Is There A Killer Application For Digital Radio?

ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006 Is There A Killer Applic...
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ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Is There A Killer Application For Digital Radio? Asaad S. Bagharib & Charles C. H. Lim MediaCorp Radio Singapore Pte Ltd

Abstract MediaCorp Radio Singapore launched its digital radio service in 1999. Dubbed as SmartRadio, it is the first commercial digital radio service in Asia. Over the past 6 years, SmartRadio offers both audio as well as data services that include PAD and NPAD. This paper discusses some of the many challenges in the development of content and what could likely be the killer application for digital radio.

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INTRODUCTION

DAB is currently being implemented and exploited in many parts of the world and more than 475 million people can now receive nearly 800 different services. There are more than 400 DAB radio stations in the UK with simulcasts of analogue favorites plus a whole new generation of radio stations to cater to the wide and varied tastes of radio listeners, which is one of the reasons behind its successful acceptance. Digital radio broadcasting also offers listeners services beyond audio such as text, graphic, streaming video, and anything that can be digitized. In 1999, MediaCorp Radio Singapore launched the first commercial digital radio service, SmartRadio, in Asia and currently operates 2 multiplexes comprising of 8 simulcasts of analogue favorites and 6 new radio stations offering both audio and data services. The proliferation of broadband Internet and Wi-Fi, with the emergence of 3G digital cellular systems and its ability to deliver multimedia content at up to 2Mbit/s and future generation of 4G communication promising data rate of up to 100 Mbit/s [5], the telecom operators could now offer multimedia content which was once dominated by the broadcasters. This paper will discuss some of the many challenges in the development of contents, compares the strength and weaknesses of digital radio against telecom operator technologies and attempts to find out what could likely be the killer application for digital radio.

6-2-Charles Lim

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ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006

SMARTRADIO CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

This section presents the development of content for PAD (Program Associated Data) and NPAD (Non Program Associated Data) data services [1] [2], and the challenges faced. 2.1

PAD and NPAD data services

Since the launch of SmartRadio in 1999, MediaCorp Radio have developed an integrated solution that automatically gathers information from various sources ranging from the internet, weather office, MediaCorp Radio’s very own traffic call centre – TrafficWatch, the land transport authority, via SMS and the traffic police department to be used for its data services. SmartRadio’s NPAD service offers updated headline news, weather information, snapshots of the traffic conditions taken off sky cameras on major expressways, airport flight information, lotteries and infotainment news. Besides transmitting PAD slideshow of artist information, infotainment, news headlines and financial news alongside each audio service, synchronized song titles with artist name, weather info, promo messages and traffic situation messages are also available on each of the DLS (Dynamic Label Segment) services. A secured system was already in place that enables the local civil defense authority to remotely override the DLS services and broadcasts public warning and related messages to all DAB radio listeners when the need arises. 2.2

Challenges

Despite the plethora of information that is already available on the PAD and NPAD data services, there are few receivers available with the capability to display the information. Other than a handful of early DAB car models that come equipped with a LCD display monitor, only the USB type and PCI type DAB receiver card, both that requires to be installed on a computer, have the ability to decipher the PAD and NPAD data services. The price of such receiver is considerably higher than that of an analogue one and, therefore, greatly impedes the growth of receiver ownerships. Another drawback of DAB is that it does not have a back channel return path to allow interactive services. The advent of Wi-Fi and broadband Internet spurred the growth of Internet radios drawing the Internet savvy, especially the younger generation, further away from traditional radio [4]. Although internet radio inherently has reliability and sound quality limitations due to its finite bandwidth, this alternative radio platform does have an impact in altering the consumption pattern of the radio listening public.

6-2-Charles Lim

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ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006

3G has the potential to provide data rate of up to 2Mbit/s with the added advantage of a return path for interactive services. Despite its realistic data rate of about 384kbits/s for mobile application at traveling speed of less than 120km/hr, it still has an edge over DAB for application that requires interactive capability. 3.0

LEVERAGE ON THE STRENGTHS OF DAB

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One major disadvantage with Telco technologies

Telecom operator technologies with their back channel return paths made it possible for applications with interactive capability but, however, they have one major disadvantage because of their finite bandwidths. Bottleneck occurs when the number of digital cellular system’s user attached to a network reaches its maximum supportable connections, denying a cellular device user access until it frees up a connection. High volume Internet traffic causes degradation of connection speed as the number of connected users increase. This results in an Internet radio user not being able to access the streaming audio or experiences degradation in its audio quality. In general, the quality of service will suffer and network availability is not guaranteed in the event that the demand of service increases beyond the designed capacity. This phenomena could likely take place when there is an emergency, or when there is a malicious virus attack, or during Christmas and New Year’s eves, and so forth. 3.2

The advantages of DAB technology

DAB radio’s broadcasting nature of transmission through the air is not subject to the finite bandwidth of physical transmission medium associated with those of the Telco. Irregardless of the number of users “attached” to its network, the quality of service is consistent and network availability is guaranteed. Unlike Telco that requires a subscription fee so that the user can connect to their network and, in some situations, to impose additional fee on the user based on the amount of network usage or connection time, DAB can be accessed off the air and for free. These features make DAB very attractive and especially useful for applications that require a low cost distribution network, where very high network availability is imperative and consistent quality of service is a prerequisite. 3.3

What could likely be the Killer Apps?

