Some of the information on this page may be out of date by the time you read it so please tell me about any corrections required.
What satellite programmes can I watch?
Every day someone will ask me a question about receiving a signal from a specific satellite, or receiving “all” programmes of a certain language. Often it includes “what dish size do I need” or “how do I receive football channels” or “how does my wife watch Italian channels”, expecting me to tell them exactly what to buy and how to set it up an a simple 2 minute reply. While I might be able to do this, such questions would require several hours of research and discussion. It’s quite impossible for me to commit time to such questions and usually I lack the interest. That means I’m unlikely to do a good job so, frankly, I’d rather not do it at all.
Consequently, I’ve tried to give information on this page, which will help you to do your own research. (If you would like me to publish the results of your findings on this web site to help other people with the same interest as you, please email me your information. For example, there is a whole page of information about receiving the Tour de France coverage HERE. And information about Thai channels HERE. I’ve also answered questions specifically about GERMAN channels HERE. ITALIAN channels HERE, FRENCH channels HERE and GREEK CHANNELS HERE).
For a list of FREE channels on Sky Digital, look at this site: http://www.wickonline.com/fta.htm
Another list of channels:
If you want to know what receiver you need to watch Free To Air programmes, the answer is probably “any FTA receiver”. Again, please do your own research because the choice is a personal one and any receiver that I prefer may not work in a way that suits you. We stock several but I am not going to steer you towards a specific model just because we make xxx profit from it. (Actually, the profit on receivers, dishes etc. is miniscule. We offer them only in the hope that you’ll buy other accessories as well.)
By the way, if your question is about English programmes, you should read this page and you should read my free eBook “Understanding Sky Digital TV” and buy “Installing Sky Digital TV and Freesat”.
Here’s a typical question:
”Please tell me what minimum dish size I need in order to watch XYZ.”
Chances are I’ve never heard of “XYZ” channel so I’ll have to search the Lyngsat site (and possibly others) to determine which satellite(s) it is broadcast from and which transponder; then look up the published “footprint” (coverage area) for that transponder and, finally, translate the published EIRP figure into a dish size. Bearing in mind that published footprints are generally conservative or just plain wrong, the answer that I come up with may not be optimum. So please do this research yourself then, armed with the information, locate a local satellite TV enthusiast who has a motorised (steerable) dish. He will probably be more than happy to locate your programme and discuss what you need. This is a much better solution than asking someone without a motorised dish who lives on a Greek island (me) to try to estimate what you need theoretically.
”Advice & prices, please, on hardware needed to receive free to air programmes via satellite -principally interested in French, Spanish, Italian & other European language general interest programmes. Disappointed by current ntl cable service, not interested in Sky packages. I want to be free to roam and pick my own channels. Happy to pay for quality gear and service. Flat roof available to install dish, motorised if necessary. Many thanks, hope you can help.”
You’ll need a FTA receiver but, in case you decide later that you want to subscribe, it might be an idea to get one with a CI slot so you can add a CAM and a subscription card at a later date. (This will not receive encrypted channels from the UK Sky package – only a Sky Digibox can do that).
You’ll also need a dish, mounting bracket, LNB for each satellite with LNB brackets, cable, clips, bolts, drill, self-amalgamating tape …. actually, rather than rack my brains trying to think of everything you might possibly need, why don’t I just point you to our catalogue.
To make it easier, you can start with some sundry bits .
”Dear Sir, I’m totally green on the tech. aspect of things & wouldn’t have a clue how to identify which satellite I will need.
I have been through your site & it’s been helpful, but I’m still not up to speed on the whole thing. What I’m trying to achieve is to catch primarily French speaking channels, French, Swiss, Belge, maybe Dutch & German, TV stations.
Would you be able to recommend a complete package, minus the TV set of course, with which I could get this?”
No. It would take me too long. You must do the research yourself. It’s simple but time-consuming. The simplest minimum package would be a FTA digital receiver, 80 cm dish and universal LNB (plus cable, connectors etc.) Align the dish on the satellite of most interest.
”Which analogue satellite broadcasts in my chosen language?”
See list here: http://www.selkirkshire.demon.co.uk/analoguesat/whichlang.html
”Which digital satellite broadcasts in my chosen language? “
See list here: http://www.geocities.com/digitalsatuk/whichsatellite.html
You can also get advice in our discussion forum.
”So how do I decide what I want to watch and what equipment to buy?”
Well, unfortunately I can’t decide for you. You need to locate and read the available information and make your own decision, based on what you want, what is feasible and what you can afford.
