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Why UK FM Needn't Be Killed For Broadband

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the next-we'll-cure-all-known-diseases dept.

The Internet 108

superglaze writes "Alarmed by rumours of the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom considering a shut-down of FM radio in order to give more spectrum over to broadband, ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins has proposed another idea: the reuse of the mostly disused 'Band I' and the creation of a new, national open mesh network — a plan that could bring internet connectivity to everyone at very low cost."

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GNAA First Post? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703118)

GNAA first post.

Way too logical (2)

tqft (619476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703134)

No revenue for kickbacks
No gatekeeper to charge ISP fees
No gatekeeper to monitor who is being naughty or nice

Quick do it now and do it fast before Rupert or Richard snaffle it.

Re:Way too logical (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703254)

To connect to the internet, someone in the mesh still has to act as a gateway - it doesn't happen magically, someone routes those packets outside of the mesh.

Re:Way too logical (1)

tqft (619476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703302)

True if they want to go to sites outside the mesh.
How many interconnect points until monitoring becomes impractical?

is there a way to fairly distribute the cost to maintain the interconnects?

Re:Way too logical (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703344)

My thought was more, how many mesh points before the routing tables become stupidly heavy for mesh points to handle?

Re:Way too logical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36704574)

Easy...at least three. Each router just needs to know a handful of ip address to be robustly connected with redundancy.

Simple

They can't kill FM any time soon (5, Informative)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703152)

I don't know what Ofcom is thinking. Take-up on digital radio is low, costs are still high, and the benefits to the consumer are minimal when compared to digital TV. I really can't imagine people retrofitting every car and replacing every alarm clock.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703210)

There's one other huge issue - digital radio works via multiplexes, where single TX companies handle many transmitters. You can't run a single station on DAB; you have to go pay a multiplex. This costs huge amounts of money. Community radio and low power FM/restricted license FM (for event coverage, for instance) still have to be able to broadcast, even if you say you're going to put all commercial stuff on DAB, but DAB isn't a replacement for FM just yet. A lot needs to be done in organization and legislation to make sure it's an even playing field; right now, companies get the say over where you can broadcast if you want to, as opposed to right now where Ofcom decides that. Not good.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (3, Interesting)

Teknikal69 (1769274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703294)

I don't rate digital radio at all it's worse quality than FM not to mention the radios themselves suck up way more power and seem to break incredibly quickly. Of all things digital I can think of digital radio is the only one that's really a step backwards in my opinion.

Wouldn't suprise me if they forced this through anyway though for a short term profit.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703518)

I'm not sure how the DAB system works, but the HD system (ibiquity or whatever) in the US is just tied into the existing broadcast system. There's one HD channel in my area, and it's WPSU (Penn State's radio station). So they are still broadcasting their analog FM signal, plus 2 digital channels (Music mostly on WPSU 1, and talk on WPSU 2).

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703680)

I'm not sure how the DAB system works, but the HD system (ibiquity or whatever) in the US is just tied into the existing broadcast system.

DAB is AFAIK totally independent of any existing AM and FM broadcasts. Signals are transmitted as part of an "ensemble" (same idea as a "multiplex" AFAICT) of stations, and there are few such ensembles.

BTW, it also uses MP2 sound encoding and is fairly old technology by modern standards- I'd much rather they replaced it with the newer DAB+ right now before there are too many DAB players out there (though I'm not convinced that there ever *will* be that many unless people are forced to upgrade anyway).

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703214)

... and the same argument will be used in 10, 20 or 100 years. Don't do it over night, but set a clear deadline, ie. 2015, 2020. Contrary to that most people belive, you do NOT have a god-given right to listen to radio on a device that was sold before the semiconductor was invented.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (3, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703272)

Contrary to that most people belive, you do NOT have a god-given right to listen to radio on a device that was sold before the semiconductor was invented.

Whereas people do have a god-given right to wireless broadband wherever they choose to live?

Anyhow, the issue is not people having to replace the 1930 cat's whisker rig in their living room: its people having to replace all the cheap, modern FM radios in their bedrooms, cars, boats, showers, potting sheds, phones/personal audio players with expensive DAB sets which might not even be able to receive a signal and offer few other advantages.

Don't do it over night, but set a clear deadline, ie. 2015, 2020.

...and people will ignore it until right before the deadline :-)

You also need to have a viable alternative in place - currently, DAB is not that alternative.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703364)

Contrary to that most people belive, you do NOT have a god-given right to listen to radio on a device that was sold before the semiconductor was invented.

Whereas people do have a god-given right to wireless broadband wherever they choose to live?

No, that's not what i said. But we don't have unlimited EM Spectrum, old, analogue, outdated tech that clutters up that spectrum will have to be replaced at some point.

