Friday, 05 December 2014 01:34

DVB-T2 Lite vs. DAB+ for Digital Radio

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DVB-T2 Lite vs. DAB+ - Winner by TKO is DVB-T2 Lite DVB-T2 Lite vs. DAB+ - Winner by TKO is DVB-T2 Lite
At Thailand’s Engineering Expo 2014, Mr. Kenneth Wenzel from Open Channel in Denmark shared the experiences gained, from being the world’s first to deploy and trial digital radio based on the new DVB-T2 profile T2-Base-Lite. The presentation proved the superiority and robustness of T2 Lite for digital radio, instead of DAB+, which is widely regarded as obsolete today.

The presentation
came at the right time and place, as Thailand has decided to launch a yearlong DAB+ trial with no other alternatives.

Formally, Thailand has 524 AM and FM radio stations. There are no precise count of community radio stations in Thailand. However, in 2009 more than 6,000 local community stations registered with NTC to notify their intent to be on the air. 

In 1 March 2013. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), jointly organized the “NBTC/ITU Workshop on Digital Radio Technologies”. The Workshop was supported by WorldDMB, which coincidently is the lobby organization behind DAB/DAB+, MCOT Public Co., Ltd., The Government Public Relations Department, and the Royal Thai Army Radio/TV Station.

NBTC's broadcasting committee signed a memorandum of understanding with MCOT, the Public Relations Department and the Royal Thai Army to conduct a yearlong trial of DAB+ scheduled to launch by year-end 2014.

NBTC is looking to auction about 4,000 licenses for digital radio in early 2015. The estimated final price of a commercial digital radio license would be around THB 100,000 (U$ 3,037). In addition, 10 licenses to provide network services to the prospective digital radio operators will also be granted.


What is T2 Lite?

T2-Lite is a “light” version of the Digital TV standard, DVB-T2 introduced as a subset of DVB-T2 in version 1.3.1. Features include low bitrates (peaking at 4Mbps per PLP) and short forward error correction frames (16k), which co-exist with coding rates to collectively offer a sharp reduction in receiver power use. 

The aim of T2 Lite is to provide a robust platform for enhanced mobile device reception with lesser demand on CPU performance and power consumption, making it perfectly suitable for smartphones and tablets as well as TV’s and set-top boxes already on the market today.

DVB-T2 version 1.3.1 has three additional bandwidths: 1.7 MHz, 5 MHz and 10 MHz (besides the 6, 7 and 8 MHz). 1.7 MHz is the same frequency that Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) standard uses in VHF band III.

The significance of T2-Base-Lite for broadcasters, DTT operator and regulators, is that it removes the hurdles to commercial success with mobile DTT and radio broadcasting as you save the cost for building a new dedicated network for mobile TV and/or digital radio.

DVB-T2 Lite is, due to its significantly greater efficiency and multimedia flexibility, suitable for large‐scale digital radio broadcasting along with digital television.

Open Channel was one if the first in Europe to go on-air with DVB-T2 in 2010 and again in March 2012 they led the way, as the first in the world to air Television for mobile device and digital radio on the newly introduced T2 Lite profile in DVB-T2 version 1.3.1


T2 Lite the new standard for digital radio

In Thailand we are already familiar with DVB-T2 from our newly introduced digital TV, however as mentioned DVB-T2 is not only perfect for TV, it is also highly suitable as platform for digital radio instead of the old DAB technology (1995) or DAB+ (2007)

In Mr. Kenneth Wenzel’s presentation, his comparison between T2 Lite and DAB+ clearly shows that T2 Lite is a significantly better choice for digital radio, than DAB+ both in terms of cost/benefit as well as in quality/quantity.


Comparison between T2 Lite and DAB+

(Page 35 on the presentation) 

A: If using the same propagation model as DAB+
• You get 3 times more capacity ~ 48 radios with T2 Lite but only 16 radios with DAB+

B: If using the same capacity as DAB+

• The broadcasting strength, with the same propagation model as DAB+, can be reduces 6 times with an equivalent reduction of the transmission costs with T2 Lite
• Or 6 times better broadcasting strength with significantly larger coverage using T2 Lite.

C: Or
• Double capacity ~ 36 radios and 2 times better broadcasting strength with an equivalent reduction of the transmission costs using T2 Lite compared with DAB+.


Indoor/outdoor coverage T2 Lite vs. DAB+

Further comparison is available on page 38 and page 39 in the presentation, which shows a propagation map with T2 Lite and DAB+ coverage prediction from MUXCPH-3 | VHF Channel 9D. 520 Watt ERP with Dipol antenna at a height of 100 metres from the TDC radio tower at Borups Allé in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark. The T2 Lite coverage is not only larger than DAB+ on indoor reception, but has almost twice the coverage on outdoor reception.


T2 Lite with the same capacity as DAB+ | Portable indoor reception
Click image for a larger version 

T2 Lite with the same capacity as DAB+ | Portable outdoor reception
Click image for a larger version 


Why Thailand should choose T2 Lite

Page 46, shows Thailand’s Digital Radio Roadmap DAB+ trial, which comprises Plan A for the short term and Plan B for the long term. Plan A is scheduled to launch trial services by the year-end 2014.

With the ITU proposed DAB+ trial

ITU DAB+ trial in Thailand
Click image for a larger version

  • On plan B (DAB+) the number of radio per mux will be: 16
  • Capacity Kbit/s: 1.056 per MUX
  • Number of national radio will be: 64
  • Number of radio per area: 64
  • Number local radio: 2.496


On page 47, Kenneth Wenzel show the reason why Thailand should choose T2 Lite instead of DAB+, or at least run a T2 Lite trial in parallel to the DAB+ trial to compare and provide the best suited technology platform for Thailand´s digital radio.

