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Virgin Radio Launches 3G Radio Service 117

An anonymous reader writes "Virgin Radio, one of UK's top radio stations, has launched the first 3G radio service for free (as in beer). This is great news for those with a Symbian equipped phone and an unlimited data plan. Various articles suggest that mobile radio could be a major threat to satellite radio. Russell Beattie and friends have had an initial look and commented on the program."
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Virgin Radio Launches 3G Radio Service

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  • by KingOfTheNerds ( 706852 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:45PM (#11860705) Homepage
    As stated in the Wall Street Journal, Virgin actually attempted to acquire Sirus radio early in 2004, however they could not settle on an amount and the deal fell through. This must be Virgins plan to twart satellite radio, and maintain their hold on the communications market. XM and Sirus should merge to stay competitive in the market and drop their prices. Only time will tell where they go with this one.
  • by Zone-MR ( 631588 ) * <slashdot.zone-mr@net> on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:45PM (#11860708) Homepage
    I'm glad the station was launched "for free (as in beer)", as opposed to, erm, "for free (as in speech)".
  • by brownblaket ( 865425 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:45PM (#11860710) Homepage
    Forbes recently had an article about how Verizon was planning a similar service. I find this really interesting because I heard a couple of reports on C-NBC today talking about how Verizon has been in private talks with Virgin about a technology license. The pundits seem to believe that verizon is trying to get a license from Virgin to carry their content on the verizon network.

    I think that this would actually be a really smart strategy for Virgin to employ. Think about it, Virgin not only gets the advertising for it first and everyone begins to associate it with them but then once it becomes famous they get a piece of everyone elses action.

    The world is moving towards total technolgy convergence where people will have a radio/mp3 player/phone (they already do actually). This will become another feature that every phone will have to have in a couple of years and Virgin will not hold a monopoly for very long. By letting people buy into their content they make sure that they get money from everyone.
    • We need to see smaller high performance batteries and cheap data plans before such polydevices can become mainstream. Sure, you can listen to the radio and take some pictures with that phone of yours, but you'll be murdering your total call time before recharge.
  • Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:46PM (#11860714)
    If you have an unlimited data plan, what's stopping you from listening to internet radio on your cellphone?
    • Re:Wait... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Delta2.0 ( 846278 )
      Isn't ulimited data transfer relatively expensive. Wouldn't it be cheaper to podcast or find open wifi?
      • It's not too far off, I think most of the big stations in Canada are dual broadcasting now. Receivers are still scarce... and too large for phones though.
    • A program that can be installed on your phone.
      • Realplayer.

        https://www.helixcommunity.org

        One can make millions if he can code J2ME port of Helix but seems they are busy blaming it to be spyware and bitching about popups :)
    • Re:Wait... (Score:2, Informative)

      by snrrrub ( 865446 )
      Well, for one, doing 128 kbps on a GPRS network isn't exactly possible. So your radio stations have to support custom mobile streams. Then there's the problem of such streams. On a desktop, you can just browse around until you find something you like. On a cell phone, browsing is quite a pain. So you'd better have a known link. Of course, you also need a player for the stream. In this case, they've pretty much managed to put it all together in an easy-to-use (albeit restricted to VR) form. A lot of people (
      • Well, for one, doing 128 kbps on a GPRS network isn't exactly possible.

        Huh. People are still using GPRS? CDMA2000 has been doing 100+ kbps data transfers for years now with no special equipment. The speed does go up and down, but a 56k or 64k internet radio station is entirely listenable with a modern cell phone and a PDA/laptop.
        • Huh. People are still using GPRS?

          Here in the UK, yes! To start with it's all GSM over here. None of your US CDMA weirdness :-) Secondly 3G coverage is less than spectacular once you get out of the major cities. A number of my friends have the 3 phones, but here in mid Wales all they get to use is O2 GPRS anyway.

          And for what it's worth, (now that I've actually managed to get the .sis file after the slashdotting), the Virgin streaming radio works fine over GPRS.

        • EDGE (the next generation of GPRS) can get into the 250kbps range although you have to be stationary to get that kind of throughput. 128kbps while moving is entirely possible.
    • ...other than the quality of content? It's no good being free if it's no good...
    • If you have an unlimited data plan, what's stopping you from listening to internet radio on your cellphone?

      I already do! My phone is not 3G though, so I use WiFi. I've streamed 64kbits over GPRS (2.5G) successfully though, but it's not exactly reliable.

  • I thought radio was almost dead? I know when I am in my car I don't listen to the radio, I listen to my iPod. As mp3 players become more common place I think the radio is becoming a dying item.