Anyhow, the issue is not people having to replace the 1930 cat's whisker rig in their living room: its people having to replace all the cheap, modern FM radios in their bedrooms, cars, boats, showers, potting sheds, phones/personal audio players with expensive DAB sets which might not even be able to receive a signal and offer few other advantages.

Agreed. Again, i did not say this has to be done over night, but people keep buying analog(-only) radios TODAY, well knowning that the analogue age is coming to an and, and *thats* bull*****.

Don't do it over night, but set a clear deadline, ie. 2015, 2020.

...and people will ignore it until right before the deadline :-)

yes, they will, and they will complain as hell, as they did it here in switzerland on the day analoge tv broadcasting was stopped, even if there where 24/7 textoverlay's on *all* broadcasted programs for more than TWO years.

You also need to have a viable alternative in place - currently, DAB is not that alternative.

No, currently it's not. But the OFCOM does not think and work in day or weeks, they think in years or decades. If they decide on monday to repurpose the FM Radio spectrum, this is not going to happen this year, probably not even this decade. We *need* some pressure to get rid of that old crap, and by "we" i mean the consumer as much as the broadcasters.

I repeat it once again, dear Anonymous Coward (4, Insightful)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703880)

Stop hiding behind the "we" and state who really needs it - manufacturers and sellers of DAB, and assorted companies to carry out the conversion of emitter stations...
Even though some problems can be addressed, things like inherent high power consumption of digital devices and the fact that a digital signal doesn't degrade well (and having more error recover codes means you have to transmit more signal per second worsening the first problem) will stay here no matter what you use. (the last will probably force building more emitters... or doing it the US way of not giving a crap about those too far)
And why the fuck is "analog age coming to an end" ? I thought it's best to use whatever technology does the best job.. but then i have the outdated 20th century belief that technology should serve man and not the opposite.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36708768)

Digital radio communication of analog signals makes sense where signal strength can be guaranteed adequate, generally 18 dB SNR or better. Except for the very powerful transmitters in major cities, the receiver needs to be within about 10 miles of the transmitter for reception to be OK, and even closer if the receiver is mobile (because the receiver moves through areas of varying signal strength.)

Going to digital for TV was a marginally acceptable decision. Most TV receivers are unmoving. Most TV is already cable or satellite, so the broadcast market was already marginal. Analog TV is a bandwidth hog. Digital TV is almost always superior to analog TV if it doesn't drop out, and format options are more versatile. All these together made the transition to digital broadcast TV a good idea for everyone except for a minority of people in the "fringe" reception areas.

The comparison for audio broadcast is very different. Audio, even FM, is not an excessive bandwidth hog. Except for the highest bitrates (applicable only for standard FM bandwidths, AM need not apply) the digital quality is inferior to analog near the transmitter and markedly inferior far away from the transmitter.. Digital only wins in a annulus of medium distances. If the receiver is in your moving car and you're not in a strong signal area, breakup will be frequent and annoying in conditions that an analog receiver would merely experience a higher noise level. If the digital receiver is poorly designed (many are, I'm talkin' to YOU, direcTV), the audio will cut out with loud, startling, annoying squeaks. Digital broadcast radio is a lose-lose: outrageous upfront expenses to the broadcaster for proprietary compression formats and more expensive, inferior sound for the listener.

In addition, FM has a property called "capture" that when there are 2 signals, allows the slightly stronger signal to be received as if there were no interference whatsoever. I'm not sure, but I think it's likely that this property will be not quite as effective with digital signals.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703672)

Whereas people do have a god-given right to wireless broadband wherever they choose to live?

You can use your internet connection to stream radio if you so choose, so wouldn't this basically be a superset of what you could do before?

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 3 years ago | (#36705830)

You can use your internet connection to stream radio if you so choose, so wouldn't this basically be a superset of what you could do before?

Yes:

If you pay extra for an internet receiver.

If the location where you had the radio gets a good enough signal for reliable internet.

If you pay for the internet bandwidth.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Inquisitus (937664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703466)

Who the hell said anything about "rights"? This isn't about what we have the right to, it's a question of what's sensible and practical. Besides, regulators like Ofcom exist to ensure that we, the people, don't get screwed over.

You in fact do. (2)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703782)

Digital radio has negligible benefits for normal people compared to AM / FM, and public broadcasting services should serve people's interests.
The real purpose of these changes is mainly just to force people replacing perfectly good devices or buy digital decoders to enrich the pockets of a select few companies. (with the TV, it also provided the rich with better image to look at on their fancy plasma whatever screens.)
Oh, did i mention digital emitters are less efficient too, because they require class AB amplifiers with a max efficiency of about 78% as opposed to class C which can do something over 90% ?

