18 comments

  • hyakosm 33 days ago

    DAB is useless because : FM audio quality is enough (actually the bottleneck is the digital compression used in radio studios) ; the FM spectrum isn't saturated ; FM receivers are simple and cheap, it would be absurd to force people to buy new receivers and trash their fully functional radios. An important part of FM listening is in cars, and a lot of cars have custom proprietary radio trays or proprietery interfaces for hand commands buttons. Signal degradation is progressive in FM, but very irritating in DAB.

    • toyg 33 days ago

      > FM audio quality is enough

      I really disagree there. The difference in quality between FM and DAB (not even DAB+) is very significant, and I’m not even an audiophile.

      The problem is that 1) you don’t know it until you actually make the switch, and it’s not like you can borrow a car stereo system for a week to try it out, and 2) that’s pretty much the only advantage of DAB, from consumers’ perspective, so the price/value proposition is not good enough to make it a no-brainer purchase.

      • dtgriscom 33 days ago

        > you don’t know it until you actually make the switch

        A perhaps philosophical question: if you have to train yourself to be able to perceive the higher-quality audio, do you end up enjoying the audio more, or are you just training yourself to dislike the lower-quality audio?

        • raverbashing 33 days ago

          The first one

          It's similar to listening to a song over good headphones instead of crappy notebook speakers for example

          You start hearing all the details that were added to the sound.

          It's like seeing a movie on the cinema rather than in a small TV for example

          • Retric 33 days ago

            Additional details is not always a net plus, IMO some recordings are significantly worse with ‘better’ audio equipment. For example the sounds of people repositioning their hands across musical instruments really bothers me.

            • heavenlyblue 33 days ago

              > For example the sounds of people repositioning their hands across musical instruments really bothers me.

              Would you prefer to be blind because if you can see you can also see a dead body?

              • Retric 33 days ago

                Blindness is a straw man argument. I am saying for specific content there are limits to optimum resolution. If we are talking high vs low resolution, then no I don’t want to see extremely high resolution in focus pictures of corpses. Do you?

                • heavenlyblue 32 days ago

                  Let’s be honest, your argument is no less straw man than mine.

                  Why not watch high-resolution images of corpses? People working in medicine do this all the time.

                  You’re clearly making a Luddite argument: under the circumstances of two things being the same but one of them providing a worse resolution anyone reasonable would pick the higher resolution, because you can always go back to a lower resolution but not vice-versa.

                  • Retric 32 days ago

                    I think most people seeing such images are watching documentaries of the Holocaust, news reports of violent crimes etc. Looking away from the screen is a very common reaction, but these shots also tend to avoid closeups because most people don’t want to see it. For a more direct example people turn down gore settings in games because more detail is not always better.

                    A Luddite argument would suggest all media was better at lower resolution, but that’s not what I am saying. Rather specific media for specific people is. Clearly some people want all the gory details even if I don’t.

                    PS: > you can always go back to a lower resolution

                    Having a preference is not the same as having a willingness to edit every YouTube video etc I see.

            • zepolen 33 days ago

              Right but it's only when going back to the lower quality version where you realize just how much is missing. So it's the second.

              Regular display pixels only became annoying after using a Retina display for a while and then going back. They were fine before.

              • nicoburns 33 days ago

                I disagree with this. I bought decent speakers (they were £300, so good quality but nothing crazy), and I suddenly started enjoying songs that I couldn't understand why anyone liked before, because I could hear details in parts of the music where there were none before.

              • toyg 33 days ago

                > Regular display pixels only became annoying after using a Retina display for a while and then going back. They were fine before.

                Not really. I noticed fewer headaches and eyes getting dry less often after about a month.

            • BurningFrog 33 days ago

              Bit of both!

            • corty 33 days ago

              The difference is only significant if the radio station uses a sufficient bitrate. There are some with atrocious quality in DAB because of their low bitrate.

              • ooklala 33 days ago

                I can only speak for the UK, but FM here sounds considerably better than DAB because stations on DAB are usually 32 or 64kbps & mono since they want to fit as many stations into the multiplex... (techmoan has a rant about it— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27w3quNTP84)

              • gertrunde 33 days ago

                With good signal strength, DAB wins over FM easily, but it degrades horrifically badly with weaker signal strength, generally I tend to find this isn't that much of an issue with BBC stations, but worse with the commercial stations, and especially worse in a moving vehicle.

                (Not that the UK commercial radio space is exactly in a good place anyway after the global/bauer radio-pocalypse).

                • jankiehodgpodge 33 days ago

                  Depends on the station. Some stations are broadcasting 32Kbit mono audio which certainly doesn't stand up to FM.

                  • puzzlingcaptcha 33 days ago

                    >I really disagree there. The difference in quality between FM and DAB (not even DAB+) is very significant, and I’m not even an audiophile.

                    It might be appreciable at home, does it still apply in a moving vehicle? I personally can't tell the difference.

                    • giobox 33 days ago

                      I imagine for quite a few readers, car may be fanciest sound system they own and one of the only places they listen to FM radio in the first place.

                      The extremely low bit rate used to broadcast some DAB stations is absolutely noticeable even on “cheap” equipment. The low bitrate issue is compounded further by DAB being mpeg 2 based, which is a hugely inefficient codec by modern audio standards. A 64 Kbps mono mpeg 2 audio stream is not great frankly, and common in DAB.

                    • iso947 33 days ago

                      I had an early dab radio back in 2003ish, it was rubbish.

                      I have dab/FM in the car now, and It’s noticeably better than FM. I use dab almost exclusively, but there are remote areas where only fm reaches.

                      • switch007 33 days ago

                        Maybe I’m weird but some songs sound better on FM. Eg Bruce Springsteen Born to Run. Maybe it’s nostalgia kicking in

                      • tinus_hn 33 days ago

                        CDs are useless because: Cassette tapes are good enough and they can be recorded. A lot of cars have cassette players, not CD players and they never skip.

                        • MaxBarraclough 33 days ago

                          You're being downvoted, but I think the comparison is worth considering.

