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ACT Digital Radio outages

By richardg - 2 July 2012 16

ACT digital radio (all channels) over North Canberra (at least) went down at lunchtime on Saturday 30 June and was not restored until Sunday 1 July. It went down again just after 10.00 on Monday 2 July until 11.40. There appear to have been no statements issued about the outages.

Some questions:

Why was nothing said?

Isn’t digital radio supposed to be replacing analogue completely?

Will digital radio then carry emergency communications?

If all local channels can go down simultaneously, doesn’t that represent a serious system design shortcoming?

If it takes 24 hours to rectify a problem at a weekend, doesn’t that represent a serious system management shortcoming?

Does anybody care?

What’s Your opinion?


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16 Responses to
ACT Digital Radio outages
SnapperJack 12:43 pm 03 Jul 12

richardg said :

I appreciate all of the comments above about the status of digital radio but:

b. in its 29 Sep 2009 statement about emergency communications in the ACT, the ABC said “Be sure to keep the emergency numbers to hand, keep a battery powered radio in your emergency kit – and tune it to 666 ABC Canberra, your emergency services broadcaster.”

.

Is the Devil’s Radio really trying to claim it is the emergency services broadcaster? For the information of everybody here, every radio station in the ACT is compelled by law to interrupt programs with emergency broadcasts which are preceded by a siren sound lasting for 15 seconds.

For the ABC to claim exclusivity in this regard is not only inaccurate, it is a straight-out lie.

Holden Caulfield 12:31 pm 03 Jul 12

Valid questions in post #13, but…

zomg!`11“~~~~!!!!!! wot happenz if the AM transmitteh breakz? Oh teh humanateeeee.

richardg 12:02 pm 03 Jul 12

I appreciate all of the comments above about the status of digital radio but:

a. the digital channel of the local ABC radio is called “666 ABC Canberra”, although it does not always carry the same content as the analogue 666 kHz AM ABC broadcast; and

b. in its 29 Sep 2009 statement about emergency communications in the ACT, the ABC said “Be sure to keep the emergency numbers to hand, keep a battery powered radio in your emergency kit – and tune it to 666 ABC Canberra, your emergency services broadcaster.”

If the digital 666 ABC Canberra channel is not part of the emergency broadcasting system, then the ABC needs to give it some other name or change their instructions for tuning in in an emergency to “666 kHz AM”. If the digital channel IS part of the system then all my earlier comments about the local digital radio system design and management deficiencies continue to apply.

A practical problem is that, for those few of us with digital radios, they can’t be used in conjunction with analogue, at least for the ABC. Not only do the contents diverge, particularly at weekends when the analogue 666 carries the ABC sport radio channel, but there is a time delay between analogue and digital which means that one won’t normally have the receivers within earshot of each other.

With regard to telling listeners about outages, etc, I would have thought that it would have rated a mention on the corresponding analogue channels.

JimCharles 11:11 am 03 Jul 12

Deref said :

I had the pleasure of experiencing digital radio in the UK some years ago. It was brilliant. Wherever you were, once you started passing out of the signal area of the station you were listening to, the radio would automatically change to a stronger signal of the same station – you could see it happen on the display, but the process was seamless.

You could opt for traffic announcements for the area you were in to override your station selection so, whichever station you were listening to, you’d get local traffic info. Emergency announcements automatically overrode your station selection.

As I understand it, nothing like those are being considered here. We’re so far behind that it’s ludicrous.

The UK uses DAB, Australia uses DAB+.
DAB+ is more advanced, uses a better audio codec, gives a better signal and is three times more data efficient for sound quality.
As it’s officially still in testing…a lot of the stations are not using (or have not yet been allowed to invest in) the available features to the maximum potential, so the digital text often plays a rolling station title rather than the live information about what you’re listening to etc…
It will take time, but potentially it’s a far better and more expansive system than the UK is stuck with, unless they decide to scrap all the DAB radio’s which are not forward compatible to DAB+.

breda 11:09 am 03 Jul 12

What about the digital radio services the ABC provides through digital TV – digmusic (200) and ABC Jazz (201)? Is that just digital TV with no picture, or is it actually radio, does anyone know?

BTW, I recommend ABC Jazz – hardly any announcements or interruptions, but you need to log onto the website to find out what is being played. Very pleasant background music, and perfect quality sound.

Deref 10:54 am 03 Jul 12

I had the pleasure of experiencing digital radio in the UK some years ago. It was brilliant. Wherever you were, once you started passing out of the signal area of the station you were listening to, the radio would automatically change to a stronger signal of the same station – you could see it happen on the display, but the process was seamless.

You could opt for traffic announcements for the area you were in to override your station selection so, whichever station you were listening to, you’d get local traffic info. Emergency announcements automatically overrode your station selection.

As I understand it, nothing like those are being considered here. We’re so far behind that it’s ludicrous.

patrick_keogh 10:29 am 03 Jul 12

patrick_keogh said :

However I have not seen any credible alternative being proposed or tested, so I think that this is less and less likely.
.

