Satellite change ahead for BBC Digital Satellite channels.

The BBC has confirmed that all of its domestic digital satellite TV services,  plus BBC Radio 5live and 5live Sports Extra will be transferring from the Astra 2D satellite to Astra 1N in the early hours of Friday 24th February 2012.

The move is needed as the Astra 2D satellite, operated by SES, is nearing the end of its operational life. Astra 1N was moved to the same orbital position as 2D at 28.2° East last year, and is a stop-gap solution to enable SES to decommission Astra 2D and create additional capacity for the UK and Republic of Ireland broadcasting markets. New Astra 2 satellites will be sent in orbit over the next two years, whilst Astra 1N will ultimately join its other Astra 1 series satellites over at 19.2° East.

Viewers watching or listening to BBC services between 0300 and 0500 GMT on Friday morning will notice interruptions to service, regardless of whether they are accessing services via Sky, Freesat or their own free-to-air satellite receiver, as all UK satellite platforms are fed BBC channels from the same source. Recordings on Freesat+ and Sky+ devices (including HD versions) set for the early hours of Friday morning may be disrupted or not take place at all.

The necessity for the changeover is not in the BBC's control, as the broadcaster rents capacity from SES satellites. The changeover is scheduled at a time when impact is expected to be the least.

Once changed, the BBC's services will resume transmissions on Astra 1N, but using the same frequencies and parameters as on Astra 2D. This will mean that no changes or retunes should be required. Providing viewers aren't watching or recording programmes during the changeover time, they should not notice any changes.

In a blog post, the BBC's Alix Pryde advises: "If viewers do experience any problems, your platform operator (which we have briefed about this change) would be best placed to provide assistance.

We have also contacted satellite and aerial installer trade associations - the CAI (Confederation of Aerial Industries) and the RDI (Registered Digital Installers) - providing them with information with which to brief their members in case anyone experiencing a problem contacts an installer rather than their platform operator. Furthermore, we will be putting information about this change on BBC Red Button page 998 because we know not everyone has access to the internet."

As Astra 1N was originally created for the Central European TV market and ultimately destined for the German dominated 19.2° East orbital posital, its footprint is reportedly larger than Astra 2D. In effect, the Astra 1N spotbeam designed to cover Central Europe has been centred further to the north and west toward the British Isles and spills out into the Atlantic and down to the west of Iberia at the current orbital position. Strong reception has been reported outside these areas - but this set up will only be temporary until the further Astra 2 series satellites are positioned at 28.2° East and services have to transfer back off Astra 1N, as the new Astra 2 satellites are designed to have a dedicated UK focussed spotbeam.

  • The BBC's international television services are not affected by the changes and are transmitted on different satellites.

Recommended reading:
BBC blog post on the forthcoming change.
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