing. iBiquity ain't tellin' unless you pay them a license fee.

      I imagine that iBiquity assumed (and told their investors) that, because they'd have exclusive rights, it would be a Pot Of Gold(tm). That hasn't panned out, so they're desperately trying to monetize every little aspect of the system among those of who bit the bullet and paid (substantial, mind you!) fees to initially install it during the rollout. Want to add multicast channels? You pay for that. Want to add iTunes tagging? Ditto. OH ... and you want to write your own stuff to ride in the PAD (program associated data) slot, maybe customize something for your own station? Sorry, we don't support that yet, but we may eventually ...

      Instead, in this day and age of competition from all sorts of delivery sources (streaming, anyone?), it has simply slowed uptake to a crawl. Ford originally announced that they'd have HD receivers in their cars a few years ago. That slipped; they said it would be 2009 for sure. THAT slipped. Now we're almost in 2011, and there still aren't very many HD receivers in cars. They are supposedly going to do it in 2012, but I'll believe it when I see it.

      If iBuiquity had simply patented the delivery method (the "container," for you geeks here :) ) and made the license fees rational, HD-R would be in 80-90% of the stations in the United States. Instead, it languishes, and we (i.e., radio engineers) are looking at another AM Stereo debacle: we paid tons of money up front, promoted it to death, and it died anyway.

      As for going with DRM or some other system, that would be asking broadcasters to abandon their (substantial) investment in HD-R and make a completely new investment in a new system. I hope I'm not too cynical now, but I honestly believe that the future is in wireless streaming. Let's keep our streams clean and clear sounding, concentrate on programming, and when the inevitable coast-to-coast wireless coverage finally arrives, we'll already be positioned to survive. I think that moving to DRM now would be a mistake, myself.

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        Good news: In 2022 or so, HD Radio will be patent free and then you don't need to deal with iBiquity any more.

        Good news 2: It's probably only a matter of time until somebody hacks the data and reveals the hidden "secrets" so you don't need to pay iBiquity.

        another AM Stereo debacle

        Not the same thing. AM Stereo died because the 1979 FCC did not pick a single standard, which led to 3 different versions of AMS and confused customers. Therefore it died in the US, but succeeded in Europe and Australia (where a single standard was

        • by smpoole7 (1467717)

          Good news: In 2022 or so, HD Radio will be patent free and then you don't need to deal with iBiquity any more.

          Good news 2: It's probably only a matter of time until somebody hacks the data and reveals the hidden "secrets" so you don't need to pay iBiquity.

          In reality, there will probably end up being a court case over it, with iBiquity claiming that such usage is "unlicensed." They're serious about monetizing everything to do with HD-R. Everything.

          AM Stereo died because the 1979 FCC did not pick a single standard, which led to 3 different versions of AMS and confused customers.

          You'll get no argument from me on that. Our company ran C-QUAM AM stereo up until we made the switch to HD-R, but I only knew a handful of people with receivers for it. I understand that it did better in some other countries (most notably, Australia), but here in the USA, the lack of a single standard definitely hur

          • by adolf (21054)

            Who except those who live in rural areas even bother with an antenna anymore?

            Me. I don't like paying for cable. A lot of content is online (either legally, or somewhat less so), if not available from Netflix. Except for two things: Local TV news, and PBS.

            And I happen to like local TV news and PBS.

            Between Time Warner and AT&T Uverse, or any of the usual sources for satellite, I've got plenty of ways to pay to watch freely-broadcast TV. But it's cheaper/easier/better/more reliable not to bother with

            • >>>Except for two things: Local TV news, and PBS.

              A lot more than that. RetroTV and THIStv shows a lot of older shows and movies that can not be found online. (I know - I've tried when I missed an episode or movie.) Antenna television also feeds international Chinese, Indian, European programming into my home, which is available online, but not translated to English. So that's another niche that Free TV fills but online TV does not.

          • >>>But I don't think HD-radio compares with HDTV. The latter had a switchover that was mandated by the government. Not only is this unlikely for radio

            I disagree with this. The UK Parliament already set 2018 to turn-off analog AM/FM radio. I suspect the date will slide (as DTV slid from 2006 to 2009), but it will still happen - a government mandated switchoff. The US FCC is likely to copy the same idea.
            .