                          For the average car sound-system, I doubt the quality improvement from the cassette->CD upgrade is going to be all that appreciable. The upgrade to CD only makes sense for a decent sound-system, or if cassettes are no longer available.

                          This seems comparable to the FM->DAB (or DAB+) upgrade. I don't know about the usage patterns here, but I suspect radio is more often used in vehicles than at home with nice speakers, or with headphones. Perhaps it's different from CD/cassette in that regard, or perhaps not.

                          • techphys_91 33 days ago

                            To me, the primary benefit of CDs over tapes was the ability to skip between songs easily and not having to rewind, it wasnt about quality (for me). The operation of a digital radio and an FM radio are very similar, especially once you've set up your favourite stations.

                            • beenBoutIT 33 days ago

                              Still waiting for radio that adds enough buffer to allow skipping ahead or rewinding. Somehow mainstream commercial radios(cars, portable, etc.) have avoided adopting the audio equivalent of the DVR. After becoming accustomed to watching TV with a DVR there's a knee-jerk reaction when listening to the radio and the impulse to rewind hits.

                              • MaxBarraclough 33 days ago

                                It may be that they don't think anyone would use that feature, so it would be extra expenditure for nothing. If you want more control and the guarantee of no adverts, you can pay for a music streaming subscription.

                            • heavenlyblue 33 days ago

                              For a relatively old car you can always buy a Bluetooth FM transmitter (connect your phone to the device, device then transmits on a certain frequency)

                            • gertrunde 33 days ago

                              I've not seen a cassette player in a car for quite a long time, not even the other half's 15+ year old Daihatsu.

                              CDs are also just as recordable as cassettes.

                              I suspect that CD players are probably beginning to disappear from cars, in favour of SD cards, USB & Bluetooth - a lot of the youth seem to be moving towards mobile phone-centric audio entertainment in cars as well as everywhere else.

                            • Cthulhu_ 33 days ago

                              It's not about quality, it's about freeing up frequencies for technologies that use the frequency more efficiently. DAB can cram more channels in less frequency space; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting#Use... for details.

                              • globular-toast 33 days ago

                                So quantity over quality. The UK used to have 4-5 analogue TV stations (the fifth wasn't available everywhere), now it has digital with something like 100+ channels all constantly broadcasting low quality, repetitive rubbish. We got rid of the analogue stations to make way for "+1" channels where they broadcast the same thing 1 hour later. It's a complete waste of the spectrum.

                                • CamperBob2 33 days ago

                                  Who cares about a 20 MHz chunk of spectrum near 100 MHz? It's too narrow to be of much use to anyone but FM broadcasters, and the required RF hardware and antennas are too big for most two-way consumer applications. And there's certainly no shortage of VHF spectrum in general, now that most users have gone to 700 MHz+.

                                  Ultimately, cognitive radio is the correct answer to all questions about how to get the most utility out of the existing spectrum. The only question is whether we'll get cognitive radio or unlimited fusion power first. :(

                                • mdiesel 33 days ago

                                  In my limited experience, driving across the UK on FM is a pain due to regional differences. A couple of hours driving and I'll need to retune a few times, and my saved stations won't be applicable. DAB solves that minor issue at least.

                                  I don't know the details of the spectrum usage, but there are more niche nationwide stations on DAB (Planet Rock is hardly niche anymore tbh, and is great). So maybe it's more accurate to say the FM spectrum isn't cluttered for barrier to entry reasons.

                                  • blattimwind 33 days ago

                                    > DAB solves that minor issue at least.

                                    Enter Germany, where it was decided DAB is not a federal matter and basically you have 16 small states with entirely different stations available on DAB. The one real advantage DAB could have had, and they threw it away just to auction off the same frequency band a couple more times.

                                    • switch007 33 days ago

                                      Exactly the same experience. I try DAB every few years while driving and the experience is just the same.

                                    • gertrunde 33 days ago

                                      On the car side - Most new cars I've been in for the last 3-4 years, maybe more, tend to come with DAB radio built in. Sometimes it's an optional extra, but standard in an increasingly large proportion of new cars. (Apparently 95% of new UK cars, and 64% of new commercial vehicles in Q4 2019, vs 4% in Q4 2010, 64% Q4 2015).

                                      Agreed on the degradation though.

                                    • est31 33 days ago

                                      One issue I have with DAB and the like is their short-livedness. FM and AM radio was figured out almost 100 years ago, while for DAB there are already discussions of replacing it with 5G. So buying a DAB receiver is much more likely to turn out to be an investment for something that you will have to re-buy every 5 years as the technology is progressing.

                                      • lb1lf 33 days ago

                                        -Indeed. Norway adopted DAB early - test broadcasts started sometime in the late nineties - but a couple of years ago when the majority of the FM broadcast towers were switched off, the DAB encoding scheme also changed from DAB to DAB+, rendering most receivers sold as future-proof radios useless.

                                        I'd bought a number of DAB radios, only to be told I had to buy them once again - but this time, they'd got it right, no worries!

                                        (That being said, I believe transitioning to DAB+ made sense - sound quality is significantly better - however, from a consumer perspective, it is terrible. First have your FM radios obsoleted, then the first-generation DAB radios - and the only thing in it for you as a consumer is to keep the same service you've had all along...

                                        (The main benefit of DAB being that it is significantly cheaper to run the broadcast network, compared to FM.)

                                        • open-source-ux 33 days ago

                                          The UK also adopted DAB early and is now stuck with low-bitrate sound quality. When DAB was first promoted in the UK to encourage sales of DAB radios, one of the claims made was that it would provide "CD quality sound". It soon become obvious that the low-bitrates (in order to cram more stations in the radio spectrum) meant the sound quality was anything but CD quality. The sound quality claims were eventually dropped and became "crystal clear sound" or better reception.

                                          This table shows the list of bitrates of radio stations in the UK. BBC Radio 3 (classical music) has the highest bitrate at 192kb for DAB. You get far better bitrates streaming via the web:

                                          https://www.astra2sat.com/radio/uk-digital-radio-bitrates/

                                          • throw0101a 33 days ago

                                            > I'd bought a number of DAB radios, only to be told I had to buy them once again - but this time, they'd got it right, no worries!

