The new Freesat service on 28E
Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom. 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.
Satellite dishes in the UK
The service makes use of the same fleet of satellites as the popular subscription satellite service Sky Digital: Astra and Eurobird 1. This means that any satellite dish which has been used to receive this service will be capable of receiving Freesat, with the addition of a receiver.
For users who do not currently have a satellite dish, a 60cm or a standard zone 1 45cm minidish will be suitable. Users in poor signal aeras such as Scotland and Ireland will require the 60cm dish or zone 2 minidish.
It is possible to receive Freesat outside the UK and Ireland, although a larger dish may be required as the Astra 2D footprint is mainly focused on the UK and Republic of Ireland.
To watch you'll need a Freesat receiver, a satellite dish and ideally an HD-ready TV. It's basically the satellite equivalent of the digital terrestrial TV service Freeview - once you've paid for the box, dish and installation there are no more ongoing monthly subscription costs.
Freesat has two key advantages over its terrestrial cousin.
Firstly, Freesat is available to 98% of the population, compared with 75% for Freeview.
Secondly, Freesat boasts a few high-definition (HD) channels, something that's not going to be available on Freeview until 2010.
Freesat receivers are not really suitable for any other satellite than 28E. They only have auto scanning on 28. That means every transponder would have to be scanned manually on every satellite. This could take a day to do just one satellite. Standard Free To Air (FTA) and CI type receivers do work on all free to air channels, however there could be an issue with the "red button access" used on Freesat receivers.
Standard receivers are available in high definition and some are twin tuner PVRs (like a Sky plus or Sky HD). They let you record one channel and watch another. Pause live footage etc.
Standard non Freesat receivers come with many more features, work on any satellite and are able to get many more channels.