By Ed Schipul under a Creative Commons License.

TDF is a French company that builds and runs networks. All kinds of networks. For both telecom operators and broadcasters. TDF should therefore not have any invested interest in favouring one network over another.

TDF Proves Internet Radio Too Expensive
The following is therefore rather interesting. TDF has published a study that looks at the delivery of radio via the Internet compared to via broadcasting. It shows that there are potentially very high costs to broadcasters and listeners alike if radio is to be delivered over the mobile network. Or ‘prohibitively expensive’ as the English translation put it.

The point of the study was to give a realistic estimate of costs involved if a radio station was to migrate from broadcasting its station to distribution via a mobile network such as 3G.

The average person in France listens to radio for 179 minutes a day. (The figure for Norway is 101 minutes, in comparison.) The 179 minute figure is not expected to drop, but TDF created the hypothesis that 39 minutes of that listening would happen via telecom networks.

80% of all radio listening in France is to the 20 biggest radio stations from the big four broadcasters, Radio France, RTL, NRJ and Lagardère. If those 20 stations were to distribute the 39 minutes of radio listening a day via 3G or LTE, it would set them back over $100 million (74 million Euro) a year. That is, on average, five million dollars per year per radio station.

If those costs were passed onto the broadcasters from the telecom operators (and, why wouldn’t they be?), the radio stations would be unprofitable. Unless, of course, the radio stations passed the costs on to you, as a listener. Likelyhood is that listening then would drop, again making the radio stations unprofitable.

Potentially disastrous
What if those 39 minutes were not 39 minutes, but the entire 179 minutes? The costs would then not be 101,700,000 American dollars per year anymore, but 467,000,000 given the same pricing.

And keep in mind. No discounts would be given. Rather the contrary, actually. After all, such a situation would be disastrous for the telecom operators as their entire networks would have been taken down. And then some.

The study clearly shows that mobile networks cannot compete against dedicated broadcast transmission systems. Such as DMB/DAB/DAB+, the de facto standard for mobile TV and digital radio.

A digitally broadcasted station has no bandwidth limitations, everyone can be reached in a cost-effective manner. There is no additional cost per new listener. And maybe equally important to public broadcasters, listeners can listen to their radio for free, with neither of them having to stay friends with a gate keeper.

My challenge to TDF is to do a similar study for TV. In the meantime, feel free to look at my earlier calculations done for both TV and radio if all traffic were to go via the Internet. Or read why LTE/4G is hyped.

TDFs study was published eleven months ago but only recently brought to my attention.


  1. I think what you are saying is that you feel radio content is not sufficiently valuable to cost the listener an additional 2 Euros per year (for France with > 60 million people). Or 10 Euros per year if all their listening were mobile.

    And, while 74 million Euros is a large sum, the French radio industry has revenues over 1.5 billion Euros, according to Ofcom. You really think there is no way to increase revenue by 5% if it would provide listeners with a highly valued service? (of course, if it is not valued, no one will listen anyway)

    I am sad that you do not value radio content. But, as I see you are a TV person, I am not surprised.

  2. Thank you for your anonymous comment.

    1) I am referring to an independent (not from a broadcaster or telecom operator) French report that states that radio stations will lose money if they were to move all radio listening from a broadcast distribution to telecom networks.

    2) Do you want to pay 2 or 10 Euro a year to listen to radio, something you now do for free? While still having your programmes interrupted by ads?

    3) Your conlcusion about my feelings to radio is utterly wrong. You may want to read many of the other blog posts at I actually love radio, the media where you get the best pictures. Therefore I do not want to compromise the terms under which radio stations operate.

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