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Higher Quality Radio

The BBC, Virgin Radio, EMAP and GCAP have begun delivering their Radio via Multicast - an alternative way of delivering video and radio channels.

It's also a smarter way of serving large numbers of people.

The best way to think of Multicast is to think about the current way we deliver Internet Streams.

What we do now – Unicast

What we do now is known as Unicast. If a listener wishes to listen to, for example, Radio 3 – their computer informs our servers that they'd like to listen we then create a one-to-one connection with their computer to deliver the audio. If more than one person requests Radio 3 from the same network, our servers and the networks used have to support a unique stream for each person. This increases bandwidth requirements for the networks and the resulting bandwidth bottleneck causes a number of problems including lower audio quality, streams that fail or buffering problems.

Basically, it's not good for you or the network owners (the ISPs).

What we want to do – Multicast

In the Multicast world, each listener's computer notifies our server they wish to listen and our server tells their computer to look out for data with an identifier unique to Radio 3, to continue our example. In turn all listeners' computers look out for the same identifier and the network conspires to deliver the same data to everyone. This results in improved bandwidth throughput, and the ability for the listener to receive higher quality audio.

"It's similar to Broadcast. If you think about your Digital Radio it's tuned into a specific station, it picks up data that has an identifier saying 'this is for the station you want', we just have to put one copy of the station on transmitters. Whereas Unicast is a lot more like us having to call each listener on the phone and play-back the station you request."

Multicast, by it's very nature, results in an improved experience for the listener and network administrators. In very simple terms it's like going from AM Radio quality to CD quality, whilst improving the ability for networks to handle bandwidth better.

Right, now that we've convinced you that Multicast is the way to go, how do you get it?

1. Check your status…

To get our streams, you need to…

  • …be in the UK
  • …have a Windows, Linux or Apple Mac computer
  • …have a broadband connection with a minimum speed of 512kbps
  • …have the recent version of a media player such as Real 10, Windows 9, Quicktime 7 or VLC

2. Check your ISP (Internet Service Provider)…

The ISP that provides your broadband internet connection must be listed below in order to receive the higher quality audio streams. These ISPs have confirmed with us that they are Multicast-ready.

Unfortunately, even if you do subscribe to one of these ISPs you may have to configure your own hardware and/or let your ISP know in order to receive these multicast channels. This is because the service is just becoming established, and all hardware between our servers and your computer must be enabled, or suitable, for multicast. We will try to add any information we have about this to the links below. If you are having any specific issues accessing these multicast channels with these ISPs, please contact them directly.

If you are with an ISP which you know is multicast-enabled but we haven't listed it here - we'd love to know. Please give us your feedback and explain this in the comments field.

  1. JANET
  2. InterVivo
  4. NetServices Plc
  5. Zen Internet
  6. KeConnect Internet
  7. C & W (but not Bulldog)
  8. Mistral Internet
  9. Hotchilli Internet
  11. Entanet International Ltd
  12. Bogons
  13. PlusNet
  14. IDNet

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