Re:You in fact do. (1)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703790)

Just to clarify.. the 78% is a theoretical maximum which to reach you'd have to modulate the base current along with the signal that's to be transmitted.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (5, Interesting)

mattsday (909414) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703222)

Exactly this. I have a DAB (Digital) Radio in my car. However, I find myself using FM (or even AM) about 20-30% of the time just to get a good signal.

Problems I've had:

  • No graceful degradation of quality. There are three modes - good, awful and "no signal". By 'awful' think a poorly encoded MP3 from a scratched CD downloaded in ASCII mode.
  • Semi-frequent drop-outs. I read that most people listen to the radio in their cars these days. However, even sticking to the UK Motorway system, I end up with "No Signal" quite frequently, even along major routes.
  • Time lag - DAB lags more than a couple of seconds behind FM, so when I'm using the 'pips' to set my watch it's off by a long way (minor grudge I guess)

In short, I'm someone who went and bought in to the DAB idea and I like some features (e.g. having 5 live and Absolute Radio available in most places not counting the above). However, I think DAB needs some serious re-thinks before it can fully replace FM. Unless you can drive the length of the country and experience the same reception and quality as FM then it shouldn't be replaced.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703422)

The "good" quality also tends to be pretty poor because of the ancient encoding and seriously low bitrates.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703802)

There's also the problem that if you take your car on a ferry or the tunnel to France, you won't get any DAB signal, at all, ever. I don't know of a single European country apart from us that uses DAB, but someone better informed may well correct me on that.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (2)

mr_jrt (676485) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704178)

A friend of mine who works for the BBC was discussing DAB with a colleague of his and me, and pointed out that apparently, DAB was designed to be used with a satellite acting as in-fill to give the expected blanket coverage. The half-arsed implementation means they skimped on the satellite bit, so that's why you get spotty DAB coverage. Not to mention the ancient crappy codecs.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704312)

No offense intended against Europeans, but your UK (and later EU) politicians really screwed digital radio. DAB simply doesn't work correctly.

Over in the US we have a hybrid analog-digital system that uses the same frequencies as FM, and every station is independent of the other. No centralized multiplex that excludes low-power stations, and no downgrading of quality from Stereo to mono-aural. Plus each station can subdivide itself into 7 different programs, providing tons of variety.

And eventually when 90% of americans own FM-digital receivers, the analog half can simply be shutoff, as was done with our analog TV cutoff. A nice smooth transition without confusing or inconveniencing the listeners.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707012)

There was nothing particularly wrong with FM in the first place, so such early [*] push for DAB as it happened in few places (not really most of EU; and not only in Europe) was a solution in search of a problem ...yeah, gradual shift would make a bit more sense.

But overall, such digital radio systems feel a bit like an awkward transitional approach; possibly even almost a blip between analogue tech and "radio" consumed mostly via wireless IP networks (and those aren't screwed up in the EU, quite the contrary). And/or: digital radio seems to have much more uptake in a form transmitted via... DVB - which definitely made sense for TV, so radio could as well just piggyback on the transition; radio which, in contrast to TV, was well into "good enough quality" territory for a long time, and with bandwidth requirements that will only go down.

And even a transition (while maintaining very "classic" multicast transmitters) for a radio method which does have lots of wrong with it (and I don't mean the talkshow programming :p ), shortwave AM, to the much nicer tech of DRM (Radio Mondiale kind, not Rights Management kind) ...doesn't seem to be really going anywhere.

* That's the major reason why especially the non-plus DAB fares badly in comparison with HD radio (why did you forget to remind us the silly name of the latter? ;) )

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707186)

Frankly the online radio stations aren't that good. Maybe someday FM will be dead and people will listen via their Internet phones, but for right now I still prefer my FM station. And said station is improved by the new analog-digital hybrid system. They've subdivided themselves into 3 programs:
1 - Top 40/CHR
2 - 90s
3 - 70s and 80s

Meanwhile the local classical station has upgraded from plain stereo to 5.1 surround sound. My new HD digital radio provides tons more variety than if I had stayed with the old analog system. And it's FREE - no need for an expensive ~$60/month cellphone plan that drains my bank account.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707388)

As far as I'm concerned, every "classic" FM / AM station of note also provides a stream; no need to go to "online radio stations" per se.

Then there are new models of Last.fm or Spotify. Or how most of scheduled broadcasts could be cached while in the range of something like WiFi; typically with, say, just the news and announcements provided live via cellular, on a much stronger voice-only codec, and also in most cases not strictly real-time.