                                            I purchased a number of AM radios, only to be told I had to buy them once again when FM came out—but this time, they'd got it right, no worries!

                                            Welcome to technological development. :)

                                            • Sanzig 33 days ago

                                              AM and FM broadcast radio are licensed in seperate spectrum in most of the world (AM on the medium wave band, FM in VHF). Broadcast FM didn't replace AM radio outright, and there are still loads of AM stations. In some very rural areas in North America, it's the only broadcast radio you can receive. There was also a significantly longer gap between the instruction of broadcast AM and FM and the gap between DAB and DAB+.

                                            • ixfo 33 days ago

                                              Worth mentioning in the UK things are still DAB and there is no plan to migrate to DAB+.

                                              • martinald 33 days ago

                                                UK uses both DAB and DAB+. Majority of stations are DAB+ now with a lot progressively moving.

                                              • gvjddbnvdrbv 33 days ago

                                                Turn on your old FM. In Oslo at least several stations still broadcast.

                                                • lb1lf 33 days ago

                                                  Out here in the boonies, the only FM broadcast still available is the so-called 'Vår Herres Radio'...

                                              • ra 33 days ago

                                                That's right. DAB is digital over AM, but there's another much more exciting technology called DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) that uses the SW bands to deliver 72kbps (currently HE-AAC but xHE-AAC in the future) over the Shortwave Bands. This has the potential to make use of very efficient transmitters with very long range. The encoding and bitrates are comparable to DAB+.

                                                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Radio_Mondiale

                                                • corty 33 days ago

                                                  > currently HE-AAC but xHE-AAC in the future

                                                  So another switchover like DAB to DAB+ where everyone throws away their new radios yet again? That point alone kills every consumer appeal it might have ever had...

                                                • vffhfhf 33 days ago

                                                  Every advances further speeds up new advances like log scaling.

                                                  • ur-whale 33 days ago

                                                    > So buying a DAB receiver is much more likely to turn out to be an investment

                                                    Buying a basic DAB radio is $20 where I live. Not sure I'd call that an "investment".

                                                    • charrondev 33 days ago

                                                      And the cost of getting it in your car? I’d imagine it’s quite a lot more than $20.

                                                      I’d be pretty pissed if a purchase that costs 5-100k had a core component become “obsolete”.

                                                  • Animats 34 days ago

                                                    Keeping AM broadcast radio around is useful for emergencies. The range is long and the receivers are simple and widely available. One transmitter can reach all of the UK. Besides, the 1MHz "medium wave" band is not very useful for anything else.

                                                    • userbinator 33 days ago

                                                      Receivers can be very simple indeed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_radio#"Foxhole_radios"

                                                      I remember many decades ago, the first time I made a working one, was an absolutely magical experience --- and no doubt countless others have also been amazed and inspired by such a surprisingly simple device.

                                                      • mianos 34 days ago

                                                        This assumes everyone has an AM radio. I don't have one in this household at all. I have no reason whatsoever to own one. It's not much use having an emergency transmitter when no-one has a receiver and even then, it's not running all the time. AM is probably worse as you need squelch or to keep transmitting a carrier to keep it quiet.

                                                        On the other hand most people have the facility to receive an SMS and most of them have their phone on. The only issue is lack of power to charge a phone. Worse than keeping an AM radio running but in the past people turned on their AM radio at certain pre-organised times of day anyway so there is not really order of magnitude difference between a phone and an AM radio.

                                                        • franga2000 33 days ago

                                                          Disasters (natural or otherwise) are usually fairly localised. Cell towers have a reach of a couple km at best and can be easily overwhelmed, whereas AM radio can reach upwards of 100km at night from a single transmitter and doesn't care at all how many people are listening.

                                                          As you already mentioned, power is another issue, as a modern smartphone won't last past a few weeks, even when turning on for only 5 minutes once a day, whereas I've seen AM radios that can run continuously for at least that long.

                                                          Finally, my main concern: cell phones are complicated. An EMP (or flood) could fry all your electronics and you're basically screwed, but finding someone who can build a passable AM receiver (or even transmitter) out of various electronic junk isn't all that difficult.

                                                          • cnorthwood 33 days ago

                                                            There was an issue with flooding in Lancaster (a mid-sized English city) which had this exact issue. The report is a fairly interesting read: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/conte...

                                                            • ilamont 33 days ago

                                                              AM signals can reach much further than 100km at night, thanks to physical properties of the ionosphere. When I was younger, I remember driving long distances at night in rural New England and being able to pick up one of the big Chicago stations more than 1500 km away.

                                                              Commenters on this blog post about the phenomenon claim to have done much better with special antennas, e.g. picking up a station in Los Angeles from Queens, NY: https://news.ccrane.com/2018/07/23/why-am-listening-at-night...

                                                              • anthk 33 days ago

                                                                You can build an AM receiver with just a coil made of wire, a magnet and some scrap.

                                                              • reaperducer 33 days ago

                                                                This assumes everyone has an AM radio

                                                                I suspect that there are more AM radio receivers in the UK than there are DAB receivers. A couple of months ago, BBC Radio Devon was airing announcements asking for donations from people so that they could buy the poor and elderly new DAB radios because they only had AM radios. It seems to me that if a station to make it a big charity drive, there must be a reason.

                                                                • ixfo 33 days ago

                                                                  Definitely not working ones. As someone who ran an AM+FM station for 5 or so years not that long ago, 99% of listeners were FM, with very few AM listeners.

                                                                  In another life I did work on broadcast censorship circumvention into places like China etc; the main concern at the time was that shortwave radios were becoming rare enough to make the traditional big SW/AM TX near borders kind of irrelevant, so focus was moving to online - Tor, et al - because people actually had that tech.

                                                                  • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                    > Definitely not working ones. As someone who ran an AM+FM station for 5 or so years not that long ago, 99% of listeners were FM, with very few AM listeners.

                                                                    How can you possibly measure who’s is receiving your broadcast over the air signal?