”I have briefly looked at the various receivers in your on-line catalogue, but the different tech. specs are complete Chinese to me. Can one system be used to get access to the UK Sky as well as the foreign channels, or do I need a different system/ receiver?”
A Sky Digibox is required for encrypted Sky/UK programmes except BBC and other FTA ones. (Actually, it’s possible to use a Sky card with a “dreambox” and other receivers but there are problems in achieving this and I have no knowledge about it, so please do your own research.)
”Also, what is involved with the installation of this system?”
We provide eBooks that will educate you in the installation. Decide whether you want a fixed or motorised dish.
”Do I have to find a local installer?”
No, DIY is perfectly feasible. We sell systems every day.
”Do you have a list of teams that will install?”
No, sorry, but it’s something we are happy to add by recommendation. So far none has been recommended.
”What is the financial arrangement to get access to these satellites? Do I have to subscribe to a foreign company, and do you know what the cost would be?”
You need to decide precisely what you want to watch then contact the supplier(s) of cards for those programmes. Or you could make a decision to watch only FTA (Free To Air) programmes, in which case subscriptions are avoided and virtually any FTA receiver will do.
”I will appreciate if you could let me have a breakdown of the total cost for such a system.”
It’s quite impossible for me to commit hours of research to your project. You must look at what programmes are available from which satellites and decide what you want to watch. Then look again because your expectations are probably unrealistic and way beyond your budget. Some transmissions are very strong (e.g.. 28.2’E) and require a very small dish of maybe 80 cm in the UK. Some are very weak and require a large dish which could cost thousands of pounds.
Will you settle for programmes from just one satellite (e.g.. Astra-1 at 19.2’E) or will you want to watch programmes from several satellites? (e.g.. Astra-1, Astra-2 at 28.2’E, Hotbird at 13’E, Eutelsat at 16’E and 10’E etc.) You’ll find listings in magazines such as “Tele-Satellit” and “What Satellite TV”. You’ll also find satellite and programme listings on web sites such as:
See SES-ASTRA satellite footprints
See SES-ASTRA TV Guide
See SES-ASTRA satellite dish installation assistant
http://www.smw.se has a PC programme “SMWLink” that calculates dish elevation etc.
http://www.geo-orbit.org shows dish sizes required for each satellite at your location.
http://www.satmania.com/eng/satchannels/search works ok for some channels. A simple EIRP-to-dish-size conversion table is shown alongside the footprint.
Or you can use kingofsat.net and see what various users have reported from different satellites, e.g. http://www.kingofsat.net/beams.php?s=52
”I have seen a Digital receiver advertised as FTA.
Any ideas what channels I will be able to view with such a receiver?”
With a single 80 cm fixed dish and 3 LNBs in the UK you can get all the BBC and about 600+ FREE TV and 500+ Free Radio, all legally. This includes some stuff that Sky charges for. Much of it is not English but read on:
Some useful FTA for English speakers on Non-Sky satellites:
News / Documentary (part time English):
BBC World TV
Nile TV International
EbS (Europe By Satellite)
Small english news time:
Drama/ Entertainment etc:
US Sitcom in English with Arab Subtitles some Arab Ch.
Polish Channels sometimes have English Subtitles.
DSF (Sport German)
Many Channels have “Newsagent upper shelf stuff” FTA (some all day).
Just a few more examples of FTA.
Fox News 43W
Religious channels like BYU
Ch 5 on 16E
CNBCe on 42E (different from CNBC).
Premier League on 42″E
Music Box ( actually dozens of music video channels )
Some channels only show certain things, at certain times, news, movies in English.
Loads of radio stations which play British and American music.
I’ve read some people can watch British teams play football on a foreign station.They turn the sound down and get the commentary from a British radio station, although sometimes there are problems with the sound sync.
Quite a few of the channels Sky charge for, you can find for free if you hunt around.
”I have seen a Digital receiver advertised with ’embedded Viaccess and 2 ci slots’.
Any ideas what channels I will be able to view with such a receiver?
Will it only be FTA unless I get a Viaccess viewing card?”
”and also is this compatible with viaccess 2?”
Possibly but the following receivers may not be:
Nokia 9600 and 9800 XSAT 300 series requires a hardware upgrade XSAT 200 Teleman embedded Viaccess receivers Echostar – models may not work properly Humax models may not work properly
”What is a ci slot? Does embedded mean it’s a Viaccess CAM already installed that can’t be moved?”
Embedded means that there is a Viaccess decoder built-in and not removable, with a slot to take a Viaccess card.
CI slots are slots where you can put other CAMs (Conditional Access Modules) for other encryption systems.
