Sunday 22 September 2013

Radio in Smartphones Will Kill DAB

The mobile phone will become the major radio listening device - but without DAB+
Today, mobile phone are with most people in the world. It is becoming the most common radio receiver also in developing countries as in India and in Africa. You are listening via the built-in FM-receiver which can be found in quite stripped down devices as well as in more advanced smartphones as Samsung S-series and Nokia Lumia - or you are listening via streaming audio on the Internet.

However,  there are no mobile phones with built-in DAB-receivers on any market even not in DAB-established countries as Denmark and the UK. 
The major reason is that a DAB receiver in a mobile phone will have an 8-9 times higher energy consumption than a FM receiver. This includes the Eurochip concept promoted by the EBU.  Also the mobile phone antennas are not DAB capable and another antenna must be added.

It is quite understandable that manufacturers choose streaming audio and FM radio. Also in a global perspective the DAB market is very limited encompassing just a few countries with some kind of mature markets. For example the DAB transmission network covers most of Germany but DAB listening is only 4,5 %.  FM is still the broadcast standard in all the 200 countries in the world. And there are not any decision taken anywhere to leave the FM band.

In the UK where DAB radio was launched already 1995 still a majority (60 %) are listening on FM. According to the latest Ofcom survey the first quarter 2013 25 % of the households has listened on DAB which is the same proportion as a year ago. 27 % has listened on radio via the digital television network (DVB-T) and 22 % via Internet.

Radio listening on mobile phone was 20 % which was a sharp increase with 7 percentage unites from last year.

The tendency based on the 2009 survey quite clearly indicated that radio listening via DAB and DVB-T is not going to increase. Instead there will be a continued increase for mobile phone and Internet listening. An important factor will also be that the younger segment of the audience prefer those platforms.

At a Radioday seminar in Stockholm September 19 Ben Cooper from BBC Radio said that BBC Radio has increased its presence in the social media and mobile phone platforms. "The young audience is listening less on radio, and in order to win them back we must put our efforts on the platforms where they are. Ad that is the mobile phone. This is the "head down generation" Ben Cooper said.

In the UK today 51 % of the households have a smartphone which can receive digital radio via Internet.  But Sweden is ahead and is the third smartphone country in the world after Singapore and Hongkong. UK is ninth. According to an US survey soon there will be a smartphone for each adult in Sweden.

The question today is if there are any market space for an older technology as DAB+ for
radio listening in this dynamic smartphone sphere.