What is seemingly the best reason to delay decisions? By waiting for something better? A newer technology or one that is in the process of being developed?
I hear such lame, or should I say misinformed, excuses far too often.
– OK, so the internet can’t reach a million radio listeners at the same time, but we have someone working on it.
Yeah, right. Someone is also working on creating peace in the Middle East. That doesn’t mean that they will succeed anytime soon. Unfortunately.
Although, as opposed to in the Middle East, there is already a solution. The technology even works perfectly. For distribution of live content, it is called broadcasting. For radio the de facto standard is called DAB+, for mobile TV it is called DMB (both are part of Eureka-147, if you’re really into it).
Some people still claim that they can solve everything through 4G, or LTE Broadcast, a technology developed by Ericsson. It is multicast that is based on eMBMS (evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service). Ericsson describe it as “an efficient point-to-multipoint (PMP) distribution feature”.
What it means? It means that it is is not real broadcasting.
Let’s quote one of their examples:
“In an Olympic final, with 10 percent of subscribers watching the 800kbps live video streaming, the traffic payload would have reached more than 250TB. Assuming 30 percent of the viewers were using eMBMS-capable devices and connecting to broadcast channel, there would have been 75TB off-loaded from the network. The saved bandwidth could have been used to provide other telephony or data services, which equals more than 22 billion web page views or more than 800 million song downloads.”
To sum up, if you use LTE Broadcast:
LTE Broadcast credited offload to the LTE network: 75TB
Saved bandwidth: 22 billion web page views
How about if you used real broadcasting?
DAB+/DMB credited offload to the LTE network: 250TB
Saved bandwidth: 73 billion web page views
Of course the content would still be distributed, but via a separate broadcasting network that covers much more of a country than LTE ever will. An LTE network would require 38,500 (thirtyeightthousandfivehundred) transmitters to cover the 31,000 square kilometers of the Netherlands, according to TNO. A DAB+ network would require 30 (thirty) transmitters to do the same. Now, imagine a country that is bigger and slightly less flat than Holland.
A real broadcasting solution will not cost the MNO any bandwidth, either. The MNO would in other words be capable of providing a lot better internet services to everyone, as the live broadcast would not take away any bandwidth and slow internet services down.
Digitalization of radio in Europe and beyond
Of course, this isn’t the complete story. European and other broadcasters, with governmental backing, are in the process of performing the biggest transition in radio history; To go from analogue radio via FM to digital radio via DAB+ (of which DMB is also a part of the standard). Robust networks with good coverage have been built, and are being expanded. Coverage of between 90-99.9% is being planned in over 40 countries, and counting. It is not a question whether it can be done via LTE Broadcast, it is about having an independent, reliable and free to air distribution platform that can also be used in emergencies.
Radio is extremely important in Europe. Average listening minutes per user per day range from 90 to 310 minutes. Threehundredandten minutes! That is over five hours per day. In The Czech Republic.
FM is outdated, costly and restricts competition. Broadcasted radio is in most European countries also the distribution platform for communication in emergencies, as required by governments. DAB+/DMB enables new features that will help in emergencies. For instance can a phone be switched on remotely, or a text message can be sent to everyone even if 3G or LTE networks are down due to massive usage. This is repeatedly demonstrated, as seen after emergencies (i.e. the bombings in Boston and London) or during events such as big sports competitions, on trains or in crowded streets when many people are gathered.
So, why not use LTE Broadcast instead?
Firstly, broadcasters depend on open standard, independent and free-to-air distribution networks. DAB+ is the standard of choice, and such networks have been built. Also governments depend on the same independent networks, in case of emergencies. Entire populations need to be reached simultaneously, without danger of a network collapse, and independently of which MNO the users are customers of. In the Netherlands as few as 30 DAB+ transmitters will cover the entire country. To do the same with LTE will require 38,500 transmitters according to research institute TNO. No MNO is willing to do take this cost.
DAB+ is furthermore the open standard that is being used on 4 continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania). DAB+ comes recommended by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which also calls for a harmonization of FM switch-off across Europe.
Distribution networks for the internet are not designed for, nor capable of replacing broadcasting networks as the number of connected devices and the required bandwidth skyrockets. Broadcasting will still work perfectly well in combination with the internet, and opens up for multi-apps that combine the technologies, seamlessly switches between them and introduces new revenue streams while still offloading the internet.
Let me give you a list of why LTE and LTE Broadcast cannot replace broadcasting:
President of IDAG
Advisor at NRK