Given a 2015 or later implementation date for any national digital radio coverage, my personal bet is that internet radio via the NBN will take a huge slice of the market. Already I am using Spotify for around 70% of my music listening and internet TV for around 20% of what I watch (which is not a lot).

patrick_keogh 10:14 am 03 Jul 12

Madam Cholet said :

Have been wondering whether to purchase a digital radio, but what stops me is that I have not heard if the trial will automatically turn into teh norm – i.e. after the trial will it be back to analogue whilst they decide if the trial was a success? What’s the reason fro a trial – why not just switch it on and leave it on.

My understanding of the reason is that there were two issues:

1. Is DAB+ the best digital radio technology for Australian regional areas? Canberra counts as regional so they have insisted on calling it a “trial” in case they later change their mind. However I have not seen any credible alternative being proposed or tested, so I think that this is less and less likely. But you are right, if the money is an issue for you then you might be better off waiting.

2. Prior to analogue radio being switched off not just here in Canberra, but in several surrounding zones as well there is not enough spectrum available for a full-blown set of DAB+ stations, so at least in theory we are not getting the “full” DAB+ experience.

I was prepared to take the punt and we have been listeningto DAB+ since October 2010 here in Canberra. I am pretty happy with the sound quality and the variety. There are more stations that I want to listen to on DAB+ than on AM and FM combined.

Madam Cholet 8:39 am 03 Jul 12

Have been wondering whether to purchase a digital radio, but what stops me is that I have not heard if the trial will automatically turn into teh norm – i.e. after the trial will it be back to analogue whilst they decide if the trial was a success? What’s the reason fro a trial – why not just switch it on and leave it on.

JimCharles 6:13 pm 02 Jul 12

Ah……and here was thinking my tuner had bust !
I reset it and rescanned this morning, all working… otherwise i was taking it back to good guys.
Nice to know !

Reprobate 5:20 pm 02 Jul 12

Yes, I noticed My Canberra Digital (and Classic Hits Plus & 2CA) had gone off air about 12.45 Saturday and was back on Sunday. Annoying, but ultimately a classic first world problem.

Some questions:
Why was nothing said? Well, if they were off air they couldn’t say anything right?
Isn’t digital radio supposed to be replacing analogue completely? No, not at all, unlike TV normal AM and FM signals are continuing side-by-side with digital. And in Canberra Digital Radio is only a trial service, not the full-time service that Sydeny and Melbourne etc have. We’re just a communications backwater here in the national capital.
Will digital radio then carry emergency communications? Dunno.
If all local channels can go down simultaneously, doesn’t that represent a serious system design shortcoming? See above – but bear in mind sometimes a number of TV stations go off-air at the same time too.
If it takes 24 hours to rectify a problem at a weekend, doesn’t that represent a serious system management shortcoming? Maybe the one tech on hand decided to go down the coast. Maybe the 5% of local households with access to Digital radio (estimate only) weren’t considered a priority. Maybe a general public forum isn’t the right place to ask these questions.
Does anybody care? Won’t somebody think of the children’s digital radio!

Holden Caulfield 5:12 pm 02 Jul 12

Isn’t digital radio supposed to be replacing analogue completely?

No, that’s not my understanding.

c_c 5:05 pm 02 Jul 12

Digital radio is going to take a lot longer to be adopted in Australia than digital TV took, which for Canberra was about a decade (during which Foxtel swapped over far sooner).

As with digital TV, digital radio is attractive in the long term to broadcasters because digital signals require lower power output than analogue, which reduces operating costs. It also permits multi channeling and data casting, which won’t cost much more because the licences for content are for station income, not based on channels.

However the receivers require more energy than analogue receivers, making it particularly problematic for portable devices. I’m not aware of any vehicles that have AAC+ receivers in Australia, nor any after market products that have it yet – thanks largely because Australia has chosen a different standard to the ones used elsewhere. I don’t even know of any home theatre receivers or computer tuners to receiver AAC+. There’s just a handful of standalone radios.

Eventually, yes digital radio will replace analogue. And it will carry whatever current stations carry and more (for example, in an emergency a text read out may repeat vital information on screen while programming continues.)

I think iPods and in car media storage are making digital radio less important though.

Rawhide Kid Part3 4:51 pm 02 Jul 12

I think you’ll find that the Digital Radio won’t replace Analogue broadcast radio completely, least not the ABC and not nationally any way. One of the main reason’s is distance and its effects on Digital radio and Digital TV technology.
The Digital singles don’t travel as far and have a definite distance cut off, where as Analogue singles can be picked up way past their intended audience. Also to provide the same coverage as Analogue radio singles you would have to install more Digital transmitting towers similar to the Phone towers. I think you’ll find that Digital Radio is still in its experimental stage and you will see a lot of testing still going on until the engineers are happy with it.
And yes I do care.

Morgan 4:47 pm 02 Jul 12

Digital Radio in Canberra is only on trial, the trial is expected to finish end of July 2012.

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