TV AND SATELLITE NEWS
Updated Wednesday, 11th December, 2013
TRANSITION TO ASTRA 2E TO BEGIN IN FEBRUARY 2014
Following extensive speculation, SES Astra finally took to Facebook today to quash the rumour that their new satellite, Astra 2E, had suffered some kind of failure. The switch of channels to Astra 2E's UK-only narrow beam (and the loss of signals in southern Spain) will begin in February. The switchover will take a number of weeks.
See SES statement
NEW BBC HD CHANNELS LAUNCHED
BBC News HD, CBBC HD and CBBC HD started broadcasting this morning. CBBC HD is on Astra 1N, not Astra 2F as stated below. Similarly, BBC Three HD will be on Asta 1N when it opens at 7pm. Astra 1N is easily receiveable in most of western Europe on small to medium dishes. In the new year, all BBC services are likely to move to a UK-only beam similar to Astra 2F's UK spot beam. If you can't receive BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD, and have a Sky or Freesat HD satellite receiver, you are likely to lose all BBC services in 2014.
FIVE NEW BBC HD CHANNELS LAUNCHING TUESDAY 10TH. DECEMBER
Read the BBC announcement
In an unexpected Christmas gesture, the BBC is launching its five new HD services tomorrow, 10th. December. Up to now, the start date had officially been "early 2014"
BBC News HD, BBC Four HD, BBC Three HD, CBBC HD and CBeebies HD will be delivered on satellite from Astra 2F, and will be available on both Sky and Freesat. 2F's signal is weak in parts of Spain and Portugal, and potentially unreceivable in the far south of both countires.
FEW CHANGES TO SATELLITE SERVICES EXPECTED BEFORE CHRISTMAS
For reasons unknown (and SES Astra aren't telling) the new satellite Astra 2E, which has been predicted to cause viewing disaster in the far south of Spain and Portugal, has still not gone into service. There is no sign of movement from its current position of 43º east.
Luxembourg - based SES are operators of most of the satellites serving the UK, contracted to deliver Sky, the BBC and ITV. They rarely make public announcements..
It now appears that expats in Spain can at least enjoy BBC & ITV over the holiday period. January 2014 looks a more likely month for the big switch of channels.
The only major change soon is the launch of five new HD services from the BBC, which are in advanced stages of testing. BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD are currently in tests on Astra 2F, and can be tuned manually on a Freesat box (but not a Sky receiver).
SKY ADMITS SOFTWARE PROBLEMS, FORCED ROLLBACK TO PREVIOUS VERSION.
Sky have announced that stability problems in their last release of Sky+HD software have meant that affected boxes will have their systems rolled back to the previous version, beginning this Tuesday, 3rd. December. Issues have apparently included very slow responses to remote control commands, Sky On-Demand sections missing, erroneous recording clash messages, freezing, and loss of channels, which can be temporarily cured by rebooting the box. (Turn off the power at the socket, but beware, recordings and default transponder settings may be lost)
Software version R008.063.49.09P will revert to R008.063.49.08P on Sky/Amstrad HD boxes DRX-9890, DRX-890-W, DRX895 and DRX895-W. Samsung and Pace HD boxes will go to version R008.063.71.00P. Sky/Amstad DRX 780 will have R008.063.68.00P.
Read Sky's announcement
This is nothing new: there have been numerous bugs, at times serious, with Sky software for most of the past decade, affecting all of Sky's boxes. A rollback like this is rare.
We have received many emails with questions about Sky & BBC in southern Spain and Portugal. Many ask whether they will lose Sky TV when the new satellite goes into service. The short answer is no. Sky's pay TV services will continue to be received much as before, for some time to come. There is a question mark though, as in the long term another new satellite, Astra 2G, is due in 2014.
Not so happy will be the many hundreds of thousands of people currently receiving BBC & ITV in the far south of Spain & Portugal, who will most likely lose these services soon.
One frequent question is whether subscribing to Sky will prevent loss of the BBC. The answer to this is also no. Sky carries the same signal from the BBC as other satellite services such as Freesat.
