Digital Audio Broadcasting

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Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), is a digital radio technology for broadcasting radio stations, used in several countries, particularly in Europe. As of 2006, approximately 1,000 stations worldwide broadcast in the DAB format.[1]

The DAB standard was initiated as a European research project in the 1980s,[2] and the BBC launched the first DAB digital radio in 1995.[3] DAB receivers have been available in many countries since the end of the nineties. DAB may offer more radio programmes over a specific spectrum than analogue FM radio. DAB is more robust with regard to noise and multipath fading for mobile listening, since DAB reception quality first degrades rapidly when the signal strength falls below a critical threshold, whereas FM reception quality degrades slowly with the decreasing signal.

An "informal listening test" by Professor Sverre Holm has shown that for stationary listening the audio quality on DAB is lower than FM stereo, due to most stations using a bit rate of 128 kbit/s or less, with the MP2 audio codec, which requires 160 kbit/s to achieve perceived FM quality. 128 kbit/s gives better dynamic range or signal-to-noise ratio than FM radio, but a more smeared stereo image, and an upper cutoff frequency of 14 kHz, corresponding to 15 kHz of FM radio.[4] However, "CD sound quality" with MP2 is possible "with 256..192 kbps".[5]

An upgraded version of the system was released in February 2007, which is called DAB+. DAB is not forward compatible with DAB+, which means that DAB-only receivers will not be able to receive DAB+ broadcasts.[6] DAB+ is approximately twice as efficient as DAB due to the adoption of the AAC+ audio codec, and DAB+ can provide high quality audio with as low as 64kbit/s.[7] Reception quality will also be more robust on DAB+ than on DAB due to the addition of Reed-Solomon error correction coding.

More than 20 countries provide DAB transmissions, and several countries, such as Australia, Italy, Malta and Switzerland, have started transmitting DAB+ stations. See Countries using DAB/DMB. However, DAB radio has still not replaced the old FM system in popularity.

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