            >>>moving from traditional "transmitter-and-big-stick" technologies to alternatives,

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          another AM Stereo debacle

          (it) succeeded in Europe and Australia (where a single standard was picked upfront).

          That success must have been very relative. Maybe in other parts of Europe it was, not in The Netherlands. But until these comments I had never heard of the existence of AMS. And that while I've been quite interested in radio since the mid-1980s, have even volunteered for several years at a local (FM) radio station in the 1990s, and still never heard of the existence of such a technology.

          The beauty of AM to me has always been the very very simple receivers it requires. Which of course was the whole idea beh

          • >>>AM Stereo succeeded in [Asia, Canada] and Australia (where a single standard was picked upfront).

            Fixed. Here's what wikipedia says: "Europe: After some experiments in the 1980s, AM Stereo was deemed to be unsuitable for the crowded band conditions and narrow bandwidths associated with AM broadcasting in Europe. However, Motorola C-QUAM AM Stereo remains in use today on a handful of stations in France, Italy, and Greece."

          • >>>AM has it's uses, music broadcasts do not belong to it

            Disagree with this. I used to travel across the Mid-US and there are a few AM stations broadcasting music. You're right the monoaural AM sounds "ehhh" but the AM Stereo has a wider dynamic range than FM (50-20,000 versus 50-15,000). Plus it has a longer range (across a whole state instead of just 100 miles). I was surprised how good AMS sounded and started seeking it out wherever I could find it.

            Try it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXW [youtube.com]

      • "we own it, the WHOLE THING is a top secret, and unless you pay us a huge fee, you can't even think about making modifications or adding anything to what we deem useful or appropriate."

        Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? Ohhh... yes, of course. Apple.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        I honestly believe that the future is in wireless streaming. Let's keep our streams clean and clear sounding, concentrate on programming, and when the inevitable coast-to-coast wireless coverage finally arrives, we'll already be positioned to survive.

        WiFi is not very good for mobile applications. It's nice at home (so you can put your radio in the kitchen or in the bedroom like you do now), it's not going to work well when you're in the car. The current WiFi tech used has no way to hand you from station to station. When on the move you lose connection, have to find a new network, connect again.

        Streaming data on the move is possible on mobile phone networks - and is possible already. The main thing holding this back is cost - I read on /. that many US p

  • by Tx (96709) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @11:46AM (#33696998) Journal

    From where I sit, digital radio is a solution looking for a problem. In the UK, the BBC spent vast amounts of license fee payer's money (i.e. my money) investing in new DAB (the digital radio standard approved over here) stations. Then when it found no one was listening to DAB, and private stations were bailing out, rather than give it up, they spent more vast quantities advertising the f@*k out of DAB to try and boost take-up. And yet still I can count the number of people I personally know who own DAB radios on the finger of ... well, one finger, actually. It's four times as expensive to run a DAB station as an FM station, the coverage is worse, receivers are expensive, and the benefits are minimal. From what I can tell, both IBOC and DRM may suffer mny of the same issues as DAB, although maybe the US market for radio is different enough that it will work out differently.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by amorsen (7485)

      DRM+ is a vastly better standard than DAB. DAB should have never existed. If you want to replace traditional FM local stations, DRM+ is an excellent choice -- better coverage and higher quality with less power and using less spectrum. If you want to cover a huge area with a MUX, DVB-T2 is what you want and it can transmit a large amount of channels in one MUX. DRM+ is one channel per MUX, but that isn't a large problem since there is room for many MUXes in just a small amount of spectrum.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @12:59PM (#33697418) Journal

        The big problem that DAB suffers from is battery life - an FM radio can last far longer than a DAB radio on the same set of batteries. Do you have any figures for power usage for DRM+ decoders compared to FM radio? If it's just driving headphones, a pocket FM radio can go for quite a few days on single AA radio. DAB seems to use about ten times as much power.

        For in-car use, power isn't such a problem, although hand-off between towers is. For in-home use, you're likely to have Internet Radio as an option, with a lot more channels (I'm in the UK, and I'm currently listening to a station in California...).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by theaveng (1243528)

          DRM+ probably drains batteries faster because it's using MPEG4 (versus MPEG1 MP2 for DAB) which requires more processing power, more watts, et cetera.

