Satellite Changes: What it means for UK TV viewers in Europe

In the week that the BBC confirmed that it would be moving its remaining services off Astra 1N next year, a516digital.com provides a summary of how changes to the satellite fleet which provide UK television and radio services will affect viewers across Europe.
Scroll down the page for the following:
  • Background to the changes
  • Details of how satellite reception may be affected
  • Alternative ways of watching UK TV programmes

BACKGROUND
UK services are supplied from the Astra 2 / Eutelsat 28A/B satellites, located at 28 degrees East longitude above the equator. Many of the original Astra 2 satellites are nearing the end of their life and a new fleet is gradually replacing the old one. Astra 1N was temporarily brought into service to secure replacement capacity for the aging Astra 2D satellite.

Last month, Astra 2F was brought into service, and some services on Astra 1N began to migrate to the new satellite. Services on Astra 2B are to follow. Next year, Astra 2E is put into service and will take over Astra 1N's load completely. Astra 1N will then be moved across to the Astra 1 position at 19.2 degrees East. Finally, Astra 2G will launch and complete the replacement programme.

The new generation of Astra satellites at 28 degrees East use several "beams" to transmit services to certain territories. Beams include:
  • UK spot beam
  • Pan-European beam
  • West Africa beam
  • Middle East beam
Most services use the pan-European beam and are available across much of Europe. However the main free-to-air networks such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 use the UK spot beam with its lower coverage.

Of note is the fact that the local beams, such as the UK spot beam have been made more efficient on the latest generation of satellites. Viewers around the fringes of the UK and Ireland can now enjoy a stronger signal and most of the UK and Ireland will be able to access services in all weather conditions using a small dish of 60cm or less. However, there is a massive drop off around the edges, which means that viewers who have benefitted from overspill reception across continental Europe will not be able receive services as easily as before, and may need a larger dish or move to another form of receiving programmes from the UK.

From next summer, all of the main UK TV channels and regional variants will move satellites. 4seven, Channel 5 and Channel 4HD have already moved.


HOW WILL THE CHANGES AFFECT MY SATELLITE RECEPTION?
The following services have already migrated to the new UK spot beam and some viewers, notably in Spain and Portugal have reported loss of Channel 5 and Channel 4 HD as a result.

If you have no trouble receiving all of the following channels 24/7 in all weather conditions, you are unlikely to be affected by any future changes:

10964  H 
Transponder 57
Channel 5 London
Channel 5 South Central
Channel 5 Scotland
Channel 5 North
Channel 5 Northern Ireland
5 USA
5 USA +1
5*
5*+1
Channel 5+1

10994 H 
Transponder 59
ITV Meridian North
ITV Anglia West
ITV Yorkshire East
ITV Granada HD
ITV Central South West
ITV+1 Yorkshire

11023 H 
Transponder 61
BBC One HD Scotland (launching soon)
BBC One HD Wales (launching soon)

11052 H 
Transponder 63
ITV Central South
ITV Central East
ITV+1 Wales
ITV+1 Tyne Tees
ITV+1 West
ITV London HD

11127 V 
Transponder 68
Channel 4 HD
4seven

If you cannot receive some or all of these services, you may still be able to receive Sky subscription channels.

Reception prognosis summary:



UK Spot Beam: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5
Pan European Beam: Sky channels
UK and Ireland           
No changes. Reception possible with a normal mini dish or Zone 2 mini dish in parts of Ireland and Scotland.
No changes. Reception possible with a normal mini dish or Zone 2 mini dish in parts of Ireland and Scotland.
Belgium, Luxemburg, Northern France and The Netherlands.
Reception of UK services remains possible with a dish of up 60cm, with the exception of North East Netherlands, where a larger dish may secure reception in all weather conditions in some locations.
No change. All areas covered. 60cm dish suitable.
Iceland
The Astra 2 satellites are close to the horizon for viewers in Iceland, but 60cm – 80cm dish size should be enough to receive some services as the UK spot beam spills over the Atlantic to Iceland before the curve of the earth kicks in and stops reception any further to the north and west.
The Astra 2 satellites are close to the horizon for viewers in Iceland, but 60cm – 80cm dish size should be enough to receive some services as the UK spot beam spills over the Atlantic to Iceland before the curve of the earth kicks in and stops reception any further to the north and west.
Southern France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Western Norway 
The edge of the satellite footprint as far as regular domestic satellite dishes are concerned. Viewers should check to see if they can receive Channel 5, 4seven and Channel 4 HD as these are already operating on the new Astra 2F with the smaller UK spot beam. If reception of the above channels is not possible, it is likely that all main UK channels will be lost during 2013.
Reception of services on the pan-European beam, which will include Sky’s pay TV services plus a few minority and specialist free-to-air channels remains possible with 60-90cm dish sizes.
Central Europe (not Germany), Scandinavia (not Western Norway or Denmark), Spain and Portugal , Most of Northern Italy.
Large dish sizes are required. Check to see if reception of 4seven or Channel 5 is possible in all weather conditions and at all times of the day. If you have difficulty receiving these channels now, you will have difficulties receiving all other BBC and ITV services when they migrate next year to Astra 2E, which has a similar footprint to Astra 2F. 

 NOTE: Reception around the fringes can be erratic and local hotspots may emerge as a result in the manufacturing of the spotbeam on the actual satellite creating side lobes of slightly improved reception. Any such zones are not deliberate, and you may need to be fortunate enough to live under one of those side lobes.
Reception of services on the pan-European beam, which will include Sky’s pay TV services plus a few minority and specialist free-to-air channels remains possible with 60-90 cm dish sizes. In Southern Spain and the Canaries, a larger dish of up to 120cm is required.

Italy is covered in the "up to 75cm" dish size zone for the pan-European service.
Eastern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean,
Southern Italy
Reception is likely to be sporadic and the preserve of satellite enthusiasts only with very large dish sizes.
Reception of services on the pan-European beam, which will include Sky’s pay TV services plus a few minority and specialist free-to-air channels remains possible in most cases with a large dish size. All of mainland Italy and Poland are covered within the “up to 75 cm” zone.
Very little change to the current reception situation.


Services retain their existing frequencies during the course of the migration. No retunes required unless stated.

WHAT ARE THE (LEGAL) ALTERNATIVES FOR RECEIVING UK TV PROGRAMMES?
The BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, operates channels around the world. In Europe, BBC World News offers 24 hour news - soon in HD from new studios at New Broadcasting House.

BBC Entertainment offers three different schedules in Europe. The channel, which used to operate under the name "BBC Prime" offers its Europe version on Eutelsat 9E, and viewers can subscribe direct via the BBC. http://europe.bbcentertainment.com/get-the-channel/

Nordic (Scandinavian) and Polish viewers can access separate versions of the service. BBC Worldwide has to obtain rights to show BBC programming, splitting the service in different countries allows it to show different programmes in different areas, especially in countries where other broadcasters may have the rights to show BBC content. BBC Entertainment sometimes also shows content from Channel 4 and other UK broadcasters.

Additional BBC channels are available for viewers in Scandinavia and Poland including BBC Knowledge and BBC Lifestyle. It is not known if these channels will be distributed across the rest of Europe soon.

ITV's international channel ITV Choice is currently not marketed at European viewers, except Malta.

The BBC is meanwhile rolling out a global, paid-for version of the iPlayer. Currently it is limited to certain countries and devices.

minor update 10/04/2013, changing reference to ITV's international channel to "ITV Choice".
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