Then there's how, at my place, "up to 256 kbps" cellular access now also becomes FREE... (512 in a year, generally 20% of network capacity; one condition for winners of LTE bid, but working also via existing HSPA; makes sense considering it's a license for the use of public spectrum, and how a basic internet access will become fairly necessary; fast enough for public radio, & such practise might become relatively widespread in the region)

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36709326)

Interestingly enough, one of the broadcast stations here simulcasts Last.fm Discover on its HD2 channel.

graceful degradation of quality (1)

snooo53 (663796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704472)

That's also my main complaint with broadcast TV... it suffers from the same problem of being either perfect, choppy and generally awful, or "no signal" Are there any digital codecs out there which have graceful degradation of quality for either video or audio?

Re:graceful degradation of quality (2)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36705174)

Scalable Video Coding H.264 extension [wikipedia.org] , apparently spearheaded by Vidyo [wikipedia.org] and used by (there's a mention of Vidyo tech when downloading browser plugin) Gmail / Android / Jingle video (and presumably also by Google+ Hangouts)

I didn't play with Vidyo stuff, but I guess SVC might be one of the reasons why Gmail video is probably the best choice on slow & unreliable connections (like it was also with Gtalk / Gmail audio; quite a few of VoIP codecs seem to do what you ask about)

Which isn't such a problem for DVB as compared to DAB; at least TVs are generally stationary...

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (3, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703284)

I don't know what Ofcom is thinking. Take-up on digital radio is low, costs are still high, and the benefits to the consumer are minimal when compared to digital TV. I really can't imagine people retrofitting every car and replacing every alarm clock.

Hmm. Is the DAB band any good for broadband? If so, I think we have a winner.

DAB is a waste of space: its redundant in the living room, with many of the radio channels available in better quality over DVB or internet radio, and its a non-solution to the problem of cheap portable radios with widespread reception. Kill it with fire.

Re: dreambox dreamboxturk.com (-1)

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Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703384)

I don't know what Ofcom is thinking.

I don't know either, but I'd hazard a guess: money.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36705618)

I'll hazard a guess too: you don't know what Ofcom actually is. Either.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36705948)

It doesn't matter. It's always about money in the end.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36708584)

It does matter. If you knew what Ofcom was, you'd not say such a ridiculous thing.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703502)

Don't forget that FM radio is used in many cars and they have a tendency to cross country borders - even into the UK.

This can be an important issue when pushing traffic information and news.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Rudolf (43885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36708486)

Don't forget that FM radio is used in many cars and they have a tendency to cross country borders - even into the UK.

This can be an important issue when pushing traffic information and news.

Here (U.S.) traffic and news are mostly on AM. Does the UK have AM stations or only FM?

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36709604)

AM stations are more or less exotic in many parts of Europe and are often secondary. In some cases AM is used more for international than national broadcast purposes. But people here will in general not notice if the AM radio stations goes offline - it's only a few die-hard listeners that cares.

And Sweden has - or is going to - shut down it's AM transmissions from the only transmitter that exists. Almost all traffic information goes on the FM band and is supported by the use of RDS [wikipedia.org] that can interrupt the ordinary radio channel or CD played for the region where the traffic message applies. That system works on the FM band only.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703564)

I'm in the US so my perspective is probably off for this, but After digital TV broadcasting I'd be dead-set against this sort of thing here. The switch to digital TV was full of empty promises that were perhaps outright lies. Digital cable is great, but digital over the air is horrible.

Before the switch I had about a dozen stations I could pick up here in Springfield. Now there are four, one of which is a stupid shopping channel (i.e., the "shows" are just commercials), one is nothing but country western music videos. That really leaves me only two stations. I could get a clear analog picture from the Decatur station, now I can't get channel 17 or 49 at all (49 shows up in the channel search but I can never pick it up).

Some of the stations I used to get were "snowy" and didn't always have color, but they were watchable. Occasionally the local stations had ghosting, but they were watchable, too. Now there's either a crystal-clear picture or a message "no signal" when there's the slightest waver in the signal.

If they were to try to replace analog FM radio here, which is a tiny spectrum compared to TV; the entire FM dial sits between UHF channels 6 and 7, I'd be livid. It would necessitate all new equipment, which wouldn't be bad in the living room because I already listen to mostly internet stations anyway (my computer's sound card is plugged into the big stereo in the living room), but what about the car?

The sociopathic greed of today's corporations disgusts me, and the fact that they seem to own the federal government lock, stock, and barrel disgusts me even more.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703764)

Thats the 'free market'/US for you, nothing to do with DVB. Here in NZ we went from about 5 to 16 channels (only the original 5 are good viewing, and there is space for more) and where i live we went from poor res with bad reception to 1080i no issues. I don’t see the issue with signal fading, it takes less power to transmit digital so if they were to use the same power: areas where is was 'snowy' should be perfect, though the high res bandwidth requirements might undo the power savings. If you live behind a large hill you are required to buy a satellite dish though.