                                                                    • vertex-four 33 days ago

                                                                      The same way you measure everything else about broadcast - you find the people and ask them, aka "surveys".

                                                                      • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                        Are AM listeners and FM listeners likely to find and respond to surveys in the same way? I would expect older more remote AM listeners would be under-represented in your survey.

                                                                        • vertex-four 33 days ago

                                                                          There's a number of ways to try and avoid response bias - the most obvious would be to (a) work out roughly how many people are listening to AM radio at all, (b) go find some representative sample of people who are listening to AM radio and ask them what they're listening to, (c) scale your results proportionately. Nielsen specialises in this sort of research.

                                                                      • CamperBob2 33 days ago

                                                                        One way is to drive around listening for local oscillator radiation from homes and businesses. That was historically done more for tax enforcement purposes than market research, although I've heard anecdotes about billboards equipped with receivers tuned to survey the radios in passing cars.

                                                                        Of course, now that chip-scale receivers with synthesized LOs are ubiquitous, intermediate frequencies are no longer limited to 455 kHz and 10.7 MHz, or even used at all. Consequently this method is no longer of much interest, but it worked for the better part of a century.

                                                                      • brnt 33 days ago

                                                                        When you say not working, I think you mean not using. And an unused AM receiver could still be used at some point.

                                                                      • tonyedgecombe 33 days ago

                                                                        More people listen over DAB than AM or FM now, that threshold was passed in 2018.

                                                                        I'd speculate that most listening is in the car now. I wonder if any new cars come with AM/FM radios, I'd assume they are all in DAB. In which case it will nearly all be gone in another decade.

                                                                        • SyneRyder 33 days ago

                                                                          The Tesla Model S has an AM radio, though newer Teslas don't:

                                                                          https://www.soundandvision.com/content/why-tesla-killing-am-...

                                                                          Supposedly it's more about AM radio being swamped by the RF interference from the car electrics. There was a Tech Guy segment a while back about someone trying to get AM working on their new Tesla:

                                                                          https://techguylabs.com/episodes/1422/how-can-i-get-am-radio...

                                                                          I just checked the specs on the 2020 Hyundai models, and they include an AM/FM radio.

                                                                          • reaperducer 33 days ago

                                                                            Supposedly it's more about AM radio being swamped by the RF interference from the car electrics

                                                                            I once tried out one of those little BMW electric cars (i3, maybe. The one that looks like it was designed by Ikea), and it didn't have AM radio for that very reason.

                                                                            It's kind of a big oversight for a car sold in the United States, where the top ten rated radio stations in most large cities includes a number of AM stations.

                                                                            Currently in New York, the #5 and #12 stations are AM (WINS and WCBS): https://ratings.radio-online.com/cgi-bin/rol.exe/arb001

                                                                            In Los Angeles, the #2 and #12 stations are AM (KFI and KNX): https://ratings.radio-online.com/content/arb003

                                                                            In Chicago, the #1 and #3 stations are AM (WBBM and WGN): https://www.robertfeder.com/2020/06/09/chicago-radio-ratings...

                                                                            Dropping AM radio isn't something that's really happening in civilized countries. For example, in Australia, where the #1 and #8 stations in Melbourne are on AM (3AW, SEN). I wasn't able to find any ratings for radio stations in Tokyo, but when I scan the dial there, I find a good number of AM stations on the air.

                                                                            • SyneRyder 33 days ago

                                                                              Australian here too, and I didn't realise how popular the AM band was until the pandemic. 6PR (3AW sister station) is where politicians were announcing things first, and rival TV & newspapers were quoting 6PR as a source. There's a huge demographic out there I didn't really know about.

                                                                          • iso947 33 days ago

                                                                            My 2018 Skoda came with a dab/fm/am radio. It’s the only radio I have other than an old am/fm radio in a drawer but I don’t think I have batteries for it

                                                                            The radio I’m listen to In home at the moment is an internet radio using tunein.

                                                                        • dylan604 33 days ago

                                                                          In a disaster, local cell towers may not be operational. An AM transmitter located somewhere that is far enough away as to not be suffering from the same local issues could still be operational.

                                                                          • msla 33 days ago

                                                                            > In a disaster, local cell towers may not be operational. An AM transmitter located somewhere that is far enough away as to not be suffering from the same local issues could still be operational.

                                                                            Even if the AM transmitter is operational, it is useless to people who lack the ability to receive AM broadcasts.

                                                                            • rovr138 33 days ago

                                                                              In Puerto Rico after hurricane Irma and Maria (specially Maria) we didn’t have much in terms of information.

                                                                              All you need is 1 radio in a community and people can huddle up to listen or just a few listen and take information to others.

                                                                              Cellphone towers run on generators after disasters with no power and they run out of fuel. People would find and take batteries out of anything they had and give them to whoever had a radio to stay informed. Some people had small solar ones or ones with an internal battery and a crank.

                                                                              Cellphones became useless quick. No signal and they keep searching for a signal wasting battery quickly and a lot of people had no way to charge them. If the towers came back up and you had battery, they where overloaded quickly and useless.

                                                                              • jabl 33 days ago

                                                                                Simple radios that don't need much infrastructure, such as amateur radio, could be awesome for disaster comms. Unfortunately it seems the hobby is dying, and the bands are under constant attack by the big telecoms who wish to lay their grubby hands on them.

                                                                        • CamperBob2 33 days ago

                                                                          Just a guess: if you had any idea how much technological infrastructure has to be intact and working perfectly in order for you to receive an SMS or otherwise use your phone, your opinion would be somewhat different.

                                                                          A radio requires only two things to be working: the receiver and the transmitter. That's not usually a big deal, but when it is, it is.

                                                                          • mianos 32 days ago

                                                                            My initial training was in aviation ground electronics. I could still design and build a superhet AM receiver from scratch and build from the parts in my workshop here. I am well aware of how immensely complicated the cell-phone system is. Every single component is complicated standing on the shoulders or more complication. QAM is incredible in its versatility and the antennas are so incredible they are works of art. Let alone the routing and higher level protocols. That said, cell systems are designed for redundancy and varying loads. Modern cell towers are spaced so that you can see multiple towers at any one time. They often have power backup and multiple backhauls.