          IBOC/HD Radio also uses MPEG4. It gives you near-CD quality at only 40 kb/s

        • by amorsen (7485)

          Around here, FM radio seems to be either in the car, in the house, or built into a cell phone. A cell phone should have enough juice to handle DRM+; they seem to be doing fine with internet radio at least and that must be way more power hungry. I wouldn't imagine that DRM+ was significantly less power hungry than DAB.

      • DAB suffers from being an early standard. Kinda like how Europe decided to adopt GSM before something better came out to avoid a standards war. The audio is MPEG-1 Layer II. DRM+, IBOC, and the new DAB+ use modern CODECs designed for low bandwidth applications.
        • by amorsen (7485)

          The codec isn't the main problem with DAB (although it would certainly have been nicer if they had picked a decent one from the start). The main problems are the atrocious spectrum efficiency and high cost/large spectrum allocation for a MUX. DAB is useless for local radio, and for anything else DVB-T is a better standard (and DVB-T2 even better, of course).

          Internet radio is going to win the war anyway; DAB and DRM+ both lost their chance to get into cars and therefore they don't have a chance. DVB-T could

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by grahammm (9083) *

      Another problem with DAB in the UK is that, like with Digital TV, there are too many stations/channels on each MUX. If they did not have so many channels (why do we need so many +1 channels on Freeview Terrestrial Digital TV?) then they could use higher bitrates and therefore better quality. DAB has the capability to offer higher (audio) quality than FM but because they squeeze in so many stations, the quality of most (if not all) is lower than a good FM setup.

      • by Anaerin (905998) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:10PM (#33697466)
        Another issue with DAB in the UK is that we already have RDS [wikipedia.org] on FM, which offers most of the benefits that DAB has for the average listener (Station Identification, frequency hopping, optional traffic/weather report switching, one-way data stream for now playing/next up information etc). The US doesn't have RDS at all (Believe it or not), so a digital radio system would be of more benefit to them.
        • by theaveng (1243528)

          False.

          The US does have RDS and my IBOC/HD Radio decodes it just fine, streaming the text across the screen. However it only exists on older analog stations. The stations that switched to digital eliminated RDS to make room for HD2/HD3 subchannels.

          • by Tintivilus (88810)

            The stations that switched to digital eliminated RDS to make room for HD2/HD3 subchannels.

            Maybe some, but certainly not all of them. WBEZ Chicago kept its RDS when it added HD.

        • The US doesn't have RDS at all (Believe it or not)

          We absolutely do - my Prius and my Zune both support RDS, and I get station identifiers from a number of FM stations in the Denver and Fort Collins areas.

        • by adolf (21054)

          In 1999, I bought a Blaupunkt car stereo that supported RDS. It worked fine in the US.

          While I had that radio, RDS actually got better, not worse. It went from some stations having IDs, to most of them. And a lot of stations then started doing now-playing text, and such. It even had a function, which I found very useful in unfamiliar areas, where it would automagically locate radio stations based on the type of programming they had. It could even set its own clock, back when that was still a neat trick

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        FOR ONCE IT SOUNDS LIKE AMERICA IS BETTER THAN EUROPE.

        I think I'll faint. ;-) Our digital radio provides upto 7 programs in the traditional 0.2 MHz FM slot. The quality can range anywhere from surround sound (1 program) to talk quality (7 programs). Most stations set up at CD quality (2-3 channels).

        Same with our DTV where most stations broadcast 1 HD program and 1 SD program in each 6 MHz slot, and both look flawless. We don't have the multiplexing problems you are having in the UK where DAB and DTV sou

        • by dotwaffle (610149)

          Unfortunately, the truth is that the American system isn't as bad as the European system - if you choose to view that as being that the American system is better, go ahead ;) I look at it as "they're both crap".

          The only reason the switch to digital is happening in the radio (well, audio) space is because the spectrum those radio channels use are very useful and could generate a lot of money for some people. With RDS, I'm perfectly happy listening to my radio programmes on FM and since the bitrate on my loca

          • by theaveng (1243528)

            Well I severely disagree with that.

