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Technical Developments in Web Radio

Last updated: 9 November 2002

This page relates mainly to Chapters 2, 3 and 4 in the book.

It contains updates on details of streaming formats, hardware products for receiving web radio, useful new helper applications and plug ins (or 'players'), improved streaming server options and advances in the core technology of the Internet which affect the reception of web radio. I'll also aim to keep pace with progress in the other digital transmission routes for radio, where they seem relevant to web radio.

As I come across significant new sources of information I'll add them to the list for further reading.

Streaming format updates

Chapter 3

(section)

The common tools of compression - streaming software products

pages 60-63

RealPlayer . The latest version is RealPlayer 8 Plus, still at $29.99. But RealNetworks have also introduced a RealOne Player on a monthly subscription basis. It combines the RealPlayer functions with the personal music storage of RealJukebox and a browser specifically for locating media streams online (audio and video).

WMP. There are a range of 'latest versions' (see www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/players.asp). 7.1 also combines the Player with a personal Jukebox. Other new versions are included in Windows XP or, newly available for download, for Mac OSX.

QuickTime. The latest is QuickTime 5.
Apple launched their own encoding software, QuickTime Broadcaster, in the autumn of 2002. It's a free download from http://www.apple.com/quicktime/products/broadcaster, which enables single streams across the Net, or else acts as the rtsp encoder for multiple streams via QuickTime Streaming Server.

I mention some technical implications of software to enable MP3 streams to be ripped to hard drives at Copyright updates - A copyright checklist

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Server streaming software updates


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Web radio hardware updates

(section)

Desktops and laptops as radios

p 66

A recent FCC report confirms that the proportion of all US households with a broadband Internet connection had reached 1 in 14 (7.1%) by June 2001. See also the latest optimistic Arbitron / Edison Research findings in Internet VIII: Advertising vs. Subscription -- Which Streaming Model Will Win? Published at www.arbitron.com/ from February 26 2002. A crucial test of confidence in the technology will come when we get equivalent figures for the second half of 2001 and into 2002. In the UK meanwhile the take up of domestic DSL services remains slow.

(section)

Off the shelf dedicated web radio devices

pp69-70

New for 2003 is the Global Tuner InTune 200. This comprises a small base unit, which plugs via USB into a broadband connected PC, and a portable unit. A wireless link betwen the two mean, somewhat like the iM Radio, it's useable around the house. It can receive WMP and Real format streams or can tune directly to normal FM transmissions. The product comes from a UK company, PDT, and was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2003.

Also new for 2003 is the Philips Streamium MC-i200, which plugs directly into a broadband internet connection. It receives stations streaming using mp3. It's available in Europe and America.

iM Radio have extended the range of web radio hardware tuners through new partnerships with Philips and Panasonic.
The Philips FW-i1000 Mini Hi-Fi System can be used independently of a computer or in conjunction to add new URLs.
Panasonic have incorporated the iM Tuning system into its new Broadband Set Top Box (STB) product, which will be available in Japan from autumn 2002. (See press release at www.imradio.com/company/press/release_012302.html)

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Internet technology updates

(sections)

Portable radio around the house

and

Web radio back in the ether?

pp71-3

Wireless Internet technology has moved on rapidly in 2002. Many experiments are now underway that combine Wi-Fi equipment (using the IEEE 802.11b standard) with broadband connections to the Internet. Without waiting for the 2.5 and 3G mobile phone networks to deliver the promised fast Internet connections through the air, activists are beginning to exploit a small unreserved set of radio frequencies to create their own mini-networks. A base station connected to a fixed broadband Internet connection (as described on p71 of the book) can radiate an RF signal omnidirectionally over some distance to be picked up - broadcast style - by many receivers within range simultaneously. So, for example, a laptop or palmtop or similar fitted with compatible wireless network cards, will tune the signal and to connect to the Web. In analogue days these frequencies, right at the top of what we define as the radio spectrum, were regarded as providing signals that were too weak and too susceptible to disruption by buildings to carry useable broadcast signals, so they have remained reserved for 'line of sight' or very localised RF applications like wireless intercoms and electronic car locking devices. In many countries their use is unlicensed, provided it's at very low power. In the digital age that power is sufficient to distribute data efficiently enough to offer a likely - legal - way of dstributing Internet access to anyone in the area (up to the total bandwidth of the base station's connection). What's more transmitting on these unregulated frequencies is usually only legal on the basis that it is not charged for on a commercial basis.
Wi-Fi's appeal to web radio activists in countries where it is legal is becoming increasingly evident. As well as opening a faster route than a 56k modem to the global network of online stations it can also focus the users on a highly localised, neighbouhood form of transmission: that within the range of the base station. For a normal, compliant base station this is roughly 75 metres, depending on what lies between it and the reciever. But his range is being extended to maybe 500 metres and more (again, so far not illegally), by connecting off the shelf base units to strategically placed improvised antenna on rooves and chimneys. This kind of shared, small scale community network has hence been christened a Neighbourhood Area Network, or NAN.
For further information on Wi-Fi and the application of IEEE 802.11 to the Internet see, for example:

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Updates on digital transmission routes for radio

Chapter 2

(section)

Web radio's relationship with other transmission routes

p42Digital Direct Satellite Broadcasting: XM Radio went live across much of the US as 2001 drew to a close. (See www.xmradio.com) Listeners are tuning in on the Sony XM 'plug snd play' receiver, which can be moved between car and home or the Pioneer ZM which is a fixed addition to an existing car stereo. Rival Sirius (www.siriusradio.com)is following on from February 2002. Both are offering samples of their output online.

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Updates on further reading for Chapters 2, 3 & 4

Chapter 2 Further Reading

p 50

Arbitron/Edison Media Research (2002) "Internet VIII: Advertising vs. Subscription -- Which Streaming Model Will Win?" Published at www.arbitron.com/ from February 26 2002.


© Chris Priestman, December 2001
Email: c.j.priestman@web-radio-book.com
Book extracts are reproduced by permission of the copyright holder, Focal Press, which is an imprint of 
Taylor & Francis Group LLC.