                                                                          • bane 33 days ago

                                                                            I received a hand cranked emergency flashlight for free somewhere a few years ago. Turns out it also happens to have a simple AM radio built in. It's probably the only working one inside my house, but in a pinch it'll do.

                                                                            • yodelshady 33 days ago

                                                                              In a pinch my guitar amplifier will do (I don't mean after some soldering, either). AM radios are comically, wonderfully easy to build.

                                                                              Easy to build by accident, in fact. In retrospect I've no idea how practical physics labs are approved, with the likelihood that some klutzy undergrad (yo) accidentally builds a high-power broadband AM transmitter.

                                                                              • hazeii 33 days ago

                                                                                It's not easy to build a high-power narrow-band AM transmitter, let along a broadband one. The issue is the long wavelength makes aerial matching difficult (at 1MHz the wavelength is 300 metres, i.e. speed of light/frequency). AM transmitters for national use generally run 10's to 100's of kilowatts of power [0], and longwave is even higher, e.g. UK Radio 4 is 500 kilowatts.

                                                                                Pretty unlikely to build a high-power one by accident :)

                                                                                [0] http://www.mediumwaveradio.com/uk.php

                                                                            • fomine3 32 days ago

                                                                              Preparing AM/FM radio as well as food and water for disaster is commonly recommended here in Japan. Smartphones are more useful but cellular tower could be down due to power or connectivity issue. (occurred on 2019 typhoon event in Chiba and NOW occurring in Kumamoto)

                                                                            • msla 33 days ago

                                                                              AM radio being useful in emergencies assumes AM stations are run by people, as opposed to automated, such that you can reliably break into programming with information about local emergencies. This has already been a problem:

                                                                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minot_train_derailment

                                                                              > Because it was the middle of the night, there were few people at local radio stations, all operated by Clear Channel with mostly automated programming. No formal emergency warnings were issued for several hours while Minot officials located station managers at home. North Dakota's public radio network, Prairie Public Broadcasting, was notified and did broadcast warnings to citizens.

                                                                              > The incident has been cited as an example of the physical dangers of media consolidation and the cost-cutting practice of not keeping overnight staff at stations. Even without activation of the Emergency Alert System, a live announcer would still have been able to warn citizens of the emergency via the traditional means of the broadcast signal and an on-air microphone. As local stations were running in automated mode, there was nobody on-site to interrupt programming and issue warnings concerning the disaster.

                                                                              EAS not cutting in was a problem. Emergency systems need to be redundant for that very reason. Thinking analog radio necessarily means that redundancy is in place is wrong. Our thinking about this must be more careful than that.

                                                                              • dungdang 34 days ago

                                                                                you just gave the reason. the long reach. one transmitter can reach all of uk. wouldn't it be great if you could transmit a digital signal on that frequency? not all communication is bandwidth intensive cat videos. and as far as am radios being simple, who has one vs people with a phone? you want am voice? transmit a hundred of them on the reclaimed bandwidth, with the same reach, and higher quality.

                                                                                • rini17 33 days ago

                                                                                  There just isn't so much bandwidth in AM bands to practically transmit hundred digital stations in same band as one analog. If you want to keep the same reach as analog, you need so much error correction overhead that you may as well stay with analog. Or you can add more digital transmitters but they still need more power than higher frequencies and there are multipath problems with long-range transmissions mentioned in the article.

                                                                                  IMO practical thing would be to add text service to analog AM broadcasts(like teletext) but with ubiquitous internet coverage, that ship has sailed.

                                                                                  • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                    you need very little bandwidth for an am-quality mono signal. i'm talking like 1kb/s. and when i say am frequency, i mean the am spectrum, not the spectrum of one station. you are literally arguing you can't transmit more on the same spectrum if you go digital. this is simply false. the move would make the current am spectrum, which almost no one uses, useful again. very useful.

                                                                                    • rini17 32 days ago

                                                                                      All I'm saying is that whole medium wave AM band is only 0.5MHz wide, and has bigger problems with long-distance interference and requires higher transmit power than the 88-108 FM band which is 20MHz wide.

                                                                                      You meant 1kbit ot 1kB/s? Neither is "am-quality mono", it's only acceptable with specialized voice codec. Music starts at 32kbit, pls source your claims if you know otherwise.

                                                                                • arethuza 33 days ago

                                                                                  As it is the UK we are talking about, long-wave BBC broadcasts do apparently rather play an important role in our nuclear deterrent (i.e. using BBC Radio 4 an an indicator of whether London still exists):

                                                                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letters_of_last_resort#Process

                                                                                • xioxox 33 days ago

                                                                                  That's a relief considering how bad DAB is. Most stations in the UK are stuck on DAB rather than DAB+, which means poor MP2 codec quality. Then they've gone for more identikit stations rather than higher bitrates. There's very little above 128 kbps and I believe they use mono for some. Then you have the problems with signal dropout, where the sound doesn't degrade gracefully in poor signal areas. Poor battery life is also an issue. If it wasn't the sunk costs of people buying these receivers and the loss of face after all the years of propaganda by the authorities pushing the standard, it would have been dropped.

                                                                                  • corty 33 days ago

                                                                                    It should be a warning to the world how Germany botched DAB:

                                                                                    They introduced DAB among the broadcasters as a cost saving measure. DAB needs smaller transmission power due to the digital transmission and error correction, so they could get away with far smaller transmitter power (factor 10) than for the same area coverage in FM. But they misestimated the power reduction, reduced too much and now area coverage is far worse than FM even in areas that should nominally be covered.

                                                                                    Also, they first introduced DAB. Some people bought new equipment. Then, a few years later, they introduced DAB+ in a complete switchover, no more DAB stations. Thus everyone had to throw away their new expensive radios.

                                                                                    Therefore no-one trusts the coverage and longevity of digital radio, so no-one buys it anymore.

                                                                                    Oh, and even nominal coverage isn't anywhere near where FM is after two decades.