”Even once a CAM is in place I will still need a viewing card for that cam?”
Yes, you’ll need a card for the package & encryption system that you want.
”Just having viaccess embedded means nothing unless you have a card?”
Yes, unless there are “soft encrypted” Viaccess channels. I’m not aware of any.
And a CAM does nothing without a card?
Correct. Basically a Digital Receiver will view any “clear” / FTA / unencrypted channel.
More than the Sky Digibox can, as, although the Digibox can receive FTA with no card, it only does Symbol Rates SR 27,500 and SR22,000. But channels can use nearly any SR from 2,500 to nearly 40,000 (It is kind of like modem baud rates).
Let’s look at this in more detail.
CAM=Conditional Access Module
These are like a Notebook PCMCIA/PCCARD module in size, shape and connector with a slot for the ISO viewing card.
Card Reader: This is a photo of a card contact assembly which is part of the CAM. The red arrow indicates the position of the switch contacts that detect when a card is pushed fully in.
The springy “finger contacts” make a connection with the gold-plated pads on the viewing card.
The internal electronic chip can be damaged by static electricity so you must not touch these gold pads with your fingers. They can be cleaned with a tissue moistened with WD-40 but cleaning is rarely necessary.
An embedded CAM is not really a CAM at all. It just means there is a decoder circuit and a card reader slot, like the bottom slot on a Sky Digibox. The CAM function is done by a mix of Hardware (HW) and Software (SW) or Firmware (Software in flash memory).
A Sky Digibox has thus an Embedded “videoguard” cam, but this, as explained above, is not a module soldered in some place you can remove (I wish). It is part of the circuitry in the large I.C.s.
The Digibox thus is no use for any card other than a Sky viewing card, and NO other Digital Satellite receiver can use a Sky card as NDS/Sky will neither licence a Real CAM module nor an “embedded” CAM. This means that nobody has the technical information to design one and, even if they did manufacture one, Sky would have their lawyers out in seconds.
The slot for a viewing card is an ISO reader with switch contacts at the rear (to detect card pushed in) and springy contacts to the metal pads. The ones in an old Analogue receiver are just the same. Connected to a PC suitably and by using a “holder” a Phone SIM card can be read (e.g. numbers and addresses) by an ISO Satellite card reader.
The slot for a CAM is bigger and is like the PCMCIA slot in a Laptop/notebook PC. It is called the CI or “common interface”
The Sky digibox has a BIG slot at the back behind a plate that may either be wired as CI or PCMCIA/PCCARD, I don’t know. Either way it won’t do anything unless Sky load SW via Satellite to tell it to. Pace originally made a prototype digital audio interface to fit in this slot but it quietly disappeared – presumably because Sky were already planning to market the SKY+ Digibox instead.
Traditionally each Encryption needed a separate CAM. This is expensive, for those with LEGAL multiple subscriptions to different operators (typically in Europe and Middle East). Two solutions exist:
1) Patch. This is SW added to the Receiver so the so called “Embedded CAM” is either a different CAM or two different CAMS dependent on which viewing card is put in.
2) Modified CAM. The physical plug-in CAM is modified so maybe up to five different kinds of cards work in it.
Neither of these is illegal when used with legitimate viewing cards that only get the services you paid for.
A Soft CAM is an old idea. It is where the service is free but is limited to those who have a CAM. C5 was using this on Analogue Videocrypt as it was assumed Europeans would not bother getting a Sky Analogue Videocrypt receiver.
MTV Germany used it in reverse. They put a videocrypt “flag” on their transmission so UK videocrypt receivers actually scrambled the clear signal in an attempt to “descramble” it. European viewers without videocrypt simply saw the picture as their receiver did not know the videocrypt flag existed.
Both these ideas are silly…
IT isn’t hard to buy a receiver or CAM. Less people in Europe can get BBC now it is NOT encrypted, because before people simply got a Sky box and FTV card or even a Sky sub and took it to Greece, Turkey or even Egypt where you can’t now pickup BBC without an enormous dish.
While creating a CAM is hard, turning one off is easy. Almost all old Sky analogue boxes could easily turn off the videocrypt (In some there was even a menu!).
If you want pay channels, pay the money and get a subscription.
As for which CAMs etc. are needed, this changes from time to time as the operators/providers play cat ‘n mouse with the hackers & freeloaders.
It is certainly advisable to go for a receiver with a CI-slot, though. Then things can be done either legally, semi-legally or illegally !
For FTA and Freesat receivers please click HERE
Much of the above information was written by “Watty” of Ireland, to whom we offer our grateful thanks.
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