| British TV & Radio in the U.K. & Overseas
Welcome to the Astra 2 website, for information news and advice on everything connected to British television and radio. With the BBC at its core, the UK produces some of the worlds best television, exporting programmes and films worldwide.
Most British TV and radio channels broadcast on satellite, many including the five main terrestrial channels are free-to-air (fta). It is now posible to watch your local or regional channels where ever you live in the British Isles and now with live streaming potentially worldwide (most UK channels require a UK ip address).
There are three main platforms for free tv in the UK:
Sky (BSkyB), the largest subscription satellite service in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, offering the largest HD lin-up, the best sports coverage and the latest films. There are many fta channels on Sky.
Freeview is the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, with up to 50 TV channels without a subscription. Freeview broadcasts channels in HD using DVB-T2 and MPEG4 (Freeview HD).
Freesat is a digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV which launched in May 2008, to watch you will need a Freesat or Freesat+ receiver, a satellite dish and ideally an HD-ready TV.
It's basically the satellite equivalent of the digital terrestrial TV service Freeview, though not all channels on Freeview are on Freesat. Once you have paid for the receiver, dish and installation there are no more ongoing monthly subscription costs.
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| Astra 2E has launched
The Proton M launch vehicle, utilizing a 5-burn Breeze M mission design, lifted off from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Monday September 30, with the ASTRA 2E satellite on board.
The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M Upper Stage and the ASTRA 2E satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.
From this point in the mission, the Breeze M performed planned mission manoeuvres to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Separation of the ASTRA 2E satellite is occured approximately 9 hours, 12 minutes after lift-off.
The Astra 2E satellite is currently being moved to 43.5° East for testing, before entering commercial service at 28.2° East before the end of 2013.
Astra 2E will serve to deliver next generation broadcast, VSAT and broadband services in Europe and Africa, and will carry Ku-and Ka-band payloads at 28.2° East.
The Ku-band capacity will allow SES ASTRA to enhance and secure its existing offering to major Direct-to-Home (DTH) markets in the UK and Ireland.
With a Ku-band payload specifically designed to meet the requirements of some of Europe’s largest DTH broadcasters, the satellites will have spot beam and pan-European beam switching capabilities to accommodate both pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters, and to provide these customers with increased functionality.
CURRENT STATUS FOR ASTRA 2E : Astra 2E is currently at 43.5°East - Testing is in progress.
Astra 2F operational at 28.2° East
Astra 2F is one of the Astra communications satellites owned and operated by SES, launched in September 2012 to the Astra 28.2°E orbital slot. The satellite provides free-to-air and encrypted direct-to-home (DTH) digital TV and satellite broadband services for Europe and Africa.
Astra 2F is the first of three ‘second generation’ satellites for the 28.2°E position and it will be joined in orbit by Astra 2E and Astra 2G in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Astra 2F was successfully launched from Kourou in French Guiana on September 28, 2012 and underwent in-orbit testing at 43.5°E.
Commercial operations at 28.2°E began on November 21, 2012.
Astra 2F is also designed to provide SES Broadband’s first commercial Ka-band satellite broadband service in Europe, with a Ka-band payload delivering high-speed Internet access (at download speeds up to 20Mbit/s) along with VoIP, and IPTV.
What will all these changes entail for those currently viewing TV via Sky or Freesat? If you live within the intended reception area of the new satellites (the British Isles), then your viewing will not be affected and you will continue to receive all the services you currently have.
The UK Spot beam provides maximum signal (40 cm dishes) over the UK and Ireland in close approximation of the UK Beam of Astra 2D, which it replaces.
Due to the tight footprint, some reception issues for UK channels have been reported in some areas of mainland Europe. Overseas viewers may have to upgrade their dish to receive the new satellites, Astra 2E and Astra 2G are expected to have identical coverage to that of Astra 2F.
Reception reports suggest that the UK spotbeam is very tight with a very sharp fall off to the west and east of the footprint, though eastern Spain and areas of Scandinavia seems to be getting a higher signal strength possibly due to the off-axis beam as 28.2°E on the geostationary arc is not directly in line with the UK but offest to the east.