    People won't want to listen to the radio on their phone, this will kill their battery life having to access and transfer that much data over the network. Phones are going towards mp3s, not radios. It would be like someone putting a record player in a car dashboard now.
  • Bah (Score:3, Funny)

    by Enjoi ( 857482 ) <<snkenjoi> <at> <gmail.com>> on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:50PM (#11860739) Homepage
    Phones are doing too much these days, you're not cool unless you've got all the addons now.
    Want to hear the radio? Buy a radio.
    Want to take pictures? Buy a camera.
    Want to go on the net? Buy a computer.

    Want to call someone? Oh, just wait while you navigate through the menu of silly addons.
    • Phones ARE computers, and always have been. Modern phones are especially computer-y, though; mine has J2ME Mobile edition, for example, and can run whatever is MIDP 2.0 compliant. Also, when I want to make a phone call, I just start dialing and hit call, and I have yet to see a phone that doesn't work that way. If I want to use the phonebook, I can just hit down on my D-pad and bingo, I'm in the phone book. Having a camera in your phone does not make it harder to use. It does, however, kill off my suspended
    • Really, what kind of tone deaf bonehead would listen to tunes on a cell phone. It's sad but I guess there will be a maket for this.
      • Really, what kind of tone deaf bonehead would listen to tunes on a cell phone. It's sad but I guess there will be a maket for this.

        The same tone deaf boneheads that have portable CD players, mp3 players, ipods, portable radios? A phone is capable of playing just as well as all the others. You have storage. You have CPU cycles to decompress the codec. You have an audio circuit.

        The sound quality on my phone is about average for a portable device.

        Or, are you thinking we are compressing our media in the 8

    • I'm with you. My phone has an FM radio, camera, GPRS, xhtml browser, infra red, bluetooth and Java. Yet I never use this stuff and when I actually want to make a call, the sound quality is crap! I wish phone manufacturers would get the phone bit right before cramming in all the other gubbins.
      • My phone has an FM radio, camera, GPRS, xhtml browser, infra red, bluetooth and Java. Yet I never use this stuff and when I actually want to make a call, the sound quality is crap!

        He he, I bet you think there is a little genie in there doing all the work, and with his FM/bluetooth duties, he doesn't have the time to do as good a job on your phone calls.

        I've got a little surprise for you; the technical "gubbins" (I use that word as well ;-) HAS NO BREARING on the sound quality of a phone call. The comes

        • I bet you think there is a little genie in there doing all the work

          You're wrong, sorry to disappoint.

          I've got a little surprise for you the technical "gubbins" (I use that word as well ;-) HAS NO BREARING on the sound quality of a phone call.

          What makes you think I don't know that already? Your arrogance is amusing.

          The comes down to the audio codec used (which is crap but efficient), the quality of the microphone/speaker (which is not really size related and is now fairly standard) and how the new

          • Sorry, if you took any offence, probably should have used more smilies! What I was trying to (jokingly) say is that regardless of whether you get a all bells & whistles phone, or a basic "your mother could use it" Nokia, they all sound pretty much the same.
  • WoW! (Score:2, Informative)

    by HarryZink ( 68053 )

    This is a pretty nifty new angle, and something satellite radio most likely didn't consider - still, all things considered, mobile phones aren't really Hi-Fi devices (though if this catches on, the next generation *might* be -- but can you still receive phone calls while listening to the 'radio'?

    Still, generally Richard Branson does come up with some neat ways to keep his name on the map, so it'd be interesting how this does, and how many others will follow suit.
  • Unfortunately.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:51PM (#11860748) Homepage


    Unfortunately, at least in the UK, unlimited (3G) data plans seem rather hard to come by with the majority of services having sub 100MB caps or a pay-per-megabyte price structure.

    Slightly off-topic but related, Virgin is unusual as a 'major station' in the UK in that it offers its streams in Ogg/Vorbis format. [virginradio.co.uk] (The BBC did previously but has stopped for an undetermined ammount of time).
    • Tell me about it... Vodaphone just charged me £500 because I went 50MB over my quota whilst at a customers site.

      I cancelled immediately, and will *not* be getting 3G again until the prices come down (at least 10GB/month).
  • Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:52PM (#11860757)
    Symbian phones aren't exactly inexpensive. Unlimited data plans (at least in the U.S.) cost an arm and a leg. I wouldn't call this free.
    • Re:Free? (Score:5, Informative)

      by eggz128 ( 447435 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:17PM (#11860884)
      In the UK you can get Symbian based phones for free on contract relatively cheaply. For example my Noia 6670 was free on my contract (~£25 per month, 250 Min cross network talk time free). I imagine 7650s (my last Symbian phone, £50 on a similar plan 2 years ago) are basically freebies on the cheapest plans now.

