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Astra Satellite Group

With the BBC at its core, the UK produces some of the world’s best television, exporting programmes and films worldwide. Most British TV and radio channels broadcast on satellite, many including the five main terrestrial channels are free-to-air (FTA). It is now possible to watch your local or regional channels where ever you live in the British Isles and now with live streaming potentially worldwide (most UK channels require a UK ip address).

There are three main platforms for free TV in the UK: Sky (BSkyB), the largest subscription satellite service in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, offering the largest HD line-up, the best sports coverage and the latest films. There are many fta channels on Sky. Freeview is the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, with up to 50 TV channels without a subscription. Freeview broadcasts channels in HD using DVB-T2 and MPEG4 (Freeview HD).


Freesat is a digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV which launched in May 2008, to watch you will need a Freesat or Freesat+ receiver, a satellite dish and ideally an HD-ready TV. It's basically the satellite equivalent of the digital terrestrial TV service Freeview, though not all channels on Freeview are on Freesat. Once you have paid for the receiver, dish and installation there are no more ongoing monthly subscription costs.

BBC Satellite changes - October 2012

In the middle of October the BBC will be reducing the number of BBC Red Button video streams on satellite (and cable) to one. This will mean we close our ‘DSat7’ transponder (Astra 2A to 13). Over the next few months the BBC will be launching BBC One HD for the nations of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They will each be available on terrestrial, satellite and cable platforms. In order to carry these services on satellite the BBC will be opening a new transponder (Astra 1N tp 61) which will be called DSat8, these changes will affect different people in different ways.

1. BBC Red Button video streams

In November 2010, the BBC Trust published its review of the BBC Red Button and challenged the BBC Executive “to reduce its distribution costs by providing a more consistent level of service across different digital TV platforms”. Accordingly, the BBC’s Delivering Quality First proposals in October 2011 set out a plan to reduce the number of BBC Red Button video streams on satellite and cable from five to one and save the costs of one transponder.

Step 1 Move the TV services

The one remaining BBC Red Button service will move from DSat7 to DSat1 (Astra 1N tp 45), in order to make this fit and optimize how the BBC's more and less capacity-hungry channels are arranged, they need to shuffle some of their TV services around. So in the early hours of 12 October 2012: BBC Three / CBBC (DSat1) and BBC News (DSat 2) will move to DSat6 (Astra 1N tp 48) BBC ALBA and BBC One North East & Cumbria will both move from DSat6 to DSat2 (Astra 1N tp 47) BBC Four / CBeebies (DSat2) and BBC Red Button stream 1 (DSat7) will move to DSat1

Step 2 Move the radio services

On 15 October 2012 the BBC will move their radio services on the Sky platform from DSat2 and DSat7 to be more evenly spread across DSat2 and DSat5 (Astra 1N tp 46). On the 16 October 2012 these changes will take effect on Freesat and Virgin Media. As each of the radio services moves there will be a small outage of a couple of minutes. This will also mean that BBC radio services move from a European beam to a UK spot beam as DSat7 is the last of the BBC's European beam transponders. This will mean that the radio services will no longer be receivable across much of mainland Europe.

The BBC’s radio station for listeners outside the UK is the BBC World Service, and it is widely available throughout the world. In Europe you can receive the World Service in many different ways including on satellite from Eutelsat Hot Bird 8 at 13° East. It’s also available online 24 hours a day via the listen live link from the BBC World Service homepage. All domestic BBC radio services are available for free online, on Wi- Fi radios and on any smart phone apps.

On 15 October 2012 we will also stop using the four other BBC Red Button streams.

Step 3 Close the transponder

DSat7 will then close at the end of October.

2. BBC One HD for the nations

The BBC will be launching BBC One HD for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland over the next few months. They are launching them across all of their broadcast platforms so the channels will be available subscription-free on Sky HD, Freeview HD, Virgin Media and Freesat HD at the same position in the EPG where BBC One HD is currently found. As with their other nations and regional channels on satellite, the nations HD services will not carry audio description. So we they be listing the current version of BBC One HD in the 900s on Sky HD and Freesat HD so that viewers in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will still be able to access audio description.

