DAB vs. internet: vested interests limit progress


The radio industry looked upon getting DAB included on mobile phones as being the holy grail, because people replace their mobile phones so frequently that it would massively increase DAB take-up as a whole. It would also boost sales of DAB chipsets, which would lead to lower prices on all DAB products, so sales would increase due to that as well. Alas this wasn't to be, and I'm afraid that they only have themselves to blame for the predicament they now find themselves in. But because they act in such a selfish manner, there's no imminent danger of me feeling a huge amount of sympathy for them, either.

Surely if consumers and radio listeners want to tune into internet radio, they'll just do it – whether or not the BBC and the DAB manufacturers want them to or not?

Sure. And it is possible that the DAB industry might end up getting a second helping of just desserts, as internet radio could become widely available on audio products, and the DAB industry wouldn't be able to do much to stop it. The reason why this might happen is largely due to Sony's announcement at CES 2009 (the Consumer Electronics Show) that 90 per cent of all its products would be able to connect to the internet by 2011. Once Wi-Fi is added to audio devices, it would only cost a few pence extra in manufacturing and licensing costs to allow these products to receive internet radio. In comparison, it costs a few pounds to add DAB to a product. And if Sony is planning on adding Wi-Fi to so many of its audio products, you would expect its rivals to add Wi-Fi to more of their products as well. So it's possible that there will be a very wide range of internet radio-enabled audio products available within the next two to three years.

Internet radio has also already achieved DAB's holy grail of being included on mobile phones as well, because smartphones are capable of receiving internet radio streams via 3G or Wi-Fi, and the 'Nokia Internet Radio' application is fitted as standard on most or all of Nokia's smart-phones today. Mobile broadband is also proving to be extremely popular with the public, and we've even seen the first internet radio car stereos demonstrated at the CES in the last few weeks. If internet radio does go on to become a major digital radio platform despite the DAB industry's attempts to thwart that from happening, that really would be the ultimate in karma coming round to bite them on their a**.

And you have to say they would deserve it if it happens.