A correspondent pointed out that Channel Five can be received in northen Almeria, an indicator that this region will be OK after the BBC & ITV channel switch. The signals drop off very markedly in the south of the province, however. There is currently a hot spot of good reception to the north, in Murcia.
NEW BBC HD CHANNELS
ASTRA 2E STILL TESTING
After more than a month , the new satellite Astra 2E is still in its testing position, confounding many (including us) who speculated that SES Astra was in a real hurry to get it into service before Christmas. The move could still happen, depending on how fast SES Astra are prepared to move the spacecraft.
Meanwhile, the campaign of misinformation continues from those selling illegal IPTV boxes:
"All BBC ITV Ch4 Ch5 TV channels etc will disappear from the SKY platform at end of October beginning November. None of these channels will physically reach Europe mainland via Satellite."
False. These services will not disappear from the Sky platform, and signals will continue to reach mainland Europe via satellite after Astra 2E goes into service. The signals will, however, be very weak in southern Spain.
"Sky Channels (Pay TV) will only be available on SKY Digi set-top boxes with fixed card, however after end of October no BBC or ITV channels etc will be viewable on your SKY Box, or Free to Air box."
Almost wholly false, designed to cause panic amongst UK expats living in all parts of Spain. Only areas in the far south are likely to be affected, such as the Costa Del Sol, Gibraltar and the Algarve.
We are receiving e-mails every single day from British people in Spain, many worrying unnecessarily.
No more free C5HD
Channel Five HD, available free to view until this week (with a Sky viewing card), is now part of the Entertainment Extra+ Pack, costing £32.00 per month. This pack also includes HD versions of channels available free in standard definition. These are: ITV 2HD, ITV 3HD, ITV 4HD, More 4HD, Film FourHD and E4HD. EE+ doesn't include any BBC HD channels, or ITV One HD, which will be lost to viewers in Southern Spain soon. The channels in the EE+ pack are likely to be unaffected by the switch of satellites this autumn. Sky boxes will show an 'upgrade' message if the Sky subscription doesn't cover Entertainment Extra+. No explanation has been given by Sky or Five for the move.
Testing continues unabated at 43º east. Almost all frequencies have been lit up briefly. It appears the satellite is working as expected. The probable service date is still looking like late November or early December. Speculation that reception will be the same as Astra 2F, is just that, speculation. It is hard to believe that Astrium and SES Astra won't have made small adjustments to Astra 2E's antennas since Astra 2F went into service, with the aim of reducing spillover of the UK beam into mainland Europe.
In a separate but related development, the BBC has added placeholders for CBBC HD and BBC Three HD on the Freeview platform. The probability is that these HD channels will launch on satellite at the same time as terrestrial Freeview. Astra 2E will bring badly needed extra capacity.
See the BBC press release
ASTRA 2E TECHNICIANS WORKING OVERTIME
ASTRA 2E IN TESTING POSITION, FIRST TRANSMISSIONS DETECTED
The new Astra 2E satellite arrived at its testing position of 43.5º east yesterday. Test broadcasts have begun on the frequency of 10.806 MHz, which have been picked up in various parts of Europe. This frequency is in the part of the band usually occupied by Freesat channels such as the BBC and ITV. However, not too much should be read into these reports, as the satellite is broadcasting from much further east than its final position, meaning the eastern side of Europe is favoured. Currently only satellite enthusiasts with steerable dishes are able to get the tests, which consist only of empty channels with no pictures. The speed with which these have commenced indicates that the satellite is likely to go into full service before Christmas. The most likely time is the last week of November. It won't be long before we know if southern Spain will lose all BBC broadcasts. At present, Astra 2E is 22,000 miles above Somalia, in a geostationary orbit.
BT SPORT MOVES BACK TO PAN EUROPE BEAM
There is an unconfirmed report tonight that BT Sport channels have returned to southern Spain. They were previously carried on Eutelsat's pan-European beam, which was switched off on Thursday night into Friday morning, 3rd/4th. October. Tonight is the deadline for satellite switches for the former Eutelsat channels. Many channels were temporarily moved a week ago.