If you live in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland, you should find that the service appears automatically from launch if you have an HD satellite or cable service. If you have Freeview HD, you may well find that your TV or set-top- box retunes itself to pick up the channel. If not, you will need to do a re-tune after the new service has launched. Help with this can be found at www.tvretune.co.uk. Whichever platform you use, if you have scheduled recordings on BBC One HD, please check them after your new national HD service launches to make sure you don’t miss any episodes of your favourite programmes.

BBC Two HD is expected to launch in 2013, there will only be one high definition version covering all the nations.

Overseas Viewers

If you are viewing or listening outside the UK, now is not the time to invest in any new equipment. The BBC currently uses the UK spot beam on the Astra 1N satellite; this is soon to be replaced by Astra 2F, which was launched on September 28, 2012. The two satellites are very similar, though the UK spot beam on Astra 2F may differ from that of Astra 1N.

Digital Switchover in Northern Ireland & the Irish Republic

Digital Switchover in Northern Ireland starts on Wednesday, 10th October 2012 and will be completed on Wednesday, 24th October 2012.

TV viewers in Northern Ireland will be able to watch TG4 and RTÉ One and Two on Freeview following digital TV switchover on 24th October 2012. RTÉ, the Republic of Ireland’s national broadcaster, and Irish language broadcaster TG4 have joined forces to form a not-for-profit venture which will be responsible for the installation of the new infrastructure. Freeview delivery of these channels will be supplemented by overspill coverage from Saorview, the equivalent of Freeview in the Republic of Ireland. See: Access to Republic of Ireland Digital TV channels confirmed for Northern Ireland.

Digital Switchover in the Irish Republic is on Wednesday, 24th October 2012.
See: www.goingdigital.ie

The Astra 1N Satellite

Astra 1N satellite has temporarily entered commercial service at the orbital position of 28.2 degrees East; it has a UK spot beam focused over the British Isles, allowing previously encrypted channels to go free-to-air. Astra 1N was built by Astrium on the Eurostar E3000 platform and is equipped with 52 transponders in the Ku frequency band. ITV has now moved most of its channels to Astra 1N, no frequency changes Channel 4's channels have all moved to Astra 1N, no frequencies changes. Channel 5's bouquet of channels are on Astra 1N, they are all now broadcasting free-to-air.

Channel 5+1 has launched on Sky and Freesat, 5* and 5USA have joined the Freesat platform. Channel 5 HD is expected to join Freesat sometime in 2012, it is almost certain to be on Astra 1N. Irish channels RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, TV3 and TG4, along with Irish radio stations also use the Astra 2D satellite, all TV channels are encrypted and only available with a valid Irish Sky subscription. With a Sky card from Northern Ireland, viewers can also see RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, and TG4, TV3 is not available. All the Irish radio stations are free-to-air and are listed on both the Sky and Freesat Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). Astra 1N is only temporarily positioned at 28.2° east, a new satellite Astra 2F, will be delivered to the Baikonur Cosmodrome mid October 2012. The Astra 2F satellite is scheduled to launch on September 14 - ASTRA 2F & GSAT 10 - Ariane 5 ECA (VA209).


The Astra 2 Forum

The Astra 2 Website also has its own Forum; here you can discuss everything related to British TV and radio. There are also country specific boards, making it easier to find information, or obtain advice and real local knowledge and advice from other forum members. The Forum also has specific areas covering digital platforms, equipment, and reception overseas.

Sky, covering standard Sky receivers along with Sky+ and Sky+HD Freesat, the free-to-air public service platform from the BBC and ITV, get help and advice on receivers and reception. Freeview the free-to-air digital terrestrial platform. TV & radio on the Internet, both in the UK and overseas. Registration is free and is required to post on the forum, though you can use the Guest section. Click HERE, to go directly to the Astra 2 Forum.