            A lot of Europe's programs on DAB were demoted from stereo to mono, to make more room. Others still have stereo but sound terrible. In contrast America's IBOC/HDR provides CD quality across two different channels (per station). Or FM quality across three channels (HD1/HD2/HD3). It sounds a LOT better than DAB does, while providing 3-4 times more choices than the old analog FM had.

            The only reason the switch to digital is happening in the radio (well, audio)... could generate a lot of money for some people.

            FLAW with your reasoning: Neither the AM nor FM bands are being sold off. When the ana

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      I'm in the US.

      One could say the same thing about Digital TV (a solution looking for a problem), but the benefits outweighed the risk. Where I used to get about 15 analog channels, now digital multiplexing allows me to get 40. Digital squeezes more in the same space and with improved quality (HD rather than VHS).

      Same with digital radio. When the transition is finished (2020) you'll have three times as many stations on your FM Dial and twice as many on the AM dial. Plus you'll be able to get DVD quality (

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's a real problem and there's even education to consider. AM radio can be received using a pencil, a safety pin, a razor blade, and a pair of headphones. It can be more easily received with a simple LC circuit, a diode, and headphones. Try that with DRM or IBOC once they go all digital. Simple morse code can be transmitted by tapping on a loose lightbulb. Try to pick that up with a DRM or IBOC receiver.

      As you point out, there's not exactly a lot of clamor for it. The FM band works fine for music and AM

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        Sure AM is easy NOW but it wasn't easy when it was first developed in the 1910s or 20s.

        Same with IBOC/HDR/ Right now it's hard to receive, but fast-forward to the year 2020 and we'll probably be doing it with $1 microcontrollers. It might even be a lab exercise in a college student's class.

        • by sjames (1099)

          No, it's rather intrinsic. The crystal radio I described with the razor blade is also known as a trench radio and was popular during WWII. It's essentially fabricated from scratch using scrap.

          The second one I described is something I put together when I was 8. When commercial radio was starting out, such sets (complete with improvised speaker made from newspaper) were FAR more common than pre-manufactured radios which cost about $2000 in 2010 dollars. That's a fair difference with a possible lab exercise in

          • >>>>>Sure AM is easy NOW but it wasn't easy when it was first developed in the 1910s or 20s.
            >>
            >>trench radio and was popular during WWII [1940s]

            That doesn't negate theaveng's original point. WW2 was about thirty years after AM's invention, and while building an AM Radio was hard at first (requiring vacuum tubes and cabinets the size of refrigerators), it eventually became easy to build as technology advanced. Likewise he's saying HD Radio will be easy to self-build 30 years afte

    • by Ant P. (974313)

      And yet still I can count the number of people I personally know who own DAB radios on the finger of ... well, one finger, actually.

      That's because pretty much every DAB station available is also broadcast via DVB networks. There's no point buying an extra radio when it can be had through the TV box already.

  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @11:52AM (#33697032)
    There is always going to be a new, better technology if you just wait a few minutes, but they have to pick something at sometime. If you wait because there was something better around the corner you would wait forever.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      My real question is why can't the US follow international standards? We'd cut a good bit of costs if we just worked together with everyone else and adopted international standards. Instead, the US companies push Congress for incompatible standards so that they get some protection, at the expense of inferior products or inflated costs and racist nationalists whine about New World Order and will gladly accept (and push for) incompatible standards because they don't want to do what they are doing in those so
      • by theaveng (1243528)

        - If the US followed international standards we'd be stuck with 325 line TV (used in UK and mainland EU from 1930s to 1980s). i.e. junk

        - If the US followed international standards we'd be stuck with DAB radio which is junk.

        - If the US followed standards we'd be stuck with MUSE HDTV which is junk (even though Japanese developed it).

        - If the US followed standards we'd be stuck with DVB-T HDTV which is junk (doesn't have the 100 mile range necessary in the mostly-empty US).

        - If the US followed standards we'd

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          I think you get the idea.

          Nope. I don't. If the US was interested in the international standards, we'd have had input. We'd have signed on, and pushed for something that worked world-wide. You are asserting that when we abandon input in the international standards because we select our own without regard to international standards that the standards don't reflect our needs. I'd agree with that statement and argue that it's irrelevant to my point.