Update: 11.10.13. It appears BT Sport has indeed moved to the Pan European beam. This beam is stronger in the Canary Islands than the previous Eutelsat transmissions. There is a report of BT Sport being received on a 100cm dish in Tenerife.
CHANNEL SWITCH IMMINENT: SOME LOSE, SOME GAIN
One of the biggest changes in satellite TV delivery to the UK and Ireland for many years is under way.
Dishes pointing towards 28.2º east receive UK satellite channels from two operators: SES Astra and Eutelsat.
Up to now, bands of frequencies have been distributed between the two rivals.
SES claimed that Eutelsat's licence to use some of the these expires on 4th. October 2013.
SES went to the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris to try to prove it had a right to use the bands in place of Eutelsat. After a year's legal battle, and following a court ruling in Germany, SES announced it would take over the disputed frequencies of 11459 - 11700 Mhz and 12500 - 12750 Mhz after 4th. October. This claim has been hotly disputed by Eutelsat, which has operated the bands since 1999, though it appears to have now conceded defeat.
Channels broadcast in the contested 500Mhz of spectrum will change frequency over the next ten days, with some 300 channels moving to Astra's satellites.
The switch will be in two phases. Some channels are moving temporarily to Astra 1N's Europe beam by 3rd. October, then moved in phases to Astra 2F's European beam (footprint map right, with dish sizes in cm) over the following seven days.
Principal channels affected by the change include:
BT Sport 1 & 2, BT Sport 1HD & 2HD, TCM, The History Channel, National Geographic, Fox News, Sky Living It, Comedy Central, Nick Jr, Al Jazeera English, Kiss 100 Radio, Magic 105.4FM Radio, Jazz FM, Absolute Radio, XFM, Capital FM.
Viewers with Sky and Freesat receivers need take no action, these boxes will update automatically.
Free to air receivers have no way to auto update and will need retuning.
Some in fringe areas will see better reception, some in eastern Europe will lose channels completely.
It's probable SES Astra anticipated that they would win the battle some time ago: this may be the reason Astra 2F has been kept largely empty of channels until now.
ASTRA 2E LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL
Astra 2E's launch last night went exactly to plan. The satellite is now in orbit, having separated from its launch vehicle nine hours after liftoff. Over the next two months, it will be tested, then moved to its final destination of 28.2º east, where it will broadcast to the UK. It's highly likely that the switch of channels from Astra 1N will be carried out before the end of the year. It's this move that will result in the loss of BBC, ITV and Channel Four broadcasts in southern Spain.
ASTRA 2E LAUNCHED
Astra 2E has been launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The first three stages have been successful, and the satellite is well on its way into orbit. The five secondary stages of the Proton Breeze-M will be fired over the next nine hours. In a broadcast from the ILS headquarters in Washington, members of the launch team commented on the preparations. Notably, no direct mention was made of the July Proton crash which caused such long delay in Astra 2E's mission. During the live programme, SES mentioned their next satellite for 28.2º, Astra 2G, the launch of which was anticipated for "early 2014", earlier than many people expected.
ASTRA 2E: ROLLED OUT: LAUNCH TONIGHT, SUNDAY 29TH. SEPT: 23.38 CET.
The Astra 2E satellite has been made ready on the pad at Baikonur, on top of a Proton rocket, ready for its launch on Sunday evening at 23:38 CET, 22:38 British Summer Time. (Not Monday as stated earlier, but it will be Monday in Kazakhstan) The launch was postponed from its earlier date of 17th. September at the insistence of the Kazakhstan authorities. The government demanded that the area around the Baikonur site be cleaned up, as a large amount of contamination was released in the Proton crash last July.
NEW LAUNCH DATE FOR ASTRA 2E: 17TH. SEPTEMBER 2013
The amended date for the Proton M/ Breeze M launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan is next week, the 17th. of September. The rocket will propel the much-awaited Astra 2E satellite into orbit. If successful, the satellite is likely to go into service about 2 months later.
BBC & ITV services will then be switched over to the new narrow beam.
The launch services website is http://www.ilslaunch.com/mission-control/mission-astra-2e.
The Twitter tag is #ASTRA2E.
