DMB, DAB+ e altre strade per il futuro della radio

La scelta francese del DMB potrebbe essere inquadrata in una ottica precisa: quella improntata a un generale pessimismo sui potenziali della radiofonia, giudicata incapace di resistere alle lusinghe della crossmedialità


da Radio Passioni

Mike Barraclough è intervenuto sul riflettore del British DX Club per rispondere a un altro iscritto che chiedeva lumi sulle differenze tra DAB e DMB. Nella sua risposta Mike cita un altro Mike, l’amico Mullane, che sul suo Multimedia meets radio svolge diversi ragionamenti sui motivi che hanno spinto i regolatori francesi a optare pesantemente per il DMB. Ecco qualche brano del suo post (4 dicembre) intitolato Re-thinking radio’s digital future:

British consumers have bought six million DAB radios because they want to listen to services which are not available on either AM or FM. It is a familiar argument and one that has become the mantra of countless analysts, consultants, broadcasters, regulators and journalists.
I have spread the same message through conference speeches, articles, e-mails and blog posts. But now we are all being asked to think again, as France questions whether listeners really do want more choice.
Although DMB audio is less efficient than DAB+, this is only a problem if your objective is to extend choice. But the GRN believes that French listeners are already well served.

“Significantly increased programme offering is not a strong consumer demand,” says Radio France’s Sylvain Anichini. “In France, there is already a very diverse offering in most places.”
“The GRN is plumping for T-DMB, rather than DAB+, because its members believe that multimedia services will play an important part in the future of radio. Unless radio becomes interactive and adds pictures, they say, it will die a slow, but inevitable death.
“Digital radio cannot only be digital sound – it needs to have the right functionalities to compete with other digital offerings,” says Anichini. These include a screen, rich data, synchronization between data and sound and high audio quality.”

Insomma, la scelta francese del DMB potrebbe essere inquadrata in una ottica precisa: quella improntata a un generale pessimismo sui potenziali della radiofonia, giudicata incapace di resistere alle lusinghe della crossmedialità. In questa ottica il DAB+ è digitale ma troppo “radiofonico”. L’unica scelta possibile è andare in direzione del DMB, che supporta nativamente il trasporto di contenuti di tv mobile e visual radio.
Alcune cose scritte da Mike sono state riprese da James Cridland, capo dei Future media and technology della BBC (a proposito, già che abbiamo parlato del nuovo portale Web della BBCvolete dei bei retroscena high-tech del lavoro di questa divisione? Andate a leggervi il blog dei Radiolabs dovrebbe essere una lettura obbligatoria per chi è assunto a RAI.net). Secondo Cridland le affermazioni di Mullane sarebbero scorrette là dove l’esperto mediatico scrive che:

“If you build a network capable of transmitting DMB audio, it is easy to convert it to deliver DMB video. However, if you build a DAB+ network, there is no migration path to the brave new world of multimedia services.”

Wrong. 100% wrong. Both DMB and DAB+ (and DAB, for that matter) use the same network. No, there’s no difference in the transmitters or frequencies at all. If you wanted to, you could broadcast DMB, DAB+ and DAB in the same multiplex, using the same transmitter. Far from being “no migration path”, the migration path is built-in: because it’s the same thing. A DMB receiver would pick up all DMB, DAB+ and DAB transmissions – indeed, I’ve got one, which I’ve used successfully to pick up DMB and DAB transmissions. That’s it up there – picking up a DMB channel in Munich. And follow this link to see the same radio picking up DAB radio, in Norway. With multimedia content, dare I say.
Mike then goes on:

“But perhaps the French are the ones who are seeing furthest into the future. … Different choices – T-DMB or DAB+ – may be appropriate in different countries.”