                                                                                    • timsneath 34 days ago

                                                                                      It seems hard to imagine that DAB-based radio services won't themselves be completely obsolete in another decade, given the ever-growing pervasiveness of Internet access through cell and satellite. I wouldn't be surprised if DAB was the first to shut down, with a reduced analog service remaining as a backstop for the few that need a broadcast solution and for national emergency scenarios.

                                                                                      • stormdennis 33 days ago

                                                                                        I don't have a DAB radio and I don't know anyone who has one. These days, even in the car my phone is my radio.

                                                                                        • arethuza 33 days ago

                                                                                          I recently went back to using a DAB radio in our kitchen rather than using my phone, largely because at 6:30am when I get up I want to just hit a single button for Radio 4 to come on!

                                                                                          • stormdennis 33 days ago

                                                                                            That is one click fewer than I have with https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_fourfm added to my homescreen but I have the benefit of being able to go back to the start of the program. I don't know if that available on your DAB radio?

                                                                                            • arethuza 33 days ago

                                                                                              I've been listening to Radio 4 first thing in the morning for about 30 years - about 4 years ago I accidentally broke the power supply to our DAB radio so I started using my iPhone in a fancy dock/speaker. Which was fine.

                                                                                              About a month ago I found the radio in a cupboard and thought that I should either throw it away or get a replacement power supply. Having done the latter I now find that I rather like having a dedicated Radio 4 early morning device - I don't have to remember where my phone is, I don't have to fit it into some dock or fiddle with an app and is still usable even if I have misplaced by glasses.

                                                                                              The rest of the time I listen to whatever I want in our kitchen via my phone through a UE Boom bluetooth speaker which I inherited from our son. First thing in the morning, and before I have had any coffee, give me the good old fashioned (DAB) radio!

                                                                                              Edit: I should also point out that as we are in a rural area our Internet connection isn't brilliant but we do have fantastic DAB reception as there is a transmitter about 1km away on top of a nearby hill.

                                                                                              • stormdennis 33 days ago

                                                                                                Yeah it's nice to not have to think before you have your coffee of a morning.

                                                                                                • arethuza 33 days ago

                                                                                                  At that time my functioning brain cell is entirely dedicated to getting the coffee made!

                                                                                          • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                                            I’ve got four DAB radios around my house. What do you use instead? Always your phone? I find the one-touch interface to turn the radio on or off as I go past valuable. I guess I wouldn’t mind if they were really using the internet though.

                                                                                            • brnt 33 days ago

                                                                                              I just don't have noise on all the time.

                                                                                              • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                                                If you don't listen to the radio much why are you in a thread about radio?

                                                                                                • brnt 33 days ago

                                                                                                  Why would I only visit threads on things I use much?

                                                                                                  • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                                                    This is like joining a thread about which fishing rod to use and saying 'none of this matters - I don't fish'. Or joining a thread about books and saying 'I just don't read'. It doesn't contribute anything useful to anyone. It's just noise. See?

                                                                                                    • brnt 33 days ago

                                                                                                      I wrote I don't need noise all the time. I didn't say I never listen to the radio.

                                                                                                      If you prefer to have no discussion, why visit a discussion board?

                                                                                              • stormdennis 33 days ago

                                                                                                Just my phone, very occasionally the radio in the kitchen cupboard is called into use.

                                                                                            • est31 33 days ago

                                                                                              The advantage of broadcast solutions is that there are no personalized ads and no tracking, unless of course your end device has those things, you use DRM, etc.

                                                                                            • lifeisstillgood 33 days ago

                                                                                              My question is what is the spectrum that is freed up by this going to be used for? And will it make money?

                                                                                              It is an awful lot of spectrum - and laws of supply and demand will start to kick in.

                                                                                              Adding in a new range for WiFi is nice but that will take international agreement and frankly no one has charged me for wi-fi spectrum yet and it's it likely to succeed if they try. Scientific applications like back hauling hardly seem profitable.

                                                                                              Maybe adding in a new cellphone range will work - but AM and FM take up what 100khz to 1Ghz range? what's going in there ? I am fascinated. Is it really all aiming at 6G?

                                                                                              • user5994461 33 days ago

                                                                                                Don't think there is much usage for it for consumers. They are low frequency bands that can't carry much data, it's enough for a few songs but not for computer usage.

                                                                                                For reference, FM radio is roughly 80 to 100 MHz.

                                                                                                Wifi is roughly 2400 to 2500 MHz and 5200 to 5800 MHz. One channel requires 25 MHz. Killing ALL radios would barely free enough room for one wifi.

                                                                                                • corty 33 days ago

                                                                                                  Low frequency spectrum will never go to wifi. Big telcos will see to that, they want it for themselves and also don't want competition by the general populace. So wifi gets progressively shorter-range high frequencies, while the old broadcasting bands are given to telcos

                                                                                                  • CamperBob2 33 days ago

                                                                                                    The spectrum in question would be terrible for WiFi for technical reasons alone. It's too narrow and the required antennas would be too big.

                                                                                                • gardaani 33 days ago

                                                                                                  Norway plans to switch entirely from FM to DAB by 2022. Here's an article discussing how it has gone so far: https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/norways-fm-shut...

                                                                                                  • alephnil 33 days ago

                                                                                                    All national radio stations have exclusively used DAB since late 2017, and while there remains a few holdout local radio stations on FM, I would consider the transition finished.

                                                                                                    • jalla 33 days ago

                                                                                                      And now fewer people are listening to radio than ever before.

                                                                                                  • Mountain_Skies 34 days ago

                                                                                                    Shutting down analog tv in favor of digital freed up a huge amount of spectrum but aren't the FM and AM commercial radio bands pretty tiny in comparison? Not sure what's the motivation for trying to shut it down especially given the simplicity of the system which would be much more useful in an emergency situation.

                                                                                                    • ac29 33 days ago

                                                                                                      FM radio in the US certainly has less spectrum than TV did, but it has 20MHz of relatively low frequency spectrum which is quite useful: 88-108 MHz. It has excellent propagation characteristics (less power lost over distance compared to higher frequencies) and very good ability to penetrate through obstacles like trees and the walls of buildings, but still has an antenna size that's fairly manageable.