WIDESPREAD MISINFORMATION ON THE ASTRA 2E BBC "SWITCH OFF"
A national newspaper and a large number of worried people have contacted this site after reading that Sky will be cut off in Spain this summer, or that soon no British Televison will be available anywhere in the country. Many of these rumours seem to have been started by companies selling illegal IPTV re-streaming boxes (see below). Articles have appeared on news websites, comments have been planted on forums. The intention seems to be to frighten British residents in all parts of Spain into thinking their only option is an IPTV box. For some in the far south, wanting BBC & ITV, this is a half truth at best. In communities, a very large dish could be installed which could be shared. Alternatively, viewers could choose a VPN service, which can enable BBC iPlayer and ITV Player in Spain.
The facts (and a few guesses):
All re-streaming services such as these are illegal and are likely to be forcibly closed down at some point. Broadcasters and Spanish authorities have taken action before on illegal re-broadcasting. A number of re-streaming services such as TV Catchup, Zattoo and FilmOn have faced legal action. Previously, illegal re-broadcasting was made by microwave from masts on Spanish mountain-tops. Now, it has moved to the internet.
15 SEPTEMBER LAUNCH DATE FOR ASTRA 2: MOVE OF BBC CHANNELS LIKELY BY CHRISTMAS
Following the investigation and report into the Proton-M crash on 2nd. July, it has been announced that the Astra 2E satellite for SES Astra will be included in the resumed launch programme at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The lift-off is scheduled for September 15. This means that if deployment is successful, Astra 2E will go into service before Christmas 2013. The most likely period for this will be November. The move of BBC, ITV and C4 channels from Astra 1M to Astra 2E is likely during this month or soon afterwards.
The report confirmed earlier speculation that three angular rate sensors were improperly installed on the ill-fated 2 July Proton-M rocket, causing it to plummet to earth seconds after launch. Flights from Baikonur resumed on 28th. July with a mission to send supplies to the International Space Station, though this was a Soyuz-U space transport vehicle, not a Proton-M.
PROTON-M CRASHES; ASTRA 2E LAUNCH POSTPONED
A Proton-M Rocket carrying three Glonass-M navigation satellites crashed soon after launch at the Baikonur Space Center today. Seconds after launch, the Proton veered off course and crashed into the ground nearby. No-one was reported injured. The launch pad was evacuated shortly afterwards owing to fears of contamination from the toxic cloud which enveloped the site. The disaster threw into question the quality of the Proton launcher and its future. Later launches, including Astra 2E for SES, were postponed pending an investigation. Speculation arose that guidance sensors had been installed upside down. A design fault had allowed more than one position for installation. The Proton which crashed had been assembled more than a year previously.
ASTRA 2E PROVISIONAL LAUNCH DATE: JULY 19
Some sources are suggesting that the new Astra 2E satellite will be launched on July 19th. 2013. This is somewhat later than originally planned. The actual date may move forwards ( or more likely, backwards ) at short notice nearer the time. Based on previous experience with Astra 2F, Astra 2E will go into service some time in September. Only then will it become clear just how many channels will be lost by those living in southern Spain and Portugal, and parts of western europe. The received signals on the ground will be similar, but not identical to, those of Astra 2F. Though they are nominally in the same position in the sky as viewed from the ground, the two satellites will be some hundreds of kilometers apart, in geostationary earth orbit.
SES ASTRA 'Intend to cut out as many English speakers in Europe as possible'
A professional Italian satellite engineer has claimed that SES Astra are deliberately trying to reduce the overspill of UK channels into mainland Europe by as much as possible, for broadcasting rights issues. He also claims that the footprint of Astra 2F has been moved up and down, and from east to west, in a period of testing , which ended around a month ago. This would explain changes noticed by some satellite viewers in Denmark, Germany and Nordic countries. Some viewers reported weaker signals, others stronger.