Interactive services could be integrated on a DAB application by incorporating Telco technologies like GSM, GPRS or 3G [2] [3], although it could become very complex and costly when the user base is large. Imagine a hypothetical case of 1,000 users and that

6-2-Charles Lim

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ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006

each of these users simultaneously sends a unique request to the service provider. Each user will, in return, receive 1,000 replies from the provider via broadcast! The Telco technologies offer back channel return paths and will have both consistent quality of service and network availability only if their service demands are within their designed working capacities. Any unexpected increase in service demands beyond their designed capacities will affect both their quality of service and network availability. The provision for such unexpected increase in service demands are normally not built into their network capacity planning consideration as it will be extremely costly. With the major disadvantage of current Telco technologies in mind, it is logical to deduce that applications which are intended for mass consumption, that do not require user interaction and are able to fully leverage on ALL of these strengths of DAB – low cost distribution network, high network availability and consistent quality of service – have the potentials to be killer applications for digital radio. Potential killer applications might be: 1) Electronic newspaper – to broadcast electronic prints to PDAs or proprietary handheld devices with built-in DAB receiver module. It is an excellent platform to increase a newspaper reach and, at the same time, to achieve cost savings in printing and distribution. 2) Public warning system – to implement public warning system that uses DAB transmission to reliably disseminate audible and textual warning messages to the public in the event of a crisis or emergency. This may be implemented as a dedicated data service or via DAB’s Announcement Support Feature (ASU). 3) Closed User Group – broadcasting of audio and multimedia contents on a subscription basis using Conditional Access (CA). 4) Music download – allowing a user with a prepaid account to buy tracks playing over the air, and store the music on compatible, Digital Rights Management (DRM) – supporting media players. UBC Media has launched a trial service in June 06. 5) Electronic ads panel – delivers multimedia advertising contents to a network of mobile electronic display panels with built-in DAB receiver that are installed in public transports like buses, trains and taxis. 6) Electronic program guide (EPG) – allowing the user to record his favourite programmes for access later at his own time. 4.0

CONCLUSIONS

DAB is a one-way transmission system that delivers high quality audio, data services and multimedia content with excellent mobile reception but it lacks a back channel return path for interactive services.

6-2-Charles Lim

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ABU Digital Radio Convention 2006 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Session 6: Content Development Issues th Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Telco technologies like the broadband Internet, Wi-Fi, GSM, GPRS and 3G have a return path but, however, they are point-to-point services with finite bandwidths on their transmission mediums. Bottleneck occurs when the demand of service increases beyond the designed capacity, resulting in diminished quality of service and network availability. Both DAB and Telco technologies have their strengths and weaknesses, and their different appeal for specific applications. The combination of DAB’s ‘push’ technology with Telco’s ‘pull’ technology can provide interactivity to application but it may become very complex and costly when the application is intended for mass consumption. Killer applications do exist for those that do not require interactive services, are intended for mass consumption and are able to fully leverage on DAB’s low cost distribution network, high network availability and consistent quality of service at the same time.

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REFERENCES

[1]

Asaad S. Bagharib & N. Kang, “DAB and SmartRadio for a Mobile World”, Broadcast Asia 2001 International Conference on “The Business of DAB Opportunities for All”, (18-22 Jun 2001), Singapore.

[2]

N. Kang, "RadioDigital-Mobile", Envision Magazine - A Publication of SBA, (Apr - Jun 2001), pp 22-23.

[3]

Roland K. C. Tan, “Project Socrates - Bringing Learning Out of the ClassRoom!”, MeDiA Fusion Magazine - A Publication of MDA Singapore, (2/2004), p 20.

[4]

Asaad S. Bagharib & Roland K. C. Tan, “Wireless Technology Battlefield in the 21st Century – Can Radio Survive?”, ABU Information Paper for the Annual Meeting of the ABU Technical Committee, (20th-27th Sept 2004), Almaty.

[5]

S. Ohmori, Y. Yamao & et al,“The Future Generation of Mobile Communications based on Broadband Access Technologies“, IEEE Comms magazine (Dec 2000), pp 134-142.

6-2-Charles Lim

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