Astra 2F UK Spotbeam Transponders
Transponder 57, 10.964 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, (Channel 5)
Transponder 58, 10.979 V, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2 (Sky & S4C)
Transponder 59, 10.994 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, (ITV)
Transponder 61, 11.023 H, 23000, 2/3, DVB-S2/8PSK, (BBC DSAT 8)
Transponder 63, 11.053 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, (ITV)
Transponder 65, 11.082 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2 (Various)
Transponder 67, 11.112 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2 (Various)
Transponder 68, 11.126 V, 22000, 5/6 DVB-S/QPSK, (Channel Four)
Transponder 69, 11.141 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2 (Various)
Transponder 70, 11.156 V, 23000, 8/9, DVB-S2/QPSK (Sky)
Transponder 71, 11.171 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2 (Various)
Astra 2F Reception Reports Map by www.astra2.org & the Astra 2 Forum
Satellite Changes at 28.2° East
| Changes to BBC satellite transponders in 2013
The BBC has confirmed their plans to move their services from Astra 1N to Astra 2E in 2013.
The overspill of the BBC’s services will be reduced so viewers outside the UK will find it even harder to receive them. Astra 2E will have the same UK footprint as Astra 2F, so if you can currently view channels from Astra 2F, there should be no problems receiving Astra 2E.
Many have indeed lost services transferred to Astra 2F, others have far better reception than they ever had from Astra 2D.
So over the coming months overseas viewers may, if you cannot currently receive Astra 2F, have to upgrade your dish to a larger one.
Astra 2F has already been picked up as far away as the Canary Islands in the west and the island of Rhodes in the east.
In February 2012, SES retired Astra 2D and BBC services moved to a new temporary home on Astra 1N. Astra 1N is due to take up its permanent position in 2013 (19°East), so the BBC’s services will move to their new permanent home on Astra 2E (28.2°East) when that becomes operational.
SES expects Astra 2E to launch in Q2 2013, the BBC expect to move their services to Astra 2E during summer 2013.
The BBC commissioned a new transponder (DSAT 8) in the autumn. It moved from its temporary home on Astra 1N to its permanent position on Astra 2F at the end of November 2012.
DSAT 8 will be used to broadcast BBC One Scotland HD and BBC One Wales HD as the BBC complete the programme of providing all Nations programming in HD.
The move of BBC services from 1N to their new permanent homes will have no impact on UK households. Astra 2E and 2F have the same, tighter though slightly more powerful UK spot beams which means that UK households should get a slightly stronger signal. So if you happened to be on the edge of coverage, you will hopefully get more reliable reception.
See Changes to BBC satellite transponders in 2013
See BBC satellite reception page
| The Astra 2 Forum
The Astra 2 Website also has its own Forum, here you can discuss everything related to British TV and radio.
There are also country specific boards, making it easier to find information, or obtain advice and real local knowledge and advice from other forum members.
The Forum also has specific areas covering digital platforms, equipment, and reception overseas.
Sky, covering standard Sky receivers along with Sky+ and Sky+HD
Freesat, the free-to-air public service platform from the BBC and ITV, get help and advice on receivers and reception.
Freeview the free-to-air digital terrestrial platform.
TV & radio on the Internet, both in the UK and overseas.
Registration is free and is required to post on the forum, though you can use the Guest section.
, to go directly to the Astra 2 Forum.
Sky (BSkyB), is the largest subscription satellite service in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. With over 9 million subscribers, Sky delivers more than 200 channels of programming to homes and businesses that have digital satellite equipment supplied by Sky; this equipment includes a small satellite dish (minidish), and a Sky receiver.
There are currently three types of Sky receiver available, the basic digital receive, Sky+, which will enable you to record and store programmes and Sky+HD, which is also a PVR and will allow you to view High Definition (HD) channels available on Sky. All new subscribers will be offered a Sky+HD receiver as standard equipment.
Sky also offers packages that include broadband services, interactive content and has the largest HD offering in the UK and Ireland.
There are also many free-to-air (FTA) channels available on the Sky platform, these include all the main terrestrial channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 and Channel 5.
Sky also offers a non subscription service called Freesat from Sky, some channels on this service are encrypted, requiring a card to open for the free-to-view (FTV) channels.
There are only a few channels which require a card for Freesat from Skt, these include Channel 5 HD, 4Music, LFC TV, Motors TV, Sony Entertainment Television and the Sony Movie Channel.
| Freesat from the BBC & ITV
Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom, though the service can be received overseas.
The service was marketed from 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver.
The service also makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer a selection of high-definition programming from the BBC and ITV. Channel 4HD will join the Freesat platform on April 1 2011.
A VOD (Video On Demand) version of BBC iPlayer is available on Freesat channel 901, you can catch up on the last seven days of BBC programmes. ITV Player is also available on Freesat, 4oD and Demand 5 are expected to join Freesat in 2013 on the newer G2 receivers.
