New Astra 2F Satellite Testing Threatens Sky Digital Fringe Reception for Brits Abroad

The brand new Astra 2F satellite has now commenced testing at 43 degrees east, in readiness to replace the old Astra 2D and brings with it a wave of uncertainty for expats wishing to watch the English PSB TV channels in Spain and surrounding areas via satellite TV.

Although the old 2D satellite has been off the air for a number of weeks, the temporary replacement Astra 1N is currently providing a strong signal. This has meant that Britons in destinations such as Spain’s Costa Blanca have been able to tap in to Sky Digital fringe reception to view channels such as ITV and BBC 1 on a 1m satellite dish rather than a 1.8 or 2.4 metre as in previous years.

UK TV channels used to be transmitted by satellites Astra 2A, Astra 2B, Astra 2D and Eurobird1 with many of the popular BBC and ITV programs being transmitted via Astra 2D in particular. The problem with Astra 2D was that it had a restricted transmission footprint and the further away the receiver from the UK, the harder it was to tap into any signal at all. Disruptions from the weather also caused significant reception difficulties especially along the southern coastal areas of Spain such as Malaga where there is a predominant British head count.

Satellites like everything else however, have a lifespan and need to be replaced. Such has been the case with Astra 2D and many of its channels have therefore been temporarily transferred over to the new, larger and more powerful Astra 1N. The company who own and operate the Astra 2 satellites have promised a complete replacement of all three by the end of 2014 (the new satellites being Astra 2E, 2F and 2G).

Once the new Astra 2F testing has finished its current phase however, many of the channels from Astra1N will be introduced to their new home base and Astra 1N will be repositioned to its original destination. At this point, many Digital TV fans living overseas fear their signal will be lost.

The problem lies with the release of the reception footprints for the new Astra2 E, F and G. Although these show a mix of Pan European and UK spot beams, the Pan European footprints show significant reception using 80cm satellite dishes, the UK spot beam footprint doesn’t show any quantifiable data and it is not certain how much reception will therefore be available outside the UK until the new Astra 2 satellites are fully operational.

Many UK channels will of course be broadcast on the UK spot beam to fulfill client obligations with the UK but they are less likely to be available on small satellite dishes outside of the target transmission area, despite some of the pay channels being broadcast on the European Pan frequency.

It is not yet known if expats dotted around Europe will be able to receive the new signals with their current satellite dishes. While some speculate that their dishes will simply become redundant, it is impossible to know what if any changes to equipment will be needed until the 2F satellite moves to its final position. The bad news for those eager to settle down to Digital TV specials over the festive period is that the final transmission footprint is not expected to be revealed until just before Christmas, meaning there are still a number of weeks of uncertainty ahead.

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