BBC doubles iPlayer radio quality, DAB weeps

The BBC just doubled the quality of the iPlayer's live radio service, as well as switching from Real Player to Flash streaming. And we think this could be a massive blow to DAB, too

All of the BBC's national radio stations are now available streaming in Adobe Flash. The quality of live radio streams has been roughly doubled too, to the same format and quality the iTunes Store used at launch (128Kbps AAC).

This has been available for a while in the BBC Labs, but as of today the final versions are live on the public iPlayer.

Local stations such as BBC Sheffield still require the obnoxiously beefy Real Player installation to be active on your hard disk, but these too will shift into Flash by "the end of the summer", according to the Beeb blog.

It is estimated more than 95 per cent of all Internet-connected machines in the world have Adobe's Flash software installed, meaning it's new kinds of likely that your corporate machine is ready to distract you without requiring you to install Real Player.

But by switching to a much higher bit-rate AAC stream, there could be a less obvious negative repercussion that results from this change.

Bad news for DAB

It may not be immediately obvious, but this announcement could be a blow to the future of Britain's DAB network. Today marks the first time the Big British Castle has officially both provided and supported live streams of all national radio stations online, at a quality noticeably greater than what DAB currently supports.

Earlier this week, the disappointing Digital Britain report neglected to instigate an upgrade of DAB to DAB+ (which incidentally uses a form of AAC itself), and the result could be that people will simply source the highest-quality digital radio over IP rather than by investing in a DAB receiver .

Furthermore, upgrading iPlayer's streams is a walk in the park compared to upgrading a national digital broadcast infrastructure and the hardware that receives it. Pair this with wireless broadband technologies such as WiMax, and DAB's lifespan could be cut shorter still.

Don't miss Ian's take on what the Digital Britain report said about DAB. You can give the new iPlayer radio a listen yourself here.

 

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