See the original thread on the Astra 2 satellite forum: http://www.astra2forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=80&t=35&p=74#p74
SKY CHANNELS MOVED
A number of Sky channels were moved over the past few nights from Astra 2A/B to the Astra 1N pan European beam. Others appear to have been moved from Astra 2B to 2A. There are a number of reports of loss of channels in Scandinavia and the Canaries. Amongst the channels which have been affected are: Channel 5 HD, Dave HD, Watch HD, Gold Comedy Central HD, Pick TV, Pick TV+1, Sky News SD, Discovery HD, Sky Sports 3 HD, Sky Sports News HD, F1 HD, Animal Planet HD, Nat Geo HD, Eden HD, SyFy HD. ( to be updated ). Most viewers in western Europe will have noticed no change.
The reason for the move is unknown. The current speculation is that Astra 2B will be taken out of service or moved to 19º east.
OFFICIAL BBC ANNOUNCEMENT: ALL BBC SERVICES TO MOVE TO ASTRA 2E AND 2F IN 2013
The BBC has confirmed what most of us here suspected: all its existing services will be moved to Astra 2E and Astra 2F next summer. Viewers who lost Channel Five last week will lose all BBC services in the second quarter of 2013. The signal will be slightly stronger in the UK but weaker in mainland Europe.
The only services to go to 2F in the meantime will be BBC One HD for the regions, likely in early 2013.
RECEPTION REPORTS LOOK BAD FOR SOUTHERN SPAIN, ALL BBC & ITV TO MOVE SOON
More reports have emerged of loss of channels in southern Spain, in the Costa Del Sol and Almeria regions. Previously, all of the UK channels could be received on 1.2 metre dishes in this Astra 2D hotspot.The new reception pattern is a sign of things to come. If you have lost C5, then you will also lose all BBC, ITV channels, and the remaining Channel Four group, including Film Four and E4. These channels could move at any time between now and next summer. It seems dishes around 3 metres and up may be needed for reliable reception in rain. Further up the coast, a number of viewers have also reported losses. This may be partly due to sub-standard installations. In the past few years, many installers have cut corners in the Costas of Spain, by using cheap dishes, even cheaper LNBs, and by not aligning dishes properly. The much weaker signal has exposed such deficiencies in a cruel way.
Anyone who has a good quality dish, such as the former ChannelMaster ( Now Raven ) Prodelin, and to a lesser extent Gibertini, will have been experiencing fewer problems.
Good LNBs for these areas are Inverto Black Ultra ( only this model) and Invacom QDF-031 with feedhorn.
Receivers also influence reception. A number of customers have told us that they have lost reception on Pace 440 and Pace 445 Sky boxes ( the standard model, check the label underneath )
If you can, borrow a Sky box of another make and try this before calling in the installer. Newer Amstrad HD boxes have generally good tuners.
Take no notice of the signal display on a Sky box if you want to monitor Astra 2F. It shows the signal strength on the north beam, which is not broadcast from the new satellite. Sky + and Sky+ HD boxes show the north beam AND the current channel being watched in the signal strength display.
CHANNELS TRANSFERRED TO ASTRA 2F
This morning at 02.30 GMT a number of UK channels were transferred to the new satellite at 28.2º east, Astra 2F. Exactly why so few have made the transition is unclear.
The channels which have moved are:
Channel Five (regions 1-5) 5 USA, 5 USA+1, 5*, 5*+1 and Channel Five +1
ITV One regions: Meridian North, Anglia West, Yorkshire East, Central South West, Yorkshire East +1
ITV One London HD, ITV One regions: Central South, Central East, Wales +1, Tyne Tees North +1, West Country South West +1
Channel Four HD and 4 Seven
Other Channel Four and BBC & ITV services are still on Astra 1N, which can be easily received on small dishes in much of Europe. Astra 1N will close at 28.2º east within six to nine months and be moved to 19º east to serve mainland Europe.
Reception reports across Iberia are mixed. A few regions: Madrid, Alicate, Murcia are better than they were a year ago under the old Astra 2D, but other places have much weaker signal. Areas with poor reception include: Costa Del Sol, Barcelona, most of Portugal.
There is a report from the Costa Del Sol which indicates dramatically lower signals. This is in an area which previously could receive BBC & ITV on a 1.2 metre dish a year ago.
The remaining free channels which are still on Astra 1N are likely to move either in the new year or in early summer.