They could fit large numbers of DAB channels into the FM bandwidth but i guess that bad thing as no more will be worth listening to. at 300k they could get at least 50.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704608)

(1) Over the air TV is not a free market. It's a monopoly-based system that is strictly regulated by the FCC to only allow ~10 stations to broadcast in each city... one per ABC, CBS, NBC, et cetera.

>>>Digital cable is great, but digital over the air is horrible.

(2) Disagree. I don't have time to type every channel, but I get about 50 digital channels overall... basically double what I had under the ol analog system

abc,cbs,nbc,cw,myNetTV, Ion, wellness, nbc nonstop, nbc sports, coolTV, AntennaTV, ThisTV(movie channel), RetroTV, MiND, LinkTV, JapanTV, PBS, PBSmusic, PBSworld, 24 hour Fox News, TBN, JCTV, Smile-of-a-Child, Enlace', Univision, Telemundo, Telefutura, Qubo, Lifetime, plus several independents that show old movies and shows (like Happy Days).

All of these channels used to be blurry analog, but now they come-in at DVD or better quality.It sounds like you need to upgrade from rabbit ears to a rooftop antenna.
Or maybe a large indoor antennda like the CM4228.
Else you'll continue getting poor reception.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36710298)

It sounds like you need to upgrade from rabbit ears to a rooftop antenna.

Since it's a rented house that's not an option, but I do plan on buying a signal booster. I saw plans on the internet for an antenna that was supposed to be far superior to the UHF loop. If I run across it again I'll probably build one.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703622)

I really can't imagine people retrofitting every car and replacing every alarm clock.

But they can, because money.

Re:They can't kill FM any time soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36704076)

If you get rid of free radio, everyone will either pay up, listen to something else, or do without. That's the whole purpose.

killing radio for broadband? (2)

Computer Whisperer (2357896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703154)

yeah, cause killing analog TV here in the states went just fantastic! now i get half the channels i could previously.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (2)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703178)

I don't live in the States anymore, but it worked pretty well for my parents. They certainly get a much better looking picture, and like 15 channels.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (2)

Computer Whisperer (2357896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703242)

I don't live in the States anymore, but it worked pretty well for my parents. They certainly get a much better looking picture, and like 15 channels.

digital TV is great if you live pretty close to the transmitters.... i live thirty minutes outside the cities, so my analog was not always the best picture, but at least i could get a picture, even if the reception was not that great. now it's either there, looking great, or not there at all, and it sucks when right in the middle of your show, it just goes black, coming back on only after you missed something important! oh well, it's much better not having TV at all, i suppose.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (2)

Bob_Sheep (988029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703530)

It is possible to get good digital TV reception at long range. I get a very good signal from a transmitter about 40 miles away, you just need the right combination of a decent grouped (not wideband) Yagi and an amplifier.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703610)

Unless you are behind a hill this is less to do with digital TV and more someone not willing to pay for the transmission power to get it to you.

If you are behind a hill then tough luck maybe they will someday be able to go to lower frequencies or build a transmitter on your side.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704724)

>>>thirty minutes outside the cities

That's nothing. I live 45 and 70 minutes from Baltimore and Philly respectively, and both cities come in crystal clear. Because digital uses less power (about 20%) you need a bigger antenna like the CM4228. Indoor rabbit ears are nt good beyond ~20 miles range.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36705182)

It might be ok in Chicago or LA or other large market, but in the middle of any state it sucks. I had a dozen analog channels, now I can get four digital channels, and one of them is a shopping channel and one is country music videos, leaving me with two -- and when the analog signal would ghost, the digital signal goes away completely. It's like it was in St Louis in 1960, albeit with a clear color picture if you get a picture at all.

I suspect in the middle of a large city it would be even worse, with interference and signal echoes from large buildings that would give you a ghost in analog and no picture whatever with digital.

Maybe if they boosted transmitter power, but I suspect that would introduce problems of its own.

What I wish they'd have done was kept the analog signals and added digital ones.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36706838)

Try upgrading your antenna. Most digital is in the UHF band, and there are specialized UHF antennas that will improve reception. Do some research, read reviews and forums like AVS where they discuss this kind of stuff.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (1)

jewelie (752077) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703218)

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see a correlation with the TV digital switchover in the states?

Different technical system, different spacing of population, different time scale, different plan of attack. Plus different population spacing even means the suitability of FM versus AM is different, plus I guess you don't, primarily, have national FM stations? Our digital radio, DAB, is a crap early failed experiment in attempting to replace our national coverage FM stations with an inferior digital system that just never quite worked even though it's had many many years to succeed and there's been a lot of money pushing people to change over. Decoding 2k (?) channels is always going to be more energy costly than decoding 2 I would have thought, and given the importance of cheap reliable tiny portable radios vs the larger expensive battery guzzling digital ones, I can't ever see it becoming a prefered system for everyday people unless they are given no choice.

