Friday, September 12, 2008

Step in the right direction

People much more important than me have been talking about digital radio, just as the IBC exhibition opens in Amsterdam. On the World DMB stand in the EBU pavilion here at IBC both EBU and WorldDAB have just officially announced that the European consumer will "in future be able to buy receivers which will provide them with digital radio services across Europe".

Bascially, broadcasters can now plan around any of the standards with confidence, safe in the knowledge that these new digital radios will receive their services....providing the standard is one of the variants of DMB/DAB.

This is not the same standard as DVB-H, a standard for mobile media being pushed by the likes of Nokia and supported by Viviane Reding, the member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media. People on the EBU stand explained that this was not the same - although to me it is all portable media. Last year at IBC2007, the DVB-H camp declared a sort of standards war on the the DMB camp. Since then, the DVB-H trials in Germany have hit all sorts of snags (lack of receivers). But in Holland, KPN is starting to roll out a DVB-H service alongside its launch of the Nokia N96 into the market this month.

The BBC appears to be platform agnostic, being active in both the DMB and DVB-H camps. Personally, I don't think the public gives a dam what technology is used, providing their get access to the services they want - and the material is easy to get hold of. So far, my comparsion of the Nokia N96 - and the Apple iPod Touch put Apple way ahead in terms of user interfaces. And I would put both Nokia and iPod well ahead of the interfaces used on most DAB radios I have owned so far.

The WorldDMB Digital Radio Receiver Profiles specify a set of minimum requirements and features to be built in to different classes of digital radio receivers, ensuring the interoperability of all new digital radio receivers across European countries whose broadcaster are using either DAB, DAB+ or DMB. Together these are known as the Eureka 147 Family of Standards.. I note that DRM and DRM+ seem to be absent from this set, despite agreements at IBC in 2005 that DMB and DRM would work more closely together.

The WorldDMB manufacturing specifications comprise three complimentary Digital Radio Receiver Profiles: the Standard Radio Receiver (Profile 1) expected to drive the price-sensitive mass market for radio devices; the Rich Media Radio Receiver (Profile 2) for table-top radios with colour screens able receive audio, advanced text and picture applications; the Multimedia Receiver (Profile 3) for devices such as mobile phones, personal media players, able to receive advanced forms of multimedia including mobile video.

Features and functions appropriate to in-car systems are also defined including automatic retuning between digital and analogue services, and advanced travel and traffic services for real time satellite navigation. These Profiles will enable drivers travelling across boarders to receive all Eureka 147 digital radio broadcasts on their car radios.

The announcement will ensure that digital radios bought in France, for example, also work in Germany, Italy or Norway and vice versa, and will apply to any country in Europe or beyond using the WorldDMB Eureka147 Family of Standards. It was wierd that this announcement was embargoed with a dual time zone....embargoed until 12.00 says the press release, and then mentions Geneva and London as the dateline. I'm assuming 12 hrs Amsterdam time, althought I fear this news is not going to stop many presses.

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