Sunday, December 16, 2012

How long will it last?

Although we are more than happy with the Canal+ satellite TV system, Pam and I did consider adding a second dish to our roof for British Freeview television. Reading some of the adverts in local papers, it seemed that we could have a dish and box installed for about 399 euros. For that price it would be worth it for the odd program we’d want to watch.

Untitled-1 However, when I investigated further, that was for a 1.4m dish which would not be guaranteed to pick up all of the programs all of the time and an even smaller 1m dishes would only work until the channels were moved to another satellite with a tighter beam. It seems that this area is in a black spot for British TV (just look at this map) and you still need a 1.9m or even a 2.4m dish to get a reliable signal. I’m sorry but there is no way that we are prepared to have one of those monsters on our roof or in the garden. 

Some expats, desperate for British TV, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep in touch with their favourite programs by moving from re-transmitted analogue microwave to digital microwave and various other permutations in-between. Most seem to have given up with the illegal rebroadcasts now and have plumped for a satellite dish to either pick up free-to-air or are using a Sky card registered to a UK address to get a Sky satellite package.

The bottom line is that, although it is not illegal to receive British TV here in Spain, the broadcasters don’t really want you to pick it up. The footprints for the satellites that broadcast free-to-air and Sky are meant to cover just the UK and the Channel Islands. Those who live close enough to Britain can obviously still pick up a good signal and because of the patterns of the broadcasts, some that live far away can get a decent signal -it all depends on the particular satellite used to broadcast the signal.

The TV satellites are all 36000 km above the equator in a geo-synchronous orbit (the stay above the same spot on Earth). You obviously cannot pick up satellites that are below the horizon. The satellites in your field of view will generally be about plus or minus 60 degrees of longitude from where you are. However, even if the satellite is in view, the tighter its beam, the less likely you are to pick up a strong enough signal without resorting to larger and larger dishes ( you can go up to 3m and beyond). The main satellite for UK TV is Astra 2D which as a very tight footprint, other programs are broadcast on south and north beams which cover a wider area. From what I understand, most systems installed in this area use both north and south beams to get coverage.  

The current situation is that, as from this week, those who live in the area from the north of Almeria down to southern Spain and Portugal can no longer pick up free-to-air channels. No doubt there are techno wizards working out a solution to get the signal back but it will inevitably involve extra cost for all those desperate for their weekly dose of Coronation Street.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Those big dishes really are ugly. That said, just one of them hooked up to a modest distribution system could service lots of properties. You just need lots of British neighbours! :)