As Freesat will be an ever changing service, with new facilities and options available all the time, we thought its important to cover the basic FAQ’s in one section, rather than spread over the blog pages. We will continue to update this page so the information is always correct. The date of update can be found below. If you have any questions yourself, or spot any mistakes, please let us know.
Don’t forget to visit our ‘how to’ section for answers to specific questions asked concerning specific options and products.
What is Freesat?
Freesat is a digital satellite TV service which launched on 6th May 2008, and is available to almost all households across the UK. For a one-off payment for a digital box, satellite dish and installation, Freesat currently offers you around 170 TV/Radio channels, including BBC, ITV, C4, Five and many more. If your TV is ‘