Astra 2F GOES INTO SERVICE TUESDAY 4TH. DECEMBER 2012
Following days of rumours and misleading reception reports, at last there is some news directly from SES Astra, owners of the 2F satellite. Posted this afternoon on the SES Facebook page:
"SES Services are currently being transferred to ASTRA 2F. BBC (Trp 2.061) has been migrated to Astra 2F whereas Channel 5 (Tp 2.057), ITV (2.059 & 2.063) and Channel 4 (Tp 2.068) will move to Astra 2F next Tuesday. This will then mark the completion of the transfer".
Transponder 61 is new: 11023 H, 23000 2/3, DVB-S2/8PSK, currently testing on 2F
The other 1N transponders due to be transferred by next Tuesday:
Transponder 57, 10964 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, currently carries Channel Five (regions 1-5) 5 USA, 5 USA+1, 5*, 5*+1 and Channel Five +1
Transponder 59, 10994 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, carries ITV One regions
Transponder 63, 11053H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, carries the other ITV One regions and ITV One London HD.
Transponder 68, 11126 V, 22000, 5/6 DVB-S/QPSK carries Channel Four HD and 4 Seven
BBC One HD for the regions is still awaiting launch.
Blog by Alix Pryde, Director, BBC Distribution:-
"Over the next few months we will be launching BBC One HD for the nations of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They will each be available on terrestrial, satellite and cable platforms. In order to carry these services on satellite we’ll be opening a new transponder (Astra 1N tp 61) which we will be referring to as DSat8."
What will reception be like?
The most reliable reception reports indicate that 2F reception in mainland Europe is similar to the old Astra 2D. In Spain, reception is worse in the south but almost identical to Astra 2D in Madrid. Small dishes which could easily get Astra 1N will no longer receive some BBC and ITV services after they have switched. This applies equally to Freesat and Sky receivers. Exactly which BBC services will switch to 2F is unclear, as are the reasons why so few 2F transponders will be going live next week. It's possible SES Astra are keeping quiet about the real reasons. These could include technical or legal problems, perhaps related to the dispute between SES Astra and Eutelsat ( see story below from Nov. 2)
Astra 2F ARRIVES AT 28.2º EAST
Astra 2F has arrived in position and is expected to begin broadcasting with a few days. The predictions that all channels would be transferred from 1N to 2F by this coming Monday, 26th. November have turned out to be wrong. There is a test frequency of 11.023 H, SR 23.000, FEC 2/3, DVB-S2 8PSK currently active, which is assumed to be from 2F. This test can be received in many parts of Western Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia. Countries further east are reporting no reception, however. It remains to be seen if the antennas on 2F will be adjusted further, and which channels will be on the UK beam. As soon as there are confirmed reports of 2F reception, they will be posted here.
Astra 2F FINISHES TESTING, MOVING TO FINAL POSITION
The replacement for Astra 1N, the new Eurostar E3000 satellite Astra 2F, has finished its testing phase and is currently moving westwards in space towards 28.2º east, where it will be used to broadcast to the UK and mainland Europe. Current projections indicate it will be on station next week, on 20th. November. It is virtually certain to go into full service before the Christmas season. British expats in mainland Europe will learn shortly whether their old Astra 2D dishes will be big enough to receive the new signals.
BBC HD SIMULCAST WITH BBC2, NO DOGS.
Following the move of the BBC's flagship news programme 'Newsnight' to new HD studios, BBC HD is now simulcast with BBC2 each weekday evening, bringing the BBC's promise of a BBC2 HD channel a little closer. BBC One HD is now free of the 'DOG'. A 'DOG' is a Digital Onscreen Graphic- a small logo in the corner of the screen, irritating to many. Many UK channels have either dropped the DOG, or made it less prominent. Some question the need for a DOG at all. The usual defence of the DOG is the need to reinforce channel branding. Some broadcasters such as Sky have realised that a large number of viewers hate them. Sky has removed DOGs from Sky One, Sky Atlantic and Sky Arts.
