Continental Reception of UK based Digital Satellite Television
Digital satellite TV services are available in the UK on Sky’s digital platform mainly broadcast from the Astra 2 system located at the orbital position of 28.2E, although some of Sky’s channels, and channels such as Euoronews, TBN, Best Direct and Fashion TV are carried on the Eurobird satellite located at the orbital position 28.5E, essentially co-located with the Astra 2 system, which means that they are receivable on the same dish.
All of the major terrestrial broadcasters are now available on this system, ITV having begun satellite broadcasting on 25/11/01. The channels are broadcast on a conditional access basis, which means that they can only be received using a Sky viewing card, be it either fully paid, or expired, or a non-subscribers card available from the BBC. The channels are not free-to-air. As of Aug 2004 the BBC went Free-to-Air, ITV did not follow this until Dec 2005, and Ch4 and 5 remain conditionally encrypted
The Satellite System and its reception:
The Astra 2 system consists of satellites, Astras 2A, 2B, 2D all located at the orbital position of 28.2E, along side this system is the Eurobird satellite located at 28.5E. It is important to understand this, as it is this factor, which determines continental reception ability of the various channels.
Channel 4 and Channel 5 are all carried on the Astra 2A and 2B satellites whose reception area, (called a “footprint”), adequately covers northern Spain using a 60cm x 70cm dish, (old style analogue dish), a mini-dish is not sufficient. The BBC channels and the new ITV cannels are carried on Astra 2D whose footprint is completely different to that of Astra 2A or B and will require at least a 1.2 metre dish if it can be received at all at that location.
Both Astra 2A and 2B have northern and southern beams which give rise to 2 distinctly different footprints. The northern beam footprint extends to about the middle of the eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain where as the southern beam extends all the way to Gibraltar. Astra 2D however has only the one beam centred on the UK whose footprint barely extends beyond the Pyrenees. Astra 2C is not currently used for UK Digital broadcasting and mainly carries continental digital TV and ENG and OB feeds and is now located at 19.2 deg E
The ITV Channels:
ITV1 digital is being broadcast as 16 regional variations on the Astra 2D satellite across 3 different transponders. The 16 regional variations are as follows: -
Anglia, Border, Carlton Central, Carlton London, Carlton West Country, Channel Islands, Grampian, Granada, HTV West, HTV Wales, London Weekend, Meridian, Northern Ireland, Scottish, Tyne Tees, and Yorkshire
The ITV1 variation that the Digibox programme guide selects, appears to be determined by a regional identifier on the Sky viewing card, which is either the post code or the box serial number whose location will be held on Sky’s data base and the identifier downloaded to the viewing card.
The 5 transponder frequencies, polarisations, symbol rates and FECs are as follows: -
10.714Ghz, Horizontal, 22.000 Mbaud, 5/6 (7 ITV Channels)
10.759Ghz, Vertical, 22.000 Mbaud, 5/6 (7 ITV Channels)
10.832Ghz, Horizontal, 22.000 Mbaud, 5/6 (7 ITV Channels)
10.891Ghz, Horizontal, 22.000 Mbaud, 5/6 (6 ITV Channels)
10.906Ghz, Vertical, 22.000 Mbaud, 5/6 (4 ITV Channels+ITV2)
Although the ITV digital satellite signal in northern Spain may not be sufficiently strong to register in the electronic programme guide it may be possible to store the channels manually in the “Other Channels Section” of the digibox. This can be done by executing following the instructions:
From normal Sky viewing press “Services” on the Sky remote control, the services screen appears on the TV. Scroll down to or enter 4 for the “System Set-up” option, press select, the System Set-up screen appears. Scroll down to, or enter 4 for the “Add Channels” option, press select, the “Add Channels” screen appears, now carry out the following for each of the frequencies above: -
Highlight “Frequency” and use the numbers to key in the transponder frequency, (decimal point is automatically inserted after second keystroke), e.g. 10832
Highlight “Polarisation” and use left or right arrow keys to enter H or V, H in this case H.
Highlight “Symbol Rate” and use left or right arrow keys to enter 22.0
Highlight “FEC” and use left or right arrow keys to enter 5/6
Highlight “Find “ and press select, if there is any signal a listing of available ITV channels
will be presented on screen, highlight desired channels and tick using yellow key then press select to store. If the “No satellite signal is being received banner” appears press Backup and check “Add Channels” settings. If these are OK try entering the parameters for the other two transponders. If all this fails try checking the individual transponder signal strength by entering the “Installer Guide”
This is a hidden menu and is mainly for use by installers and may be accessed as follows:
Using “Backup” return to the “Services Menu” Scroll down to, or enter 4 for the “System Set-up” option, press select, the System Set-up screen appears. Using the remote control, key in the following 0,1, select, the Installer Set-up screen appears. Highlight “Manual Tuning” and press select, the “Manual Tuning” screen appears. Proceed now as for the “Add Channels” screen except when “find” is selected, the signal strength display will appear first and the 2 grey bars should give an indication, the lock indicator should be OK and not “Not Locked the “Network ID” should read 0002 for all 3 transponders the “Transport Stream ID” should be 0801 for 10.832Ghz, 0805 for 10.891Ghz and 0806 for 10.906Ghz, that’s providing the “No Signal …” banner doesn’t appear. If adequate signal strength is shown and the Lock Indicator and IDs are correct pressing select again should present a listing.
In the “Installer Set-up” the RF out channel of the Digibox can also be changed by selecting
the RF outlets option. Use backup repeatedly to return to main menu and Sky to exit
To view any of the ITV1 Channels saved press “Services”, the services screen appears on the TV. Scroll down to, or enter 6 for the “Other Channels” option, press select. The “Other Channels” screen appears and presents a list of all channels stored. Highlight the “other channel” for viewing from the list and press select.
With the ever increasing demand for satellite telecommunications, TV, and Internet services,
and the advent of digital technology with electronic programme guides that have the ability to auto search and auto update, satellite operators place channels wherever they have space.
On the positive side, it is conceivable that with Sky moving some of its channels to Eurobird, space may become available on Astras 2A & B which would allow the ITV channels to move which would give them a larger footprint, alternatively the ITV channels could relocate to Eurobird which would also have the same effect, though this is unlikely as the ITV has signed a 3year deal with Astra. Looking on the dark side it could happen that the existing BBC, Ch4 and Ch5 transmissions could be moved from Astras 2A & B to Astra 2D which although not affecting UK reception, would virtually eliminate their reception south of the Franco-Spanish boarder
In my opinion it is currently not possible to receive the ITV digital channels on Astra 2D in Spain. Even with a 1.2 metre dish it would be very precarious, and the use of signal boosters or amplifiers is also not the answer as, although they would enhance the signal strength they would seriously impair the signal quality by the introduction of severe phase distortions, which is a critical factor for reliable digital TV decoding. In my view anyone who claims that he will get ITV on satellite for 5000pts for you, is a con merchant. Please would you advise the other ex-pats out there not to be taken-in. I have this horrible feeling that the remainder of the UKs major TV broadcasters may well join ITV on Astra 2D in which case you will loose the lot! So be warned!