With T2 Lite

Thailand T2 Lite trial
Click image for a larger version

  • With DVB-T2 Lite the number of radio per mux will be: 48
  • Capacity Kbit/s: 3,201
  • Number of national radio will be: 192
  • Number of radio per area: 192
  • Number local radio: 7,488

Conslusion: With T2 Lite, Thailand will be able to add 192 national radio stations, and 7,488 local radio stations with a capacity of 3,201 Kbit/s per MUX, compared to DAB+ with just 64 national radio stations and 2.496 local radio stations and capacity of 1,056 Kbit/s per MUX.


Denmark raise doubt on whether DAB+ remains a sensible investment

In Denmark one of the countries frequently mentioned as a DAB leading country, the Musicians' Rights Organization Koda and Gramex as well as the privately owned, license financed, public service channel Radio 24syv and Denmark's largest commercial radio group SBS Discovery, which has six radio channels has asked the minister of culture to pull the emergency brake on DAB+.

They believe it is too expensive to switch to DAB+, which is already outdated and overtaken by new distribution technologies and consumer habits, changing rapidly from FM and DAB listening, to radio via the internet on tablets, smartphones, and computers. The group believe this raise reasonable doubt on whether DAB+ remains a sensible investment - for radio stations, rights-holders and last but not least, consumers.


Sweden - Today’s TV technology would be better and cheaper instead of DAB+

In Sweden, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) shared their views in the Swedish newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” December 3 2014, saying that today’s TV technology instead of DAB+ would be better and cheaper for the consumers.

DAB+, which is proposed to replace the FM network, has several serious technical flaws especially the combination of a low number of bits per second together with a signal transfer, inefficient for sound. To get a sound quality that is considered as the minimum acceptable quality, you cannot transmit the number of radio stations that DAB+ claims.

It is worrying that Sweden is expanding the digital TV platforms DVB-T and DVB-T2 without using these for radio distribution as well. Using technology for both television and radio must be considered as a cost effective option. Increased transmission capacity, in combination with the rapidly declining need of bandwidth to obtain same quality of sound, means that mobile networks together with fiber connections will work significantly better for audio distribution. In light of this, it is highly questionable why the country should invest such significant amounts in yet another stand-alone digital radio network, especially if based on DAB+, which is already regarded as obsolete today. 

We believe consumer needs for digital radio broadcasting can be meet via IP access over fiber or mobile broadband, especially together with the use of DVB-T2.

In Thailand, we are already familiar with DVB-T2 as we leapfrogged directly to DVB-T2 (second generation) instead of DVB-T (first generation). Therefore is makes sense to use the network currently being rolled out, instead of having to setup a second network just for radio. In addition, the market already has, and will continue to purchase DVB-T2 device, which means that using T2 Lite for radio, the consumers will be able to listen to T2 Lite radio right away. In return providing the radio station with potential listeners from the start, and not having to wait for consumers to purchase additional devices, as we learned from the Digital TV launch.


Thailand is mobile first

In ITU’s “Roadmap for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting” Thailand 22 September 2014. There is no information regarding what kind of devices the Thai consumers are using when listening to radio (AC Nielsen). With a mobile penetration of 149%, Thailand is mobile first, and it would be fair to assume many would listen to radio on their mobile device either via built-in FM or via streaming services.

T2 Lite appeals more to the mobile device manufactures than DAB+ as we have already seen dongles and mobile phones, tablets with built-in T2 Lite support.

India’s public broadcaster Doordarshan has also decided to broadcast digital radio with DVB-T2 Lite from 2015, and there are no plans to introduce DAB+ in India. Doordarshan is currently testing one TV channel and three radio channels in New Delhi.

Doordarshan will also target mobile phones using T2-Lite technology. CEO Jawhar Sircar said that the content for the service would begin with the free-to-air channels. To begin with, T2-Lite could be made available through a dongle, which could be plugged into a mobile phone, said Sircar, who predicted that as soon as telecoms operators saw the service being taken up, they would seek to embed the technology within the phones themselves. He estimated that India would have about 225 million smartphones by the end of 2014.

T2 Lite is not only the choice in India - Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Italy and South Africa are also active with T2 Lite. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zimbabwe have adopted DVB-T2 including mobile & radio T2-Lite trials.

These markets (size) , are very appealing for any device manufactures. For set-top box and digital TV-set manufactures, there are no issues, as T2 Lite is already part of the DVB-T2 version 1.3.1 standard.

The DAB platform was the future digital solution for broadcast radio in the 90’s but after almost 20 years it is now outdated, as other more efficient, flexible and less costly systems has been introduced.

Below is the full presentation with more in-depth explanations from Mr. Kenneth Wenzel, as presented at the Engineering Expo 2014, November 29, in Bangkok, Thailand.


DVB-T2 Lite for Digital Radio by Kenneth Wenzel



Introduction of digital radio broadcasting | Digital Radio Sweden |

Plans for digital radio switchover are against the interest of consumers | Steven Green| PDF |

The Future of Radio in Thailand After Digitalization: Dead or Alive? | Kanyika Shaw, ASEAN Media and Communication Studies and Research Center, Thailand |

Thailand’s Roadmap for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting | Digital radio market & roadmap | Peter Wallop, ITU | 22 September 2014 |

Allan T. Rasmussen

Telecom specialist with a 25+ year track record in Telecom, Broadcasting and IT. Specialties: MVNO, MVNE, Media & Broadcasting, Mobile Devices, Emerging markets, ASEAN, Thailand, Laos

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