Freesat to Launch Tomorrow

Free what?

A new free to air platform via satellite, a sort of dish based equivalent to Freeview run by BBC and ITV (though carrying some other channels) and another plank in the digital switchover plan.

So what?

It’s going to have some HD channels (BBC HD tomorrow, ITV HD soon followed by C4 HD). You can get reception in places where you can’t get Freeview. These are the two reasons I’m interested, anyway. More reliable reception would be terrific, HD would be a bonus, and it’ll cost about the same as an aerial upgrade.

Doesn’t Sky already do Freesat?

Yes. Freesat from Sky includes some free to view channels (ie no charge) as well as free to air (ie no encryption). The main differences are

  • Sky’s version relies on Sky’s electronic programme guide (EPG) and Freesat will have its own (perhaps simpler) EPG (a bit like the Freeview one maybe – not much is known about it yet).
  • Also, Freesat equipment has ethernet, so it’s possible it will integrate the BBC’s iPlayer.
  • Some FTV channels on Sky aren’t available on Freesat, notably Channel 5 and also E4 and More4 (yet). Channel 4 and Film 4 are already FTA (and so will be on Freesat).
  • Finally ITV HD will be Freesat only.

On the downside, that’s now two incompatible systems, so old Sky boxes can’t use the new EPG and Freesat boxes can’t upgrade to paid for Sky packages. You can use the same dishes with either, though.

How do you know it’s launching tomorrow?

Strangely there’s been very little publicity. I can’t find anything official to say tomorrow, but it has been stated on a number of websites and forums. Meanwhile, shops such as Dixons and Argos are stocking the new boxes (both SD and HD flavours) and offering dish installation for around £80.

It still says launching spring 2008 on the website

Yeah, but I bet there will be a new website at tomorrow.

Can I get a Freesat PC card?

To get the new EPG bits, you’ll need software that’ll support it. I’m not aware of any now. To get the new HD channels, you’ll need DVB-S2 compatible hardware. There’s some of that available. Alas, for Mac users like myself, there’s nothing yet to use with EyeTV. Damn. I’m going to have to wait a bit longer after all.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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