Lindsay Cornell, Principal Systems Architect at the BBC moderated this year’s WorldDAB strategy session at IBC. Whilst the main focus was on how DAB and DAB+ are firmly at the heart of the fast-evolving new digital landscape – that includes the likes of Google, Amazon, Sonos and Apple – a key warning to emerge from new research is the importance of preserving a broadcast digital radio infrastructure. We cannot rely on mobile networks alone for the delivery of radio.
Broadcast and IP – fact vs fiction. How well can 4G mobile networks really deliver radio? Not well enough. We heard the results of a study just completed by Arqiva – who run much of both the UK broadcast and mobile network infrastructure. Despite testing with “the best network, best device and best player,” using a mobile to receive radio, 4G failed at multiple hotspots, traffic jams and rural areas.
Further, they see the scenario getting worse when they tried to calculate for future consumption. “We think it is actually video consumption not radio consumption, that will swamp the networks leaving little room for radio and therefore radio performance for the end user will be a poor quality of service,” said Simon Mason from Arqiva.
Joan Warner, in the final keynote, added to Mason’s example saying that information from 5G presentations she has attended was, “quite alarming”. Virtually every speaker also independently cited natural disasters and weather conditions – even in developed countries such as Switzerland – where it was clear that a mobile network would not support emergency situations.
A multi-platform world where radio is king. A major theme was integration of DAB with other technologies for a full listener experience and long-term health of radio.
Voice activation devices don’t recognise most local stations. Not surprisingly voice activation figures are exploding and received a lot of attention. It’s not all plain sailing however. Joan Warner urged every country to learn from the Australian experience with voice activation. “We think that if people use a home device for radio and it doesn’t work, they won’t use it again,” said Warner.
Graham Dixon, Head of Broadcasting for the EBU echoed similar experiences working in Europe. And whilst work may be needed on generic voice-activated devices, Dixon unveiled the prototype of a dedicated voice-activated radio on the EBU stand and urged attendees to visit.
Fake News and Good News from around the World
We also heard an update on the Norwegian FM switch-off and ‘fake news.’ Ole Jørgen Torvmark categorically refuted rumours that Norway would ever switch on FM again, and gave robust statistics on both the huge financial savings as well as listener experience.
Presentations from “Radio’s Digital Strategy” can be downloaded here.