Here’s a quick update for the New Year. All the Ofcom paperwork is now submitted and in due course they will issue the Ensemble and Service IDs which will enable us to configure services. The telecoms links for all but one of our services are now in.
To demonstrate some of the progress made, below are some pictures from the Moel Y Parc transmitter install. Look closely and you can see the labels.
Work continues as we approach Christmas. The Wrexham Rhos and Moel-y-Parc transmitters are installed and powered-up. 3G Modems for telemetry at these sites are scheduled to be installed this week. St John’s Beacon transmitter, antennas and rack are with the installation contractor, awaiting the OK for installation subject to permissions and weather. This transmitter’s telecoms connectivity is currently providing longest delay.
On the service side the multiplexer rack is installed at Mux Centre and configuration is ongoing – we are awaiting service IDs from Ofcom and BBC which will determine how analogue and digital versions link up. Encoders are installed and tested at Dee, Juice, Nation, Real Radio, BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales. SDSL links (the telecoms that get the station output to the multiplex) for Dee is installed, the links for other services start feeding in January.
Below is the multiplexer installed in its rack (on the left). We’re trying to get some pictures of the transmitters and some other parts of the project so you can see how things are taking shape. We hope to have more updates and pictures soon.
The Digital Economy Act entered Statute on 9th April
Like all legislation, the Act is incredibly complex, and like all radio legislation it is pretty impenetrable, not least because it does not simply set out a new framework, but instead amends three previous pieces of legislation to achieve its objectives (the 1990, 1996 and 2003 Acts).
Clause 30 – Digital Switchover This clause sets the framework for digital radio switchover. It is an ‘empowering’ clause in that it allows the Secretary of State to set a date, but does not require one to be set, or
indicate when the date might be. The details of the clause are as follows:
The Secretary of State may set a date for digital switchover. There may be different dates for different services. This is good news: the power rests with the Secretary of State, not Ofcom, and there can be different dates for different services.
Having set a date, the date may be withdrawn. An alternative date may then be set.
When deciding what date to set, the SofS must have regard to a report submitted by Ofcom or the BBC. That report must consider current and future: provision of digital services, coverage and digital set ownership. It must also involve consultation with all sectors of the industry as well as wider stakeholders including groups representing listeners.
Once the SofS has set a date, Ofcom must shorten the analogue licence of any service which will be part of the switchover process so that the licence end date is the same as the switchover date. At least two years notice must be given (unless the licence holder consents).
Clause 35 – Local radio multiplex services: frequency and licensed area This clause is important as it gives Ofcom important flexibility to facilitate any changes that the industry might want to make to the local multiplex layer.
Ofcom may change the frequency of a local multiplex licence and may reduce/extend its licensed area.
However, it must first have received an application from the licence holder. The licence holder must have submitted a technical plan.
Ofcom must consult before granting its approval, and may only consent to this if it does not unacceptably narrow the range of programmes available.
Clause 36 – Renewal of radio multiplex licences
This clause allows a further rollover for multiplex licences. It does so by setting a framework to allow a new piece of (secondary) legislation to be brought forward.
The new piece of legislation may grant a rollover for a multiplex licence. It may also set out how long the roll-over is for, and other licence conditions.
The powers to bring forward this piece of secondary legislation expire at the end of 2015.
We recently attended some listening tests hosted by NGW to demonstrate a new codec for producing MPEG-2 audio for DAB, We also had the chance to listen to some DAB+ audio.
It was a very enjoyable experience although I admit I have never been very good at listening tests. I can’t always distinguish subtle difference in audio as easily as the eagle eared engineers, in part due to the fact that my hearing isn’t very sharp. In any case we have to be very careful when discussing subjective opinions about audio.
Listening to the audio from the different codecs, however, I could tell the difference – just. One was more lean and rangy – more treble, basically.
Now here is why subjective listening tests are to be viewed with caution. If you’re turning out jangly guitar rock you might quite like the sound quite lean and rangy. If however you’re running a talk service or playing a lot of acoustic numbers then that lean and rangy treble might be less welcome.
In addition, whatever we provide in terms of baseline parameters can be totally masked by a station’s processing – or lack of, and the quality of the same. There is excellent and disastrous unprocessed audio and the same goes for various types of processing. How a radio station presents its audio is very much up to them. So for us as multiplex operators, just picking one codec over another alone does not guarantee a subjective improvement for you the listener.
Luckily there is hard data we can refer to – data that demonstrates the actual frequency range that each codec achieves. A greater range gives services a broader platform to stand on. So subjective listening is valuable but is only part of the decision making process.
Great news at MuxCo headquarters, with wins for both MuxCo Northeast Wales & Cheshire and for MuxCo Herefordshire & Worcestershire announced today. Great local radio is what we promised, and will now launch within the next 12 months. Time for a quick drink and then on with writing our North Yorkshire application.