          Sometimes the US picks the better format. NTSC, 8VSB,
  • I'm 54; I grew up listening to radio. It's now been about a decade since I last listened to radio, even in my car (first switched to CDs, then mp3). Wouldn't the bandwidth be better utilized by wireless data at this point? Streaming digital broadcasts could easily replace the small number of broadcasts that remain (e.g. sports, news, religious, top40). As an extra bonus, the broadcasters/advertisers can actually tell if anyone is listening.

    • DIgital radio is wireless data. Adding a return path just seems like needless complexity - how will this a) save bandwidth and b) be beneficial except to advertisers?

      • DIgital radio is wireless data. Adding a return path just seems like needless complexity - how will this a) save bandwidth and b) be beneficial except to advertisers?

        Because it can be used for data other than typical radio broadcasts, and is at a suitable frequency for long range transmission?

        • by robot256 (1635039)
          Reception on AM broadcast frequencies is easy, but transmission is much more difficult. Efficient transmission on 520-1610 kHz (570 to 186 meter wavelengths) normally requires a very large antenna. Short of a very advanced technology, it would be totally impractical for a normal user to transmit back to the AM tower on those frequencies. Additionally, because it is so long range, there would be a lot of interference between other stations, even if they were miles apart. Finally, even if it were used for
          • Per-channel data rates for digital radio: up to 60 kbps on AM, up to 300 kbps on FM. There are many channels (over 1000), providing significant available bandwidth. Complexity is a result of trying to roll your own; chipsets to perform the needed functions are a requisite for any wireless data application - your smartphone already has much more complex radio processing. As far as antenna size, that's a function of the distance you want to cover. A PCB internal antenna could easily have a range exceeding

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Vegeta99 (219501)

              No, antenna size is not a function of distance you want to cover. It's a function of wavelength, at 2.4GHz it's 12.5cm, and at 1000kHz, smack in the middle of the US AM band, it's 300m.

            • by theaveng (1243528)

              You clearly don't understand transmitting data "back" to a favorite radio station (upto 50-60 miles distant) would require erecting a gigantic antenna and a 10,000 watt power supply.

              Duh.

              How on earth can people graduate from college with Engineering or Science degrees, and yet not understand the basics? Complexity is not the issue with creating a "backchannel" from user to station. POWER is the issue in order to overcome the huge distance.

    • by sjames (1099)

      The entire medium wave spectrum is only 1MHz wide. There's no point. For comparison, a single television channel is 6MHz and a WiFi channel is 20MHz.

      When absolutely necessary, AM radio can be picked up with no power at all, not even a watch battery. That's useful in times of emergency. More conveniently, a simple hand cranked radio can pick up analog AM or FM with no problem. It's practical and cheap because they don't have to power a DSP. I keep a small combination flashlight and radio with a hand crank an

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @12:24PM (#33697206)

    I've been with the biggest manufacturer of HD Radio (and TV) transmitters in the US working I've worked closely with iBiquity (holder of patents for IBOC being used in the US) engineers in rolling out the newest HD Radio technologies for many years.

    In my opinion it's a moot issue. I've worked on HD Radio exciters for some years, first with great enthusiasm and now with very little. It's a great idea on paper but when you listen to an actual radio in the real world the difference is VERY underwhelming. AM is a lot bigger improvement but FM is almost a wash. I can't imagine anyone paying for so minimal an improvement. If you're into AM talk radio I can see it but I don't think anyone is going to pay the iBiquity tax (every radio manufacturer has to pay for iBiquity IP to have an HD decoder) to have a radio that "sounds a little better". The ability to send multiple programs over the same signal benefits the radio station owner far more than the listener and it doesn't seem to be taking off. The stations don't seem to know what to do with the extra programming time (that could change though). I've heard the market penetration reports weekly (from iBiquity) for years. At first it was going like gangbusters. Now it's just dying and iBiquity is in BIG trouble. They've been considered for acquisition by both Apple and Google and apparently neither found them worthy. That should tell you something.... My company doesn't even want to continue updating the software for these devices because there simply isn't enough payback to make it worth doing. Radio stations aren't buying because it's not making much difference to their advertisers.