We chose an early inadequate system, that's been abused and stretched beyond it's limits, implemented far too early on. Even with the codec upgrades in DAB+ I still can't see it making enough difference. It's a poor solution for a non existant problem! Xxx

PS As I type, we're entering the final stages of our TV digital switchover too - that's a whole other conversation though!

Digital radio fails at being better (2)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703492)

My issue with digital radio is that it isn't really solving any problems and actually introduces some. This is really the antithesis of what technology is about, the sense it should be improving in what went before.

FM radio degrades nicely, is of sufficiently good quality for all intents of purposes, is relatively low demand on power (transmission and reception) and uses cheap electronics. Add to this that in an emergency scenario it is relatively reliable.

Unlike HDTV pictures, I haven't ever heard anyone say their digital audio transmission is better than FM. What I have heard is that some people feel the content is crap, and that is usually from people living in the USA.

Re:Digital radio fails at being better (1)

kwark (512736) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703740)

"I haven't ever heard anyone say their digital audio transmission is better than FM. "

Let me be the first one to tell you I've had better DAB reception than the same station in FM. I moved to a new building and the FM reception inside was terrible, DAB on the other hand was crystal clear. Can't tell if the audio quality of one or the other was better, the receiver and it's speakers quality was mediocre itself. Soon after the tuner got replaced by Internet streams. The only working FM tuner left is the one in my phone and that one has terrible reception, reception of the local stations in a mayor city (which might carry the emergency broadcasts) is terrible and without the proper headset as an antenna impossible.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703652)

I think that due to going with the DVB model and thus requiring the rather complex OFDM transmission. If they had had just said you can use something simple like (differential) QAM/PSK in your allotted bandwidth then it would be less efficient compared to OFDM but still pretty much work like the old radio. I would think that decoding (D)QPSK would be of a similar or lower cost than FM.

The problem is to get as many channels as possible they allot crappy bit rates to channels to save money. If they did it 'properly' and use the same transmitting power as the old FM per channel the line of sight range should be far greater than FM; of course travelling though hills is kills most high frequency transmission.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704150)

You get half what you used to? You lucky bastard.

Re:killing radio for broadband? (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704680)

I don't have time to type every channel, but I get about 50 digital channels overall... basically double what I had under the ol analog system

abc,cbs,nbc,cw,myNetTV, Ion, wellness, nbc nonstop, nbc sports, coolTV, AntennaTV, ThisTV(movie channel), RetroTV, MiND, LinkTV, JapanTV, PBS, PBSmusic, PBSworld, 24 hour Fox News, TBN, JCTV, Smile-of-a-Child, Enlace', Univision, Telemundo, Telefutura, Qubo, Lifetime, plus several independents that show old movies and shows (like Happy Days).

[Half] of these channels didn't even exist under analog system. [The other half] used to be blurry with gosting or loss-of-color, but now they come-in at DVD or better quality.It sounds like you need to upgrade from rabbit ears to a rooftop antenna.
Or maybe a large indoor antennda like the CM4228.
Else you'll continue getting poor reception.

Would Government approve and open mesh? (3, Interesting)

Thnurg (457568) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703166)

Please correct me of I'm wrong, but an open mesh network would completely decentralise internet connectivity leaving the Government with no way to implement website blocking and three-strikes laws etc.
While a truly democratic government would support open mesh in the public interest I doubt our lot would approve it.

Re:Would Government approve and open mesh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703236)

While a truly democratic government would support open mesh in the public interest

Not necessarily. Democracy is a dictatorship of the majority. If most people are against open mesh networks, their "truly democratic government" would also be against it.

Re:Would Government approve and open mesh? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703278)

radio amateurs form an open mesh already and there would be points of failure.

however, open mesh blehsblash blah blah. so much talk, but nobodys shown a system that would actually scale to even a city size. yeah i'm tired of reading proposals which some bullshit spewers have even scored money with, yet nothings happening and there's a lot of issues to deal with. it's very easy to just draw a diagram of the said mesh, much harder to show what they should relay and where and how you deal with it being open for anyone to add a new node that you don't control the sw/hw on.

Re:Would Government approve and open mesh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36709028)

YES! YES! YES! Open mesh is the best, final answer right now. It will be Wild, Wild West, but I think we'll manage to take care of our children and prevent terrorism better than
we do now in the really free market environment this will provide. Be a wee bit rough for a bit though.

Um... Antenna size? (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703172)

You'd need a pretty big antenna to transmit/receive reliably in the 50-70Mhz range. Not to mention that's really not enough bandwidth to set up a mesh network, unless you don't mind your network crawling along. lt's a neat idea, and would make a nice hobby project, but in terms of practical use, not so much.

