For those new to the UK television provider scene, or who have had their service choices previously made by Mum and Dad but are now facing the economics of in home entertainment for the first time, there are a lot of options out there, including:
- Digital Terrestrial Television: The successor to the Analogue Terrestrial Television Network (begun in 1936 and decommissioned in 2011). This is a land based broadcasting system providing Digital and High Def programming.
- Cable: Using a network of cables, Cable TV streams selected Television venues to your home for a fee.
- Satellite: This is a service where programming is beamed earthward from orbiting satellites which can be picked up by individual users, providing that they have
- The proper Satellite Receiver Dish
The dish is aimed at the satellite or satellite group beaming the signal
- The owner has the appropriate signal converter, which often requires a subscription fee.
- Internet: Many now sample small screen fare using various Internet based services.
While each of these has its place in the Television Consumer Tapestry, with this series of posts I am focusing on Satellite based TV, specifically services provided by the Astra 28.2 Satellite group which serves the UK and Ireland.
What is Astra and Why 28.2?
These are a collection of communications satellites owned by a Luxembourg based consortium called SES, a group specializing in communications technologies. In order to work, each satellite or satellite group must be in a geostationary orbit. That means they are orbiting the planet in a direction and speed that insures they are over the same relative point on Earth at all times. This is what allows users to properly aim their received dishes for accessing the signals being beamed down.
The 28.2 refers to the location of the group in the ‘sky’ from our perspective. The group is located at position 28.2°East in the Clarke Belt, an orbital traffic lane set aside primarily for communications satellites.
More than 450 channels are provided to the UK audience by this group. This includes subscription satellite services like Sky Broadcasting’s Sky Digital service, and the Freesat Service, offering the same basic programming as the Digital Terrestrial Television system, but with a satellite based delivery system.
While the Astra group has had a number of orbiters providing their service, including Sirius 3 and several from the Eurelsat series, it now functions with 3 active satellites handling the demand from the ground.
In addition to general service in the UK market, one of the satellites is positioned to provide spot beam services, a concentrated, high powered signal, to a limited area in West Africa. Another one of the group can also beam programming across the Middle East.
Uploading as well as Downloading:
When you think of TV satellites, the picture is generally of programming being projected through he atmosphere and collected in those tiny dishes stuck to houses, buildings and the tops of caravans, but in many cases, two way communications are possible. Using specialized transceiver gear, terrestrial subscribers can surf the web and take advantage of many channels which offer interactive services and programming, without using cable or tower based Internet access.
More and more people are turning to satellite based TV service, despite the downsides, which include:
- Weather based performance issues: While less common with current technology than when Satellite TV was introduced, this is still an issue to some extent, especially during particularly severe weather. However, since the cable companies also use satellites to get their programming and the broadcast services are pumping their signals through the same storm, the other options are not immune to weather based issues.
- Equipment Cost: While the cost of the Dish and converter has dropped over the years, it is still an issue, requiring either an upfront payment or having the costs rolled into the programming fees.
- Installation: Someone has to go out and install, aim and connect that dish.
But the upsides are considerable as well, including:
- Greater variety in programming.
- Being able to easily switch services or subscribe to multiple, competing providers.
- Being able to connect to satellites on the road, allowing you to enjoy your subscriptions on holiday.