      As for unlimited data plans, O2 dont seem to charge for the use of the GPRS connection either. At least I've never been charged for it during 2 years woth of use.
      • Re:Free? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jez9999 ( 618189 )
        £25/mo is enormous, and way more than I'd consider paying even for a landline. Why do people agree to pay these ridiculous sums for a mobile phone contract?
        • Re:Free? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eggz128 ( 447435 )
          It depends. In my case I wanted the multi function phone. I can use it with my laptop to connect to the internet just about anywhere. WiFi hot spots arn't exactly plentyful in the UK, even less so in the middle of Wales. I also make pretty heavy use of the calandering (and alarm), and since I got this 6670 I've used the (suprisingly good) Netfront web browser to read slashdot and other web sites while I have my lunch at the local cafe. I don't actually use many of my 'free' talk time.

          On the other hand
        • Errr...show me one significantly less. I'm on a pretty basic Cingular plan here and it works out at around $50.
    • Neither is 3G, but AT&T has unlimited internet for like $15 bucks now (on some plans?) and T-Mobile has had unlimited GPRS for $20/mo for quite some time. Sprint is 2.5G or something, right? I know they have a streaming TV system which was a free demo and now costs money, but they have unlimited internet pretty cheap with the restriction that you can't use your phone on your PC with it.
    • If you're grandfathered in under the old AT&T wireless service (now cingular) its only $24.99 a month. Which beats the hell out of $80 on cingular's own plan. I love sticking it to the man.
    • Unlimited data plans (at least in the U.S.) cost an arm and a leg.

      Reminds me of Crow T. Robot: "I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous!" (MST3K)

    • I pay $10 per month unlimited data on my CDMA phone in the US. Sprint PCS still offers unlimited for $15, which isn't outrageous. I can stream Virign Radio over the net and play it on MMPlayer without any problems. Of course, this isn't on a Symbian device.
  • by flopsy mopsalon ( 635863 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:05PM (#11860824)
    I find it ironic that free music is now being supplied to anyone with a measly $216/month to pay for unlimited data transfer to their mobile phone, while 12 year old kids who download their free music are being sued by the minions of the RIAA.

    Music should bring people together instead it is driving a wedge between the haves and have-nots. I am shocked and appalled.
  • Isn't a Symbian a strange sex machine where they attach a dildo to a jackhammer and mount it to a total-gym or something?
  • WTF does "Free like.." mean?

    Surely free means free.. :/
  • by Jozer99 ( 693146 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:09PM (#11860840)
    Broadcasting to all 14 Symbian Smartphone owners with unlimited data plans currently in 3G coverage areas...
  • Actually, the data rates in the US are quite affordable. T-Mobile offers unlimited GPRS for $19.99. What's more, this app runs on 2.5G (GPRS) as well.

    Really, $20/mo seems reasonable, especially considering the amount of money techofreaks and gadget geeks spend on other seemingly useless things. :-)

    -Snrrrub
    • It's not 19.99, it's 29.99 [t-mobile.com].
      • You're looking at a rate plan with no minutes and unlimited GPRS. Adding GPRS to a normal plan costs $19.99/mo. The $29.99 plan you mention is really just for people who just want to use their cellphone as a GPRS modem and maybe to make emergency calls.
      • It's 19.99 if you add it to voice service. 29.99 is for data-only. Not well documented on the website.
    • Wow thats really good, my carrier wants $7 a MB. Their largest plan is 2 MB for $12. They use to have unlimited for $50 a month, but they got rid of that about a year ago.

      They try to mislead you by putting a tiny internet plan in a bundle and calling it "Mobile Internet". You have to read the small print to understand that in your $9 "Voicemail, Call Display, and Mobile Internet" bundle you only get 1/4 of a MB of internet, and everything after that is $7/MB. This can really add up when on ringto
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I agree it's the first software targeting a widely available sartphone platform (Symbian) but it's not the first 3G Radio Service available ( read more [geekzone.co.nz]).

    For example, Windows Media on Windows Mobile devices (Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone) have been available for years now and will play any radio stream in the WMA format. And what's more, no need to download and install additional software.

    No, don't come with "open" platform stuff, because the Virgin Radio is tied to their network, and the company
    • Last year I predicted Verizon would be the first to roll out service capable of streaming digital music with their EV-DO network. Looks like I was wrong, but eventually first-to-market attempts like these will be run over by generic high-speed mobile connections through cellphones that could hook up to a laptop, Internet-enabled MP3 player, Internet-enabled home stereo, etc.

      Here's the paper I wrote on it (warning, a bit lengthy): http://www.jhurliman.org/misc/fmradio-alternative s -12092004.pdf
  • by glomph ( 2644 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:51PM (#11861125) Homepage Journal
    Read the F*cking Fine Print. Unlimited Data service has a lot of exceptions. I'll bet you the streaming radio service becomes an exception if anybody actually uses it. I signed up for unlimited data, then saw that it was unlimited only with one phone, and NOT when you used the phone as a modem for your bluetooth-connected laptop, and not when you wore brown shoes, or drove a Swedish-made automobile. All of that vented, Virgin Radio is cool, they have always been a leader in internet streaming, since the beginning (1995, when I helped get them started)
  • .....sort of interesting, but do you really want to listen to music over a phone speaker?
    Do you think the rest of us want to hear it too?
    • Most (if not all) of these phones have stereo headsets that can be attached as well. You don't have to use the speaker but you can if you wanted to. The sound quality is naturally far better on the headset.
  • I can't even download the s60 binary from their site?