                                                                                                      For reference, 20 MHz is enough to carry ~3200 voice channels (6.25kHz spacing), or ~1600 data channels of ~10-60 kbps each (12.5kHz spacing).

                                                                                                    • nikanj 34 days ago

                                                                                                      Being able to pull HD radio ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HD_Radio ) from the side band to the center stage would allow for a massive explosion in radio channels and/or sound quality.

                                                                                                      FM is simple enough, but not so simple that people could just jury-rig a receiver/transmitter together in an emergency situation. If you need a store-bought receiver, you might as well have a receiver that's not using tech from 1930s.

                                                                                                      • dylan604 33 days ago

                                                                                                        In most emergency situation, a receiver is enough just so you can receive information/updates. Transmitting definitely adds a larger layer of complexity. An analog radio receiver is definitely something a lot of people could jury-rigged, as it is a common science experiment for young school kids.

                                                                                                        • reaperducer 33 days ago

                                                                                                          HD Radio doesn't exist in the U.K.

                                                                                                        • ggm 34 days ago

                                                                                                          Mistaken cost cutting? Mw broadcast energy 24/7 costs money.

                                                                                                          Also consider repurposed bandwidth with national reach for unidirectional broadcasting of digital data could be useful. Asymmetric networks with differential return path is what direcTV did with sat dishes and modems.

                                                                                                          The bandwidth is low, but the reach is phenomenal.

                                                                                                          • pjc50 33 days ago

                                                                                                            .. but the analog TV spectrum has not been effectively re used yet.

                                                                                                          • stormdennis 33 days ago

                                                                                                            I prefer to refer to MW and LW rather than AM because so many AM receivers don't cover Long wave band and that happens to have the only station I care about, BBC R4. It's not a problem any more with internet radio but you can pick up R4 on 1500m from the Droitwich transmitter right across Europe.

                                                                                                            • menybuvico 32 days ago

                                                                                                              This. I've got plenty of devices capable of tuning into the (mostly dead) MW band, but only a single one capable of receiving LW broadcasts.

                                                                                                            • stormdennis 34 days ago

                                                                                                              Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It follows that the Cabinet minister with responsibility for DCMS is the Minister of Fun

                                                                                                              I love British humour

                                                                                                              • UncleSlacky 33 days ago

                                                                                                                There's also (from the series "W1A"): "The Department of Culture, Media, and also Sport"

                                                                                                              • rwmj 33 days ago

                                                                                                                I cannot receive DAB in my house because of the thick walls, so when the switch-off happens that'll be the end of listening to radio over the air for me. Also for technical reasons DAB is terrible for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27w3quNTP84

                                                                                                                • tzs 33 days ago

                                                                                                                  I could see the point of digital radio back when they started switching to it, if they had put some rules in place to assure decent quality instead of allowing stations to opt for cramming in more streams by using ridiculously low bit rates. See the video from rwmj's comment [1].

                                                                                                                  But now? I don't see the point even if the streams were good quality.

                                                                                                                  When they started development, cell phones were expensive and not widely used. By the time they deployed, cell phones were much more common, but were mostly just voice and text.

                                                                                                                  But now they are widely deployed, and usually include internet. They also usually include WiFi and in cities public WiFi is widely available.

                                                                                                                  It seems more efficient, then, to not have a separate digital radio service and instead just serve digital radio streams over internet.

                                                                                                                  Then there is no need for people on the go to buy dedicated hardware for listening to radio. They've already got what they need with their phone.

                                                                                                                  People listening at home might prefer to listen on their A/V receiver than on their computer, but modern A/V receivers have Ethernet and/or WiFi and know how to stream, so again internet streaming can serve the needs that would have been served by digital radio. (And if they don't, it is almost certain that something else hooked up to your A/V systems, such as a Roku or a Fire Stick or a Blu-ray or a cable set top box or a TV has an internet radio app).

                                                                                                                  Keep analog radio. It doesn't use a lot of bandwidth [2], and you can make really cheap receivers that run for a very long time on batteries or hand cranks and do not require configuration or buying a service. It makes a good backup to have for emergencies.

                                                                                                                  [1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23739360

                                                                                                                  [2] This may vary from country to country, but I think generally the AM band is about 1 MHz wide and FM about 20 MHz wide. In TV terms, that's about 1/6th the bandwidth of a single color TV channel for all of AM, and a tad under 3.5 color TV channels of bandwidth for all of FM.

                                                                                                                  • jbj 33 days ago

                                                                                                                    My experience in Continental Europe with DAB is that when you receive the signal it is fine, but when the signal is flaky it is useless. For FM signals, the quality drop at bad reception is much more linear, and not a binary type of reception where it drops, but rather just gets grainy.

                                                                                                                    Since internet coverage is so wide, I can always receive digital radio online, should I wish to.

                                                                                                                    In the case I am somewhere with bad data reception, I would probably preffer FM.

                                                                                                                    • mtaksrud 33 days ago
                                                                                                                      • betamaxthetape 33 days ago

                                                                                                                        YouTuber Techmoan covered the issues with the UK's implementation of DAB / DAB+ back in 2019:

                                                                                                                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27w3quNTP84

                                                                                                                        • sorokod 33 days ago

                                                                                                                          Can someone comment on the economic forces in play here? The article mentions the "potentially lucrative FM and AM spectrum", but has no further details.

                                                                                                                          • MintelIE 34 days ago

                                                                                                                            Digital radio just can't compete. Not only are the players generally large and battery hungry, everybody will be expected to buy a new receiver. It's a terrible shame and they might as well just switch to the Internet.

                                                                                                                            • dungdang 34 days ago

                                                                                                                              radio is mostly used by people in cars. all cars, at least stateside, have had digital radio for eons. i don't even think there's a used car you can buy that still runs, that doesn't do digital. for a car, a digital radio is not battery hungry -it's power requirement doesn't even count.

                                                                                                                              people don't buy standalone radio receivers, and haven't in decades.

                                                                                                                              • reaperducer 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                all cars, at least stateside, have had digital radio for eons

                                                                                                                                My car is a 2015. My wife's car is 2016. Neither have digital radio, much to my disappointment.

