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Analysis: Fallout from satellite transfer

ANALYSIS Further UK television channels made the move from Astra 1N to Astra 2F yesterday morning. While most viewers in the British Isles will have noticed no change, viewers abroad woke up to find they had lost some channels.

Unlike the migration involving the BBC test services a fortnight ago, which was only spotted by satellite TV enthusiasts, this week's move has been noticed by regular TV viewers across fringe reception areas in Europe, who have suddenly lost some ITV regions, plus Channel 4HD, 4seven and all standard definition stations from Channel 5.

  Affected channels and frequencies are contained within this earlier article:
SES ends week of speculation; UK channels migrate Tuesday

The new Astra 2F satellite uses a tighter spot beam on the UK and Ireland, and has a sharp drop off around the edge of the footprint. In line with initial reports from enthusiasts when the BBC test services moved, reception of UK television services from the new Astra 2F satellite is only possible with a larger dish across Germany and parts of Spain - the eastern and southern extent of the new UK "spot beam" from the satellite. Although there are some exceptions, the satellite change has broadly affected those viewers who were up to now able to use a small (under 1 metre) dish in fringe reception areas across Catalonia and in a zone streching from the Alps northwards across Germany up to Western Denmark.

Viewers further south along the Costas, towards Valencia and Alicante, where larger dish sizes (more than 1 metre in diameter) have historically been required can still receive the services, although further south still, dishes of 2 metres are required before reception drops off completely for most along the Costa Del Sol. Likewise across Central Europe, dish sizes in excess of 1.50 metres are required for reception from East Denmark along the Polish border with Germany and southwards into parts of Austria, with 2 metre dishes needed just to the East. In effect, reception with "regular, normal" sized dishes is now only possible in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and most of France.

The new Astra 2F satellite is delivering a much stronger signal across much of England and Wales, but the difference is less marked further north into Northern Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland, with some anecdotal reports of slightly lower but still usable signals  - indicating that the UK spotbeam cannot be made much narrower to avoid continental overspill without impacting on the fringes of the UK and without stopping viewers in the UK from using a mini dish to receive satellite TV.

A spot beam is required for Public Service Broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV broadcasting free-to-air for TV rights purposes. Acquiring TV rights for most of continental Europe due to the overspill of satellite reception would be prohibitively expensive, and in the case of the licence fee funded BBC, completely unjustifiable.

The only true way of restricting satellite TV to the UK would be to follow the example of the Irish Saorsat service, which uses a Ka-band spot beam to cover Ireland, with neighbouring spotbeams cancelling out overspill reception not far beyond existing terrestrial TV overlap areas. However, this uses a completely different technological platform to that used by Sky and Freesat - so it's unlikely to be adopted for the UK anytime soon.

The uncertainty for viewers in fringe reception areas outside the UK continues: further satellites with similar strict spot beams are scheduled to launch during the course of the next year to replace the aging fleet of satellites at 28.2 degrees East.

Here's a repeat showing of the map of the UK spot beam from Astra 2F. Note: the map endeavours to show "safe dish sizes" for reliable reception of all UK spot beam services from Astra 2F. The type of dish, LNB and receiver used may affect your reception, especially in fringe areas. Outside of the core footprint, local variations in reception are possible, and you are advised to seek the advice of a local satellite expert. The edge of the zones on the following map does not indicate the edge of reception. A larger dish may well bring in services for some viewers within a short distance of the outer ring. is assessing the most recent reception reports to see if the map needs adjustments, particularly with regards to Italy and the Balearic Islands.
Astra 2F Spotbeam
Based on initial reception reports


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