Freesat broadcasts from the same fleet of satellites (Astra 28.2°E and Eurobird 1) as Sky. Channels are broadcast using DVB-S and DVB-S2.
The Freesat electronic programme guide is broadcast from the Eutelsat 28A satellite situated at 28.5° east. Freesat's role is not broadcasting or availability of channels, although the BBC and ITV are substantial broadcasters in their own right, instead providing a platform for receiving the channels and the EPG.
Freeview is the free-to-air digital television service broadcast from terrestrial transmitters using the DVB-T and DVB-T2 standards. Launched on October 30, 2002 at 6am, it took over the DTT licence to broadcast on four multiplexes, three of them from the defunct ITV Digital (originally called ONdigital).
Unlike ITV Digital and the cable and satellite digital TV services, it offers no premium or pay-per-view channels, and no subscription channels.
A set-top box costing around £30 to £100 or a new television with an integrated digital tuner is needed to receive the Freeview service.
The Freeview consortium's founding members were the BBC, National Grid Wireless and British Sky Broadcasting.
They were joined by ITV plc and Channel 4 on 11 October 2005. The service broadcasts free-to-air television channels, radio stations and interactive services from the BBC, Sky, and various other broadcasters.
Freeview HD offically launched in 2010, the service currently offers four HD channels, BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, ITV HD and Channel 4HD, Freesat HD uses the MPEG4/DVB-T2 standard.
More DVB-T2 services will start in early 2014, the BBC have already aannounced plans to broadcast BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, CBBC and Cbeebies in HD.
Recording programmes with Freeview+ is really easy – most devices have an EPG (elctronic programme guide) which allows you to select the programme you want to record from a tv guide on your screen.
| TV & Radio Online
Most of the UK's television and radio channels are available online, there are many ways to watch and listen, through your computer, directly on your TV or in the case of online radio stations, through an Internet radio.
The BBC and ITV broadcasts all of their television channels (with the exception of BBC HD), on live Internet streams, these broadcasts are only a few seconds behind the terrestrial and satellite broadcasts.
The quality is not perfect, though it is quite watchable either on your computer screen, or through you television via a HDMI, SCART or other A/V cables.
Most computers have some option to connect to external devices, see you computers and TV's user manuals for more information.
All of ITV's channels are available as live streams, all the channels are restricted to UK IP addresses only. Picture quality is quite good even on a large screen. Channel 4 and Channel5, do not currently stream their channels.
Channel 4 offers live streams for all of their channels, Channel 4, E4, More4, 4Seven, Film4 and 4Music, all are restricted to UK IP addresses only. Picture quality is quite good even on a large screen.
All of the BBC's national, local and regional stations along with the BBC World Service, are available to listen to live on the internet (rights permitting), with appropriate media player software. Listen live on BBC iPlayer
It is also possible to listen to BBC Radio services via the internet without having to log on to a computer. The easiest way to do this is via a WiFi or Internet Radio.
Most of the UK's national, regional and local commercial stations offer live streans on their websites. Since 2006, many of the UK's commercial radio stations have been restricting live stream access to users from the United Kingdom only.
Video On Demand (VOD)
or audio video on demand (AVOD) systems allow users to select and watch/listen to video or audio content on demand.
VOD systems either stream content through a set-top box, allowing viewing in real time, or download it to a device such as a computer, digital video recorder, personal video recorder or portable media player for viewing at any time.
Get a UK VPN from StreamVia
| Radio in the U.K.
The BBC today runs ten national domestic radio stations, five of which are only available in a digital format: via DAB, the Internet on Freeview and on digital satellite, on both Sky and Freesat.
There are over 270 independent local radio (ILR) analogue services and 46 local digital multiplexes carrying over 200 radio services.
The UK currently has the world's biggest digital radio network, with 103 transmitters, with two national DAB ensembles and forty eight local and regional DAB ensembles broadcasting over 250 commercial and 34 BBC radio stations across the UK. In London, there are already more than 51 different digital stations available.
In addition to DAB, radio stations are also broadcast on digital television platforms, Digital Radio Mondiale on FM, AM, LW and SW.
Almost all radio services are free-to-air, and most online stations are not restricted to UK IP addresses, so you can listen wherever you are.
Listen online with Radioplayer, the online audio player which gives you access to live, on demand and podcast radio from hundreds of stations in the UK.
Radioplayer is a not for profit company founded by the BBC, Global Radio, Guardian Media Group, Absolute Radio and RadioCentre to serve radio and its audiences by making listening easy.