DAB – nice system but 20 years too late

You can now read in the press that the Swedish Authority for Radio & Television is planning for a launch of country-wide Digital Audio Broadcasting using the DAB/Eureka-147 standard. Eventually this system is going to replace current analog broadcasting. This is done at a time that interest for listening “over the air” to nationwide broadcast radio is more a political project than actually a user need. I have been a proponent for many years for DAB and the decision to move to DAB would have been right in 1995. But that was then – by the time a decision can be made and the system fully deployed, we write 2015 and the potential users are all gone. The added services that could be provided by DAB/DMB compared to Analog radio in 2015 are simply not even close to those that already are being provided in smartphones powered by mobile broadband. If the Broadcasting industry is ready to invest and sees cost benefits in a digital switchover that may be OK (although they force us consumers to invest). But that the R&T Authority, despite the dwindling market, now also plans to expand the audio services and is planning to request 56 MHz of “ultra-prime” spectrum at 174-230 MHz for this is highly questionable. For once its against the general policy of the Swedish and European Regulators – Spectrum has to be allocated on “technology neutral” grounds and not designed for any specific technology – not even to mention that billions of SEK in potential spectrum sales are given away.

Sorry, the days of one-trick ponies (complete infrastructures for a specific service) are gone. DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting), i.e. building an infrastructure for things that are already done (better) in other systems is also doomed in my humble opinion. Lets avoid the costly detour of DVB-H Mobile TV which is now dismantled in most countries.

DAB Country update Sept 2010

Jens Zander

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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