BBC TO LAUNCH BBC ONE HD FOR THE NATIONS
The BBC will be launching BBC One HD for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland shortly, across all of its broadcast platforms, so the channels will be available subscription-free on Sky HD, Freeview HD, Virgin Media and Freesat HD at the same position in the EPG where BBC One HD is currently found. Recently there was a technical change to a more efficient encoding standard to enable more channels to be broadcast using the same bandwidth. BBC HD channels currently broadcast in DVB S2, 8PSK.
ASTRA ATTEMPTS TO TAKE OVER EUTELSAT FREQUENCIES, LEGAL BATTLE UNDERWAY
Though subject to a legal challenge, it is likely that SES Astra will take over the slot previously reserved for Eutelsat at 28.2º east. The dispute between the two companies is over rights to 500 megahertz of satellite bandwidth over Europe. Eutelsat has requested arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce. The frequencies are currenty in use by Eurobird, carrying many low-cost (and low-audience) channels. Exactly what will become of the many specialist channels on the Freesat and Sky platforms when their current carrier closes is unknown. The probably end result is that some will go out of business, if, as expected, it becomes more expensive to broadcast using SES Astra's satellites.
BBC RADIO RESHUFFLE
All BBC Radio services are now on the UK spot beam at 28.2º east. Previously they were on the pan-European beam, and could be received over a wide area of Europe. The rationale for this move, according to the BBC, is cost. Only when Astra 2F is in service will it become known just how restricted in terms of geographical area BBC Radio has become. The old BBC frequency of 11954 horizontal has now been switched off. See this BBC article
ASTRA 2F TESTING
The replacement for the old Astra 2D, Astra 2F was launched on 28th. September 2012, and is currently being tested at 43 degrees east. The signals from both the pan-european beam and the UK spot beam have apparently been received as far east as Israel. Not too much can be read into any of the test reports so far, as the satellite is broadcasting from a position some way away from its final location. Astra 2F is likely to be moved to its broadcast position in the next couple of weeks, with services opening before Christmas. Only then will expats around Europe be able to tell whether their dishes will receive the new signals or become redundant.
Most free to air services on the Freesat platform are currently being broadcast from Astra 1N at 28.2º east. Asta 1N will be moved to 19 degrees east to serve its originally intended areas.
ITV Transponder closes
The ITV transponder on 12402V closed on 30th. May. All ITV channels are now on Astra 1N, which is not receiveable in most parts of eastern Europe and Mediterranean.
02.03.2102: ASTRA 2D CLOSES
That most difficult of satellites for British expats, Astra 2D, has met its end at 28.2º east. All channels on the UK beam were tranferred to Astra 1N on 24th. March, using the same frequencly plan.
There has been speculation that 2D had developed a fault. The evidence for this is that many UK-based viewers ( including us ) noticed picture breakup in the week prior to the move on transponder 47, 10803 H, indicative of a developing problem. It could have been that the spacecraft was damaged by the recent intense solar activity. This is the solar storm which produced strong Aurora Borealis ( Northern Lights) over the past month. 10803 has declined in strength markedly in recent years. The move could have been planned, of course, and the picture problems coincidental.
What does this mean?
Signal strength is markedly higher in many parts of Europe, especially Spain. Indications are that good reception can be achieved in most of Iberia on a 80 cm dish. Previously, 1.8m and upwards was needed. Viewers in eastern Euroe have not fared as well. Countries such as Finland have lost all Freesat channels. It appears that Cyprus is now in the dark as well, only Astra 2A and B likely to be received there. 4.2 metre dishes were formerly able to pull in BBC signals in the eastern Mediterranean.
Astra 1N was originally intended for the 19º east orbital position, serving mainland European countries. For this reason, 1N has a large side lobe of good reception, covering the Canaries, in order to serve the Spanish - ruled islands ( as required by local broadcasting law).
Starting in about a year, the replacements for Astra 2D, 2A and 2B will be launched. These new satellites wil be of the same design as 1N (Eurostar 3000) but will most likely have beams tightly focussed on the UK.
It seems probable that BBC channels will be viewable out of the UK from 2013 onwards, but only in places within around 1000 miles of London. ( Astra 2D was centred on the home counties ). Signal strength will be higher than the old 2D within this zone, but there will be a sharp falling off towards the east and south.