The discussion about broadcast vs. Internet
streaming is seemingly as old as the Internet itself; but new research,
commissioned by digital radio developer iBiquity Digital Corp., seems to
indicate a third way.
comparisons between Internet and FM transmissions are a logical place to start,
yet these are complex, since an FM transmitter is charged at very different
rates to Internet streaming.
example station broadcasting to a transmission area of around 2 million people
in the United Kingdom indicates that its FM transmission rental costs are
around US$75,000 (approximately €55,000) per year, regardless of the size of
the tuned-in audience.
The station has a 5 percent market share, and
examining its audience figures, it reaches around 43,000 concurrent listeners
at its peak time; and this figure — the peak concurrent audience — is generally
used in larger streaming setups.
U.K.-based streaming company, which negotiates low-bandwidth rates for its
streaming customers said that streaming costs to reach these 43,000 concurrent
listeners on mobile or desktop would be around US$276,000 (about €201,000) per
threefold difference in cost is amplified in many countries that charge extra
for music rights to broadcast online.
life can be a concern for many smartphone users. Gunnar Garfors, president of
International DMB Advancement Group, and advisor for Digital Radio, NRK, tested
reception of an NRK radio station on his Samsung mobile phone. In a single charge,
FM reception lasted 48 hours, 12
minutes, while he said streaming lasted just six hours, 53 minutes: a
difference of seven times the battery life.
“Battery life is just one out of many reasons
why broadcasting is proving to be a must-have functionality in future
smartphones,” he said. “It will make a massive difference with regards to power
consumption if everyone who consumes the world’s most popular media will have
to do it via IP. Mass-market radio listening, i.e. live listening to national
or local programs, only makes sense to do via broadcasting, the perfect
technology for the task.”
A BBC Mast at Alexandra Palace in London.
Photo by James
streaming doesn’t mean bigger mobile bills, however. The U.S. census gives an
average commute-time of 25.4 minutes. An average commute with a 48 kbps live
radio stream being delivered to a mobile device would be equivalent to 394 MB
of data over a month.
to research published by Cisco, an average North American smartphone user
consumes 1.38GB of data per month. But North American mobile companies normally
recommend 2 or 3GB inclusive packages for consumers. It’s likely, therefore,
that most consumers wouldn’t notice a cost for streaming live radio just yet.
Europe, inclusive mobile data packages are typically smaller, and commute times
are less in most European countries. However, the increased use of public
transport in some parts of Europe, notably the U.K., means radio listening
while commuting can be significantly lower than the U.S.
problems and spotty coverage are regularly cited as negative aspects of mobile
networks, but the evidence shows that these will increasingly become issues of
Hermans, head of Market & Proposition Development for cellular network
provider Ericsson, says that the difference between 3G and newer 4G networks is
brings a lot more capacity. And we’re working as an industry to bring 5G
standards by 2020, and 4G Advanced, which again almost doubles the 4G capacity
as we know it of today, with a timeframe of 2016 or 2017.”
ROOM TO GROW
points out that networks are now being built for data. “Ten years ago the
networks were dominated by voice; nowadays networks are designed to handle
large streams of data traffic, specifically video traffic is now the dominant
factor in the networks. That automatically opens up the opportunities for
radio, which uses much less bandwidth, and easily can be part of this new
distribution network as well.”
Hermans points to eMBMS, a broadcast/multicast
system that is part of the LTE specification, as something network operators
will be adding. “Looking towards the future scenarios of traffic we’re looking
at, all means of enhancing the efficiency of the networks will be needed to
cope with the increase of bandwidth demands in the coming years.”
success of music services like Pandora in the U.S. and Spotify, particularly in
Scandinavia, appears to show appetite for music consumption on mobile. Yet most
broadcasters report that consumption of their radio stations on IP-delivered
mobile is relatively low. Published figures from some U.K. broadcasters appear
to show that, on average, people use their radio app twice a week for just
12 minutes each time.
radio is installed in some mobile phones, but the reception performance varies.
Additionally, the user experience has not historically been comparable to
streaming apps, which can offer album artwork and more information.
situation is different in developing countries, with India seeing FM-equipped
mobile phones as the most popular way to consume radio. Lucas Adamski, director
of engineering for Firefox OS, a new, low-cost, operating system for mobile
phones, says that FM is a must-have in mobile. “It’s one of the most requested
features in countries like Central and South America. Radio is really popular,
and it’s a big part of people’s lives there.”
An Internet sign is displayed at a
store in Prague,
Czech Republic. Photo by James Cridland
broadcasters are coming to the conclusion that both broadcast and IP are the
future distribution platforms for radio.
future for mass-market radio is still a combination of the two. The majority of
the live listening will occur via broadcasting networks, but a lot of the added
functionalities and most of on-demand listening will be delivered via IP.
Combination is king,” said Garfors.
Piggott is chairman of RadioDNS, an open hybrid radio technology project.
“There’s no doubt that IP is a transformative technology that broadcasters must
engage with, but its technological limitations and business risks are sometimes
not given enough consideration. Conversely, broadcast radio can feel like a
legacy technology but its unique strengths aren’t valued as much as they could
be,” he said.
hybrid radio proposition is that we mix-and-match the attributes of both
approaches that best suit our listeners, customers and businesses. Listeners
and clients get the appealing and interactive environment they want, and
broadcasters get cost-effective and reliable scale of distribution.”
James Cridland reports on the industry for Radio World from