Re:Um... Antenna size? (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703274)

Most houses in the UK still have a band I dipole left over from 405 line TV.

I know dipoles radiate quite well, cos I have tried it :-)

Re:Um... Antenna size? (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703436)

"Most" is a bit of an extradition. I've been in quite a few places about the country and there are very few.

Re:Um... Antenna size? (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703444)

Spell check fail! I meant exaggeration :)

Re:Um... Antenna size? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36709920)

Most? You must be joking. I've been all over the south side of my town of 60,000 and only seen one old VHF aerial. It's nearly 30 years since VHF 405 line tv was shut down in the UK, and most people had stopped using it 10-15 years earlier - I think most people had UHF colour tv by the late 70s.

Re:Um... Antenna size? (1)

NNKK (218503) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703298)

Not that I think this is a terribly bright idea, but TFA does talk about antenna size. And a quarter-wavelength around 70MHz is only 1 meter, fine for in a house or on a car.

Re:Um... Antenna size? (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703592)

This is meant for houses in rural areas so antenna size is no problem.

As for the limited bandwidth well since everything is done from the mains it would be much easier to bump up to 64QAM or potentially higher, there could be a standard somewhere for using it with OFDM.

Re:Um... Antenna size? (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707326)

It might be, but you'd have to use spread spectrum, hi-fi recievers, and transimitters that would reduce their broadcast power when more than a certain number of nodes were in range.

Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703184)

I think this underestimates by quite a lot just how difficult large-scale mesh networking is. Last time I checked, the current state of the art didn't scale above small local meshes - it's quite hard to avoid every node having to know about every other node, and the schemes which don't have this requirement tend to instead have a hierarchical structure in which the nodes at the top of the hierarchy are a bandwidth bottleneck.

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703338)

Now correct me if I'm wrong, as I've not studied mesh networking more than just a few glances at it, but couldn't one use a distributed hash table [wikipedia.org] like Kad and other P2P systems use? After all one of the key features in those systems is they scale and are hard to kill, and isn't that what one would want in a mesh network?

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36705360)

DHTs have the very large advantage that they do not really have to care about the physical layout of the network. They overlay a new somewhat random topology over the actual physical topology. I suspect the idea does not translate well, although I could be wrong.

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#36708150)

As far as I understand DHTs, they still need routing underneath. The identity at IP 1.2.3.4 is closer to your hash target than IP 1.2.3.5, so you choose to go talk to 1.2.3.4 even though the real node is down (say it was on 1.2.3.6). But you still have to have the ability to get to 1.2.3.4. And there are no locality guarantees about routability, just liveness & hash distance on top of the existing IP infrastructure.

I think if you try to make a DHT equivalent of routing, you'd quickly end up with distinct local minima that would never find each other.

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703390)

The answer is to adapt routing protocols where each node has an address and each node knows which of its neighbor nodes to talk to to reach or

Heck, just give each mesh router (and local systems connected to it) a separate IP address or addresses on its own logical subnet (as defined through CIDR) and use some variant of a existing routing protocol like OSPF that has already taken care of the hard bits (like making sure that you dont have loops)

Not sure which routing protocol is the most suitable in this case where you need a routing protocol where no one router has any more power or importance than any other router.

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704144)

OSPF falls under the "requires every node to know about every other node in existence" category, and possibly also the "creates a hierarchical structure where the topmost nodes are bottlenecks" category. It's fundamentally not suited to this.

Re:Underestimates how hard mesh networking is. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707394)

The batman protocol just needs to know that direction the nodes around it are sending data in. It also support mutiple network devices on a single node so you can interconnect between physical layers based on the density of people using the mesh. Some places could use wireless a/b/g/n, or even ethernet

The real reason behind killing fm... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703212)

The UK government (and, well, various lobby groups of course) is rooting for rolling out digital radio (the already outdated and creaky DAB) and since few listeners care for a worse listening experience ("mud bubbles") at the price of more expensive radio sets with shorter battery life, any other reason to kill FM radio is welcome.

And yes there's plenty of unused spectrum available now so that FM needn't be killed. In fact, there's a consultation going on right now about 600MHz which basically poses the question "what the bloody blazes shall we do with it? Any ideas? Anyone? Puhleeze?!?" virtually with exclamation marks and all.

Stop the half measures and the piecemeal crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703348)

Why can the UK (read UK government) not just wake the hell up and realise that the UK is a lot smaller than Australia, and if the Aussies can get plans in place for a National Broadband Network, giving everyone a fibre connection to the home, and renting this network back to telcos and ISP's, they we could do the same here and actually create a HUGE revenue stream for themselves. FFS... have Ofcom own this network, and rent it back to the telcos.