                                                                                                                                people don't buy standalone radio receivers, and haven't in decades

                                                                                                                                Except that they do, which is why they're still available in stores. I bought one at Target just last fall for a relative who was in the hospital for an extended stay.

                                                                                                                                • kawsper 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                  You can buy a cheap bluetooth dongle that transmits on the FM-band that your car can pick up, you can then pair the bluetooth dongle with your phone and have your phone play through your car speakers.

                                                                                                                                  That's a nice inexpensive upgrade, and can be an alternative to having a digital radio installed.

                                                                                                                                  • reaperducer 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                    You can buy a cheap bluetooth dongle that transmits on the FM-band

                                                                                                                                    No need to. The car has Bluetooth. It also has a USB port, an aux port, and an SD Card slot for playing music. It just doesn't have digital radio.

                                                                                                                                  • dazc 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                    'Neither have digital radio, much to my disappointment.'

                                                                                                                                    Count yourself fortunate.

                                                                                                                                  • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                    > people don't buy standalone radio receivers, and haven't in decades.

                                                                                                                                    Seem to be lots of them in stores, everything from the local supermarket to higher-end department stores, to me. I see them in most people’s kitchens as well.

                                                                                                                                    • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                      you are a statistical anomaly then. people stream radio online in their kitchens these days, and i have not seen one myself. in fact anyone younger than my 40 years of age doesn't know what am radio is.

                                                                                                                                      • chrisseaton 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                        The question was about 'standalone radio receivers' - so DAB side-board radios, bedside radios, desk radios, etc.

                                                                                                                                        • detaro 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                          Bullshit. Signed, someone in their 20s.

                                                                                                                                          • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                            good for you. so you know a lot of people who listen to am radio then?

                                                                                                                                            • detaro 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                              No, but that wasn't the question. And I know plenty of people that regularly listen to analog radio.

                                                                                                                                              • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                you made up your strawman question. this whole discussion is about am radio specifically.

                                                                                                                                                • chrisseaton 32 days ago

                                                                                                                                                  > this whole discussion is about am radio specifically

                                                                                                                                                  I don't know what alternate reality thread you're in.

                                                                                                                                                  The article is about switching-off analog radio, not specifically AM.

                                                                                                                                                  Then you said 'people don't buy standalone radio receivers' which I mean is just verifiable nonsense - go to any supermarket, electronics store, department store, and there's a huge range for different budgets, tastes, ages. Many of them cost hundreds of pounds.

                                                                                                                                                  You might be bringing a more American perspective to this. Note it's a British article and issue. In the UK, very high-quality 'talk radio' is much more part of mainstream daily family life for all kinds of people and it's pretty normal to for example have a kitchen radio to have on during breakfast. Also note that 'talk radio' here is more often an FM thing, not an AM thing.

                                                                                                                                                  About a quarter of the population listens to the top 'talk radio' station here.

                                                                                                                                                  • detaro 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                    First paragraph of the article:

                                                                                                                                                    > Analogue radio station licences will be extended for another 10 years, the UK government has said – entirely reversing plans to shut off FM and AM radio stations in favour of DAB digital radio.

                                                                                                                                                    First comment in this subthread: "digital radio just can't compete". No distinction AM vs FM

                                                                                                                                                    Your response to that claims that "all modern cars have digital" and that "people don't buy standalone radio receivers, and haven't in decades." Doesn't mention AM vs FM.

                                                                                                                                                    /u/chrisseaton comments about dedicated radios clearly being widely sold. No mention of AM vs FM.

                                                                                                                                                    You claim that's an anomaly. You then also introduce AM for the first time in your claim about people <40 not knowing about it.

                                                                                                                                                    I comment that's wrong. And it is: AM very much was a relevant thing for a large part of the lives of many people under 40. It happens to have been shut off a few years ago where I live, with FM going strong.

                                                                                                                                                    So where is the strawman? In that I dared to mentioned analog radio in general, which was part of most of the discussion in this subthread, in my last response? What "whole discussion" is about AM specifically?

                                                                                                                                        • drran 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                          I use headphones with built-in FM radio receiver a lot, when cycling. They are popular, I see them often. I found cheap brand, which fits my ears, and use it almost every day when cycling to/from work or when exercising.

                                                                                                                                          • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                            this is about am radio going away, not fm.

                                                                                                                                            • detaro 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                              Then why does the article repeatedly say "AM and FM"?

                                                                                                                                              > Analogue radio station licences will be extended for another 10 years, the UK government has said – entirely reversing plans to shut off FM and AM radio stations in favour of DAB digital radio.

                                                                                                                                          • cpach 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                            Here in Sweden I don’t even know if digital radio is available. Never seen it in any car.

                                                                                                                                            • lb1lf 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                              -Driving through Sweden from the Svinesund border crossing to the Øresund bridge last year, we definitely had DAB coverage for parts of the trip, but not all - definitely around Gothenburg and Malmö, I believe reception lasted quite a way out into the suburbs along the E6 highway.

                                                                                                                                              • cpach 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                Wow, I had no idea :)

                                                                                                                                              • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                and you would not. it's just radio, and doesn't look any different. you likely listened to digital radio a lot, without knowing it.

                                                                                                                                                • cpach 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                  How do you mean? If I tune in to the FM band then it’s analog, no?

                                                                                                                                                  • dungdang 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                    no. you tune it to your regular fm band on your radio. if you have a digital receiver, which is almost any car in the last decade+, it'll do digital. you won't even know it.

                                                                                                                                                    in fact, most of these people here defending analog have been using digital for years. this conversation however is not about fm. the switch to digital there was a long time ago. it's about am, whose ship is sailing now.

                                                                                                                                                    • kefyras 33 days ago

                                                                                                                                                      You are talking about HD Radio, which is quite different from DAB/DAB+ used in Europe.

                                                                                                                                                      • detaro 32 days ago

                                                                                                                                                        No, FM has not widely switched over to digital yet in the UK and Europe in general. Which is exactly the topic under discussion in the article...