A new EBU Technical Review paper examines the real world costs of distributing and consuming radio and concludes that broadcast technologies remain the best option.

While mobile broadband may serve a purpose for radio distribution in limited circumstances, particularly until smartphone manufacturers enable FM and DAB* reception in their devices, the analysis demonstrated that it cannot compete with DAB when it comes to cost. Indeed, while mobile broadband compares well to FM for radio distribution, the study found that, at all but the very lowest population densities, DAB radio is the most cost-effective distribution platform.

Cost-benefit analysis

An analysis of the costs associated with listening to radio also formed part of the study. Using the five biggest markets in the EU28 as a reference, the real cost of listening to a minute of radio via mobile broadband was found to be seven times that of listening via broadcast. If radio were to be delivered only by mobile broadband the cost would be much higher again.

The paper was written by the EBU's Marcello Lombardo, who first presented the results of his study at the EBU Digital Radio Summit. (EBU Members can access a video of his presentation by signing in to the website. Note that the figures have been updated since the presentation was delivered in February 2017.) In setting out to do a cost-benefit analysis of radio technologies, he looked at both broadcasters and audiences. For the former, the distribution infrastructure requires both capital expenditure and operational expenditure. For listeners, he took into account both fixed costs (such as a broadcast reception licence, ISP charges) and, especially for mobile reception, data use and other charges.

EBU Technical Review papers, available from the EBU Technology & Innovation publications library, critically examine new technologies or developments in media production or distribution. New papers are published throughout the year.


*As in the Technical Review article, the use of the term DAB here refers to both DAB and DAB+.

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