Again, the opposite really ought to be true. “Standards” are there for a good reason – to standardise the way we do things, and benefit from globalisation. Arguably, the lack of a common standard has harmed DAB. The “oooh, but DAB+ is just around the corner, shouldn’t we just wait?” countries are procrastinators. The DRM Radio people are confusing the world yet further, with another competing technology. And then, there’s iBiquity’s HD Radio, which adds further complication (and there’s a broadcaster in Switzerland using HD Radio, incidentally). Will we ever get a digital radio into a mobile phone (built for a global market) or a car (built for a global market) when there’s all this local complication?
Putting aside the DAB+/DAB argument for a minute (it’s highly likely that new radios next year will be upgradeable anyway), the last thing that France needs is a ‘new’ digital radio technology; and, confusingly, audio-only DMB broadcasting is not even in the DMB specification, so not only will they be broadcasting something for which they’ll have no receivers, they’ll also be broadcasting out of spec audio, which is a little odd. Nick Piggott raises another point – “DMB Audio” means that cheap radios (the most important consumer driver is price) will be virtually impossible to build.
Different choices may be appropriate in different continents. But frankly, we need a European-wide solution to digital radio broadcasting – and a relevant broadcasting body to advise broadcasters and countries on the best option. France’s bizarre audio-DMB plan is madness: Mike Mullane’s assertions are curiously wrong. Which is a shame, because the last I saw him, he was buying me a beer at the top of a hotel in Singapore, so he can’t be that mad really.

Ho incontrato Mike Mullane di sfuggita a Verona (chissà che non ci si incroci anche a Singapore uno di questi giorni) e non mi è sembrato certo matto. Forse le sue osservazioni sul DMB sono anche in parte condizionate dalla sua appartenenza a un organismo europeo come l’EBU. In ogni caso il punto è un altro e riguarda le motivazioni che avrebbero spinto la Francia a puntare tutto sul DMB Audio e magari anche quelle che sembrano (sembravano?) aver influito sulla sperimentazione del DMB da parte di RAIWay. Davvero molto interessanti sono le osservazioni di un terzo blogger autorevole, Nick Piggott citate da Cridland. Piggott sposta il piano della discussione sull’economia di scala. Proprio a causa dell’overhead video,costruirre un radiolina digitale molto economica, diciamo sotto i 50 euro, sarebbe molto problematico con sistemi come il DMB o il DVB-H.

Meanwhile, over in France, a decision is being made to transmit radio using a variation of the DMB Mobile TV specification called “DMB Audio“, rather than the existing DAB or DAB+ specifications. DMB Audio is the DMB TV specification “adapted” to remove the requirement to transmit a video component, working on the assumption that (TV – Audio) = Radio. Despite the fact that no other country is showing any interest in this Frankenstein technology (c.f. SECAM), and that it delivers a lousy radio experience, there is one compelling reason to reject it (and MBMS and DVB-H) for radio transmission, and it’s one that everyone seems to have overlooked.
Try building a £30 / €50 kitchen radio for MBMS, DMB Audio or DVB-H.
Whilst these technologies can transmit audio, they’re primarily designed to transmit video and phone calls and a whole load of other things which dramatically raise the lowest point of entry to the technology. That means you simply can’t build a cheap and simple radio that will shift in its millions, and critically, can sell at a reasonable price without a subsidy or a contract. DMB-T is interesting because it was an extension of a simple technology to do a more complicated job. “DMB Audio” is the worst idea ever because it’s a complicated technology only using a portion of its capabilities.
It’s true that most modern digital broadcast systems can carry audio services. But that doesn’t mean they’re good technologies to transmit radio to the population as a whole, technologies that can span cheap radios in kitchens through to fully integrated multi-media receivers in mobile phones.

Mi piacerebbe molto capire che cosa ne pensa di tutto questo un altro amico, Mauro Fantin, di Visionee. Esisterebbe davvero una barriera di prezzo così sfavorevole alle ipotesi di adozione del DMB “solo audio”? Se esiste, forse sarebbero da ripensare davvero le scelte sul futuro digitale della radio. Se non esiste, forse è il caso di cominciare a costruirle le famose radioline. Resta però la grande questione di fondo di una radio che così com’è sembra piacere sempre meno, anche nelle sue vesti digitali. La radio secondo voi avrebbe davvero un futuro obbligato di contaminazione mediatica “forte”? Non mi riferisco al connubio radio e Web, quello funziona e non snatura nessuno dei due mezzi. Ma che dire di fenomeni come la visual radio? O della radio che assomiglia talmente tanto alla tv che ancora un po’ mi addormento?

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