    It sounds like it needs about 22kbps so it should be well within the realm of gprs (no need for 3g).

    Does anyone know what port they use for streaming?

    • It does work with GPRS, or better yet, EDGE. The Series 60 version only works with Series 60 2.0 though.
    • It didn't work when I tried earlier but it appears to be back up now. However, the program is having issues with installing on older versions of Symbian (i.e. Nokia 3650), of which Sydus is apparently aware of and is hoping to have some sort of an update out by Monday.
  • For Free . (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I really hate it when people say "for free".
    • Its really smart for them

      1) Virgin Radio offer free streaming radio
      2) Virgin Mobile charges users users £ ? a MB for data.
      3) Unknowing parents get kid's £10,000 phone bill 4) Profit
  • Once I can listen to 90% of recorded music anywhere, any time, for a flat $10 a month, I will never ever use any other musical product or service again. iPod? Radio? CD? iTunes? It'll all be replaced by a new addiction -- the world's music piped directly into my brain. Seriously, all you other distributors, that's the measure of your useful life, better get used to it.

    And the next time I get stuck in a no-service zone, I will cry, cry, cry ...
  • Why satellite radio is a fad. [gearbits.com]

    Within 10 years, Sirius and XM will either morph into some variant of themselves, or they'll just dry up and blow away.

  • XM continues to beat Sirius...

    I'd prefer it if XM doesn't merge with Sirius. However, if it's required to keep competition against stupid Virgin Mobile, I guess it's a must.
  • Are they going to integrate this with their airline? I flew Virgin 2 years ago and they were probably the best airline I've been on. Satellite radio would be a spiffy addition to their seatback entertainment.
  • by petree ( 16551 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:13AM (#11863123) Journal
    This sounds like a lot of hype for something that's out there for symbian phone owners already. With an unlimited data plan in hand, download RealOne for Symbian [helixcommunity.org], find your favorite station that streams using RealAudio (BBC has more than a dozen [bbc.co.uk] plus world service in 43 languages) and go.

    My favorite is listening to This American Life [thislife.org]...I'll be honest, my Nokia 3650 only supports 16khz/8bit/mono, but it's certainly listenable...if only I had an adapter between the the headset port and a 1/8" jack, then I could use it with my car stereo.
  • It's advert supported, not free. Around 10% of the audio will be adverts, just like Virgin's conventional radio station.
  • I don't understand why any telco operator would offer this service. Telco networks are designed for multiple point to point connections, they are not a broadcast, one to many architecture.

    Streaming the same data to multiple handsets will take up ridiculous amounts of bandwidth on all layers of the 3G architecture from the backbone (fiber) to the radio access layer (node B to handset). The cost of upgrading a network to support the extra load vs. the amount of revenue it would bring in (you can't charge mu
    • Well.. charging for the connection time is why the carrier's would do this..!!! But, your point about adding FM (or TV) Tuner makes sense and we see many models enabled for true FREE in the airwaves content. That might make some people wonder why the carriers would allow such a thing on their handsets.. but then the customers like it & really they make most $$ on voice charges anyway..!!! However, I just put Mp3's onto the SD Memory card and play all the tunes I want to hear, that seems most popular her
      • That is my point - no-one will pay enough to justify the cost of the bandwidth.

        For example Vodafone have a data card that costs around $1/MB, fine for business data but no-one would pay $7 to listen to the radio for an hour.

        3 have cheaper rates, but based on the cost of their downloads per MB it would still work out at $4/hour to listen to a radion station that you could pick up for free with and FM tuner in the right area.

        Dropping the price any further would hit company revenue - these companies are str
        • Mark: Indeed, I no idea about the data plans in U.K. but here in Japan flat-rate accts for 3G are popular and so the costs per hour would not be much of an issue for most heavy users.. although battery power sure would be! Again, I find that the majority of people are listening to music from their SD Memory card or some who have FM Tuners built-in to the handset. It would seem that Virgin is just playing the global marketing stunt.. good headlines but vapor-ware in the short-run,, 8-) Lars.
  • radio on my cellie sounds real cool and convenient, but I still think the xm's and sirius's will have the best content, unregulated by the fcc. carriers can be even more controlling than the fcc, can you say 'walled garden'? carriers have numerous content regulation requirements that have to met before content is allowed on their network (decency standards, political correctness, etc).

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.

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