Sky, Sky+ & Sky+HD

Sky (BSkyB), is the largest subscription satellite service in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. With over 9 million subscribers, Sky delivers more than 200 channels of programming to homes and businesses that have digital satellite equipment supplied by Sky; this equipment includes a small satellite dish (minidish), and a Sky receiver. There are currently three types of Sky receiver available, the basic digital receive, Sky+, which will enable you to record and store programmes and Sky+HD, which is also a PVR and will allow you to view High Definition (HD) channels available on Sky. All new subscribers will be offered a Sky+HD receiver as standard equipment.

Sky also offers packages that include broadband services, interactive content and has the largest HD offering in the UK and Ireland. There are also many free-to-air (FTA) channels available on the Sky platform; these include all the main terrestrial channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Sky also offers a non subscription service called Freesat from Sky, some channels on this service are encrypted, requiring a card to open for the free-to-view (FTV) channels such as 5*, 5USA, Viva and Pick TV.

Freesat & Freesat+ from the BBC & ITV

Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom, though the service can be received overseas. The service was marketed from 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver.

The service also makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer a selection of high-definition programming from the BBC and ITV. Channel 4HD will join the Freesat platform on April 1 2011. The launch of Astra 1N in the second quarter of 2011, should see more channels join Freesat, 5* and 5USA are expected to join once Astra 1N becomes operational. STV HD is also expected to be available to Scottish viewers in the near future.

A VOD (Video On Demand) version of BBC iPlayer is available on Freesat channel 901, you can catch up on the last seven days of BBC programmes. ITV Player is only available to viewers with Humax receivers at present.

Freesat broadcasts from the same fleet of satellites (Astra 28.2°E and Eurobird 1) as Sky. Channels are broadcast using DVB-S. The Freesat electronic programme guide is broadcast from the Eurobird 1 satellite situated at 28.5° east. Freesat's role is not broadcasting or availability of channels (although the BBC and ITV are substantial broadcasters in their own right) but instead providing a platform for receiving the channels and the EPG.

All of the standard definition channels broadcasting to date are broadcast using DVB-S, ITV1 HD and NHK World HD also use DVB-S while Channel 4 HD uses DVB-S2. BBC One HD and BBC HD used DVB-S until 6 June 2011 when the satellite transponder carrying them was upgraded to DVB-S2.

TV & Radio Online

Most of the UK's television and radio channels are available online, there are many ways to watch and listen, through your computer, directly on your TV or in the case of online radio stations, through an Internet radio. The BBC and ITV broadcasts all of their television channels (with the exception of BBC HD), on live Internet streams, these broadcasts are only a few seconds behind the terrestrial and satellite broadcasts. Watch BBC TV live on BBC iPlayer. Watch ITV's channel live at ITV.com.


The quality is not perfect, though it is quite watchable either on your computer screen, or through you television via a HDMI, SCART or other A/V cables. Most computers have some option to connect to external devices, see you computers and TV's user manuals for more information. All of ITV's channels are available as live streams; all the channels are restricted to UK IP addresses only. Picture quality is quite good even on a large screen. Channel 4 and Channel5, do not currently stream their channels.

All of the BBC's national, local and regional stations along with the BBC World Service, are available to listen to live on the internet (rights permitting), with appropriate media player software. Listen live on BBC iPlayer. It is also possible to listen to BBC Radio services via the internet without having to log on to a computer. The easiest way to do this is via a Wi-Fi or Internet Radio.

Most of the UK's national, regional and local commercial stations offer live streams on their websites. Since 2006, many of the UK's commercial radio stations have been restricting live stream access to users from the United Kingdom only.

Video On Demand (VOD) or audio video on demand (AVOD) systems allow users to select and watch/listen to video or audio content on demand. VOD systems either stream content through a set-top box, allowing viewing in real time, or download it to a device such as a computer, digital video recorder, personal video recorder or portable media player for viewing at any time.

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