Why do we not just stop bailing out big banks that cannot manage a pissup in a brewery, and use that money (was it £53 billion the previous government spent on that). I believe that BT's estimate of £54 billion to build a national network is a little on the high side, but then I do not have all the facts.

My 2 worth... Let the flaming begin :)

Re:Stop the half measures and the piecemeal crap (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703538)

BT's estimate will be similar to all other private companies' estimates for government work. Accurate if they were competent to do the job properly. However it will cost at least twice as much and take at least 10 years to get working properly.

WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

rdebath (884132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703414)

20Mhz! Don't make me cry!

A single WiFi 802.11g transmission occupies 16.25Mhz officially, with interference out to 20Mhz width, That's the amount of frequency space available here. But unlike WiFi that's limited to a couple of hundred metres an FM signal can go for miles with potentially thousands of transmitters in range, sharing the bandwidth.

With landline broadband starting to use 'fibre to the box' and getting headline speeds at or above the 54Mbps official 802.11g bandwidth and practical speeds exceeding a quarter of that a wireless broadband implementation trying to serve more than THREE users on this frequency is going to be 'slower'. Even for 'officially broadband' speeds you'd be lucky to be able to serve more than ten or twenty.

If I'm going to 'pull a number out of my airs' I wouldn't go above 100kbps for sustained bandwidth in a 'high use' area, and that high only because people would be leaving because of the 'crap speed'.

Re:WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36704198)

If it would get the government out of my data once and for all, i would accept going back to 1200baud.

Re:WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36705850)

>>>If it would get the government out of my data once and for all, i would accept going back to 1200baud.

Then skip wireless and just go with dialup. And you'll get much higher than 1200 baud..... you'd get 53000 bits per second. 106,000 if you have a dual phoneline setup.

Re:WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36706882)

Dialup is still point to point, so a single point of failure/restriction. At least a wireless mesh will be harder to stop. ( not impossible of course. .but harder )

Re:WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36711686)

Dialup is what the Egyptians used after the government shutdown the ISPs. It works and can't be stopped unless the government completely disables the phone system.

Re:WTF! 20Mhz shared for Broadband (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36707412)

High use areas could be augmented with Ethernet or fiber interconnects, directional gigabit wireless or plain old wireless.

Killing FM seems very unnecessary (1)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703418)

Why would the UK need that particular frequency band for broadband when countries with much larger distances and much higher broadband availability (e.g. Sweden or Finland) never did?

Dream... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703432)

"internet connectivity to everyone at very low cost"

What a nice dream that would be...

FM service is a Bliss (1)

prolene (1016716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703438)

You cannot compare FM Radio's free Music service over Paid Broadband. FM Radio is still a bliss for countries where electricity outages takes place regularly, although this does not seem to be a reason in UK, but i doubt it and those who listen to FM would fight this till the end. Those who are planning this seem not to have heard FM radio and therefore they do not know how much joy it gives. This also can be a step to compel people to pay for Music instead of listening it free, which i do alot.

Re:FM service is a Bliss (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703510)

You will have to wait for all cars to get an update to digital radio too.

Re:FM service is a Bliss (2)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703524)

FM is also good enough. I really don't see what problem digital radio is solving? Instead I can see all the problems it introduces: increased component cost, rapid signal degradation, increased power use and problematic during emergencies.

As to sound quality, FM radio sounds good enough for most needs.

If you live in the UK and are unhappy with this move let your MP know.

Army might have something to say about that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36703506)

I think that army might have something to say about that as those frequencies are those that are usually used in army exercises. And are those that many army equipment radios are able to handle.

Cynic (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36703980)

Rupert Goodwins has proposed another idea: the reuse of the mostly disused 'Band I' and the creation of a new, national open mesh network — a plan that could bring internet connectivity to everyone at very low cost."

I don't know how it works over there but if it has any government oversight chances are they'll screw it up.

You insensitive clOd! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36704086)

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Radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36704968)

Why would you even *want* to use radio for long distance networking? It's a terrible idea. Unless you're many miles from anywhere (which most of the UK isn't) just use wires.

For mobile networking you want lots of small short range cells connected by a wired (or point to point radio) backbone. Then you can reuse the same bandwidth loads of times and use less spectrum to support more high speed clients.

VHF goes miles (and even further when there's a "lift") so each node transmitting will fill the airwaves for miles and miles around. Using Band I would be even worse than using Band II. When there's an atmospheric lift you can hear Band I TV signals from eastern Europe. That's HUNDREDS of miles. Do you really want people HUNDREDS OF MILES away interfering with your network connection? It's bad enough when everyone in the STREET is sharing three radio channels.

Won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36705544)

There's a reason digital services have abandoned VHF lo: noise.
There are a great number of noise sources with high energy content in that band both natural and man-made, and those noise sources carry a long distance (as do all transmissions in that frequency band).

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