    IBOC or Radio Mondiale? Who cares? I think we'll have both out there eventually with Radio's that contain decoders for either. Particularly when iBiquity folds (couple years maybe...) and their licensing fee's go away. Market penetration for IBOC is pretty damn deep in the US already (I think my company has about 2500 HD exciters in the field) and radio stations are not big spenders. I can't see them switching and if they haven't gone IBOC yet it makes no sense to do anything but IBOC because, however few HD Radio's are out there, there aren't ANY for Radio Mondiale. Being open (free) doesn't make any difference because you still have to BUY a radio with the free decoder.

       

    • The only hype machine for IBOC is the NAB. It was their comeback against satellite radio (which isn't doing so hot either). IBOC's audio advantage is negated by its other advantage.... sub-channels, which as you said aren't being used all that well. Instead of bringing new and innovative content to a radio market, the sub-channels are usually re-broadcasts of AM stations (yeah really) or duplication of formats already available on other stations.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      I can't imagine anyone paying for so minimal an improvement. If you're into AM talk radio I can see it but I don't think anyone is going to pay the iBiquity tax (every radio manufacturer has to pay for iBiquity IP to have an HD decoder) to have a radio that "sounds a little better".

      This should be a surprise to NOBODY. Europe (mostly the UK) went through the exact same thing with DAB a decade before us. The audio quality improvements are overwhelmingly negated by the dramatically increased cost of receiver

    • In my opinion it's a moot issue. I've worked on HD Radio exciters for some years, first with great enthusiasm and now with very little. It's a great idea on paper but when you listen to an actual radio in the real world the difference is VERY underwhelming. AM is a lot bigger improvement but FM is almost a wash. I can't imagine anyone paying for so minimal an improvement. If you're into AM talk radio I can see it but I don't think anyone is going to pay the iBiquity tax (every radio manufacturer has to pay

  • NIH (Score:3, Funny)

    by overshoot (39700) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @12:43PM (#33697342)
    This is America, damnit! We set the standards. None of this foreign stuff for us like GSM, the metric system, or any of that other crap that will never make it in the market.
    • Europe created GSM after the US already had digital cell phones and created it to intentionally be incompatible with analog and US digital cellular phones and towers. And then you blame the US for not switching to a system that required all their customers replace their equipment or stop working? Analog cell phones weren't completely phased out for over a decade after GSM became available in the US.

      GSM was Europe's NIH. They created it to be incompatible and then many countries made it illegal to use anythi

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:10PM (#33697464) Homepage

    IBOC was designed to prevent broadcasters from competition. One of the alternative schemes was to use spread-spectrum across the entire AM broadcast band, on top of existing stations. This would make the "properties" of incumbent stations far less valuable.

    It's worth keeping analog AM as an emergency broadcast medium. The receivers are simple, dumb, and reliable, and the transmitters have huge range. That's useful during floods, hurricanes, and such.

  • by Qubit (100461) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:13PM (#33697494) Homepage Journal

    According to TFA [engineeringradio.us], the (more) open system is actually relying on a number of not-so-open protocols and formats.

    * Open source system. Royalties are paid by the transmitter manufactures only (and do date, most major US transmitter manufactures have already paid these). There is no royalties paid by the broadcaster to install DRM or by the consumer when purchasing a DRM capable receiver. One company does not own the rights to the modulation system for all the broadcasters in the country.

    It's good that no royalties have to be paid by broadcasters or consumers, but given that I was just at the Open Hardware Summit [openhardwaresummit.org] and have a curiosity about things like GNU Radio [gnuradio.org], hopefully the amateurs won't be shaken down if they build their own receivers or transmitters.

    * The CODEC is HE-AAC 4, which is widely used world wide.

    AAC is patented [wikipedia.org], and they make you pay money.

    In addition to that, DRM30 station have the ability to transmit low frame rate H. 264 video.

    H.264 is patented [wikipedia.org], and they make you pay money.

    The thing is, even if this isn't a completely open format, it's entirely plausible that this is the closest that anyone has gotten. While we could consider using this for now, we should always look forward and try to figure out how open we want the next set of standards to be.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:30PM (#33697592) Homepage Journal

    Both Digital Radio Mondale and IBOC (Ibiquity) are bad. Both require a host of patented codecs to run (go over to the DRM project page [sourceforge.net] and look at the requirements to build it - DRM suffers from the classic design by committee issues.

    But IBOC is worse: Ibiquity has, as a part of the required standard, that all transmissions SHALL be encrypted with a key you have to license from Ibiquity. If they don't like what you are doing, NO KEY FOR YOU! For example Griffin was going to offer a IBOC tuner on USB (their Radio Shark HD), that would have allowed you to record the bit stream for time shifting purposes. Ibiquity says "THOU SHALT NOT RECORD THE STREAM" - and Griffin had to cancel the Radio Shark HD (after they had announced it, BTW).

    Read that last again: this isn't a "you MAY encrypt, if you want to" - this is "You SHALL encrypt. Get over it."

    Personally, I'd rather see a truly Free solution out there, but where's the profit in that?

    • I bet part of the iBiquity is because the broadcasters want it, or at least the ones with considerable clout. I don't think broadcasters want anyone recording or time-shifting their media. They certainly don't want to risk anyone trying to skip the ads. Music companies probably don't want people recording their songs and saving them. It looks like broadcasting & media companies are part owners of iBiquity.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Personally, I'd rather see a truly Free solution out there, but where's the profit in that?

      There are no (free or otherwise) codecs out there that can come close to matching the low-bitrate performance of HE-AAC+. I'd put Musepack above any other codec for faithful mid to high bitrate audio reproduction, but on the low-end, HE-AAC+ is quite alone.

      The same is true for COFDM. Name one other modulation scheme that is as efficient and robust against interference.

      (go over to the DRM project page and look at the

  • Yeah, it's analog, yeah it's noisy like analog is, but it has a great, simple, warm sound.

    When talk / news / sports are broadcast in AM Stereo, the impact in your car is really sweet! In car listening to that kind of programming is pleasant, and the lack of higher frequencies, combined with the separation possible on AM, makes for a very unobtrusive and comfortable listening experience.

    There isn't anything else like it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iammani (1392285)

      I think you would be interested in my Noise Generator cum Equalizer that can turn any good quality FM/MP3/FLAC audio into AM quality audio.

      • by PotatoHead (12771)

        Probably not.

        I enjoy the broadcast experience for some programs. The lower b

      • by evilviper (135110)

        I think you would be interested in my Noise Generator cum Equalizer that can turn any good quality FM/MP3/FLAC audio into AM quality audio.

        This is quite true. In the video realm, it's been extensively studied how a small amount of high-frequency noise (random) will mask many artifacts in lossy digital video codecs. No question cutting off the high frequency component of most audio will make it sound warmer, and a bit of noise thrown-in will blind you to any other harshness of it.

    • AM stereo actually sounds pretty good, particularly with music. Sadly it was never widely adopted.
  • A few days ago I had to get out to a customers' site and rode a taxi there. The taxi driver was a bit talkative, and we ended up discussing his music system - an iPod connected to his car stereo, playing some online station [from random foreign country]. It got it internet connection over wifi from a base-station in his trunk. The base station in turn was hooked up using 3g gsm (the reason for the base station is that there are data-only phone plans that are way cheaper than running your data over your norm
  • IBOC is a joke! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Newer Guy (520108) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:53PM (#33700394)

    I am a broadcast engineer with over 30 years of experience.

    IBOC is a true joke. It's the FIRST broadcast service ever authorized by the FCC that actually CAUSES interference-mostly to your NEIGHBORS above and below you on the dial! IBOC is also an FCC sanctioned PRIVATELY owned system that costs broadcasters over $25K in upfront licensing fees-and then more in continuing royalty payments.

    What most of us want (broadcast engineers) is for the FCC to authorize TV channels 5 and 6 for a dedicated digital radio band using DRM. Low band VHF is the WORST place for Digital Television (it goes in order UHF channels 20-40, UHF channels 14-20, UHF channels 40-51 , VHF channels 7-13 and finally VHF channels 2-6). Right now there are about 25 DTV stations on channels 5 and 6 in the entire country-and it's been proven that EVERY ONE can be accomodated on UHF (To accomodate the station in Philadelphia on channel 6, a station in Reading, PA would have to move to a different UHF channel and give Philly its current channel, OR Philadelphia can move to channel 3 if they insist on staying on low band VHF-a BAD idea!).

    If the FCC got off their ever widening ASS and did this, every AM station that wanted a digital FM could have one-with enough left over for every FM station too-AND a nationwide FM frequency for the National Weather Service/Homeland Security to operate on!

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