The Benefits of Free To Air

The Benefits of Free To Air

‘Free To Air’ (FTA) is a term that is used when referencing satellite or terrestrial television broadcasts that are, as the term suggests, free to view. Over the years this term has more often than not been in reference to free to view satellite channels. In this blog we are going to look deeper into the meaning and what you can expect to receive when viewing channels on the Free To Air platform.

One of the major benefits of Free To Air satellite is that you are able to receive it pretty much anywhere you go when travelling in your motorhome or caravan with the correct equipment. With the exception of being located on a site that has very tall or heavily bloomed trees blocking your line of sight to the satellite, there are some great products available for the motorhome/caravan industry.

The Difference Between Free To Air Providers

Currently in this country there are two different ways to receive our live TV broadcasts over the air (OTA). In other words, if we take streaming out of the equation then the only channels we can receive are via, either a satellite dish or a terrestrial aerial. Our two main free providers of content are ‘Freesat’ on the satellite platform and ‘Freeview’ on the terrestrial aerial platform. Currently both platforms are owned by Digital UK following a recent merger. This means both platforms offer a very similar channel line up and they have stated that they plan to make these line ups identical in the near future.

So where does the term Free To Air sit with these two providers? Whilst both formats offer free content, they very rarely use the term Free To Air. This is because Free To Air suggests whatever you receive is free, which is of course true, however in the satellite format, whilst ‘Freesat’ offers all of their channels for free, there are still some channels available to view for free from the Astra satellite that don’t fall under the ‘Freesat’ umbrella and therefore don’t make their channel line up on their products. Freeview on the other hand is much simpler. All channels you receive through your digital aerial will appear on your TV or PVR (Hard drive recorder) in the same order from one product to the next, with none being hidden from view.

Free To Air Vs Freesat

So now that we have narrowed down our content and providers we can see this leaves us with a direct comparison between Free To Air and ‘Freesat’. Firstly the channel line up is different, in both amount and the way they are structured to appear on your equipment. Free to air on Astra 28.2 currently has 470 channels available to view, Freesat has just over 170.

You will see a big difference when you tune in your equipment on how these channels are structured in the order they appear. So for example, on ‘Freesat’, after your first tune-in, the channels will be in a logical order. BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 etc. However on a Free to Air system the channels will be put in the order that the equipment downloads them from the satellite, not in the conventional order. Whilst this can appear clunky and tricky to view your channels, all products do enable you to set up a ‘favourites’ list, so that you can put them into a more logical line up. However this is a small inconvenience when factoring in the extra channels you can receive. Free to air also has one major benefit that ‘Freesat’ cannot do, and that is, receiving foreign stations when you are abroad travelling. This is because Free to air receivers are designed to be able to look at multiple satellites, not just Astra 28.2 as ‘Freesat’ does. So if you’re on a European trip to Italy and would like to see what free to air stations are available there, you can do so by simply selecting the correct satellite when you tune in your receiver and adjust your dish accordingly. So as you can see, there is quite a difference in the amount of channels you can receive using a Free To Air satellite receiver over a ‘Freesat’ rival.


Free To Air In A Motorhome

Motorhomes and Caravans are probably the most ideal place to have a Free To Air satellite system. Due to the very nature that you will be travelling to different regions and possibly countries, free to air is certainly the most flexible way to view these channels. When you install a ‘Freesat’ based product, it will ask you for a postcode so that it can put the correct regional broadcast in the correct slot, i.e. BBC1 south on channel 101 or ITV Meridian on 103. With a Free to air receiver, there are no regional settings, so you can put your home region as your preferred region no matter where you are travelling to. As mentioned previously, the other big advantage of Free to air in a motorhome or caravan is that you can view other countries’ TV broadcasts. However when you do move sites in a motorhome or caravan, this does mean you obviously have to change the alignment of your dish. So depending on your setup this can be done on conventional dish using a satellite finding meter

Or if you have an auto finding satellite dish then all the hard work is done for you.


Free To Air Abroad

Many people who use Free to air satellite receiving equipment when touring in their motorhome or caravan want to be able to keep up to date with events back home in the UK and this is again possible using either a Free to air or ‘Freesat’ system. However, there is one big caveat to this and that is the footprint of the satellite that you are trying to watch. In recent times the satellite that was responsible for viewing UK FTA broadcasts (Astra 28.2) made its footprint much smaller in an effort to stop people being able to view the UK broadcasts easily. This has meant that when on the continent, more often than not, a bigger size dish is required to pick these channels up. We have covered this in previous blogs, so if you would like to learn more about the footprints and dish sizes please take a look.

However, as previously mentioned, if you wanted to sample the local TV of the country that you are visiting then by far the easiest way to do this is by having a system that will automatically align your dish to the desired satellite via a motor which is controlled by the receiver inside the motorhome/caravan. We do a couple of variations here at Maxview that are ideal for this. Here is the link again to our Target product.


Free To Air Picture Quality

The picture quality on a Free To Air satellite system will be no different to that of a ‘Freesat’ one as they are both digital receivers and can both receive HD content. So although the FTA receivers only cost a fraction of their ‘Freesat’ counterparts, the picture quality should be no different.

In summary then, ‘Freeview’, ‘Freesat’ and FTA are all free to view formats. Basically any satellite that say they are ‘Free To Air’ as opposed to saying ‘Freesat’ means that you will be able to pick up every station that the satellite has to offer rather than just the selected ones picked up by the franchise of ‘Freesat’.

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