Freesat, UK television has been the most popular choice for people moving over to Spain for some time now due to the programmes that are available, cost of installation and ease of use. But when it comes time to decide on which service to choose, the choice can be confusing and somewhat mind-boggling for many of us.
Understanding the Difference Between Freeview, Free to View and Freesat
Firstly, there is a difference between Freeview, Free to View and Freesat.
Freeview is what we call in Spain TDT, which is all of your programmes through a UHF aerial (normally mounted on your chimney in the UK ). This would give you all of your Spanish digital programmes and nothing else.
Free to View is a satellite decoder which will give you all of the free programmes, of which there are many (over 300), with radio stations as well. The advantage of a quality Free to View decoder is that if you wanted, you could attach other satellites to it such as Astra or Hotbird to give you other European channels that are also free channels.
There are however, two big disadvantages to these boxes as from time to time they need to be re-scanned in order to receive the free channels, as different satellite operators can and do quite often change the multiplexes that channels are broadcast on.
The other huge disadvantage is that these boxes have no electronic programme guide (EPG). Even though it may say so on the outer packaging, they don’t. This means that you have no TV guide like you would have on a Freesat or Sky box and would not be able to view the future TV schedule.
Freesat boxes are a satellite decoder developed by the BBC and ITV and work in the correct format like a Sky box. They enable you to have a 7 day programme guide (EPG) so you can view what is scheduled for the next 7 days. They also auto update, so there is no need to re-scan the box 2 or 3 times a year which is the case with a free to view box. Another bonus is that there is no need to manually organise the channels which is time consuming and to be frank if you don’t know what you are doing, a complete nightmare for the novice.
Freesat boxes come in standard definition (SD) or High definition (HD) and are a great choice if you have a property outside of the UK and don’t want a contract with sky.
Freesat from Sky is effectively a Sky or Sky HD box that you use for the free channels. You no longer need a viewing card at all to receive all the free programmes so this is a very good option. A good quality Sky or Sky HD box will work perfectly with the correct tuner inside as 50% of earlier sky boxes did not perform well due to inferior electronics inside of the boxes.
Before going ahead with this option it would be best to contact a reputable satellite company who can install the correct equipment for you. On the whole, Sky boxes are another excellent choice, as they also auto update and have a 7 day programme guide with the added advantage of having the red button service. This means that you can watch extra tennis/snooker matches or catch up on Sky news service with lots of options available to you. In summary, these boxes have been on the market 14 years now and we still come across old sky boxes of that age that although very slow, still work!
Finding a Reputable Satellite TV Company
It’s obviously very important who you use to install the equipment. Lots and lots of companies for some reason install the Free to View boxes as they can be purchased cheaply from wholesalers who in turn buy them in bulk from China .
They are an inferior product in comparison to a UK registered Freesat or a Sky box and will not perform in the same way, so before ordering a system there are certain things to check.
Make sure that the company you use has a website with landline telephone numbers that are actually answered, check their credibility, that their vehicles are sign written, that they are fully insured and guarantee their work. Check that you are happy that the equipment installed is correct with the area that you are moving to or living in. On the Costa del Sol, the minimum requirement for a satellite dish is 1.2 metre's, anything less and you will have problems later on when Astra launch two new satellites at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013.
Check that the installer's use the correct decoder's and that you receive a proper British Freesat decoder or Sky/Sky HD box and not something that is inferior. Make sure that the company you use is fully trained and conversant with all manner of Aerial and Satellite systems, community systems and European systems.
Most importantly, make sure that you are happy that you know how to use your equipment and that you ask your installers as many questions as you like, so you can operate it without a problem.
** This blog post was provided by Mark Wood of The Sky Doctor who are a long established and fully licensed British satellite and aerial installation company in the Costa del Sol with over 11 years experience. You can contact them via their website at http://www.theskydoctor.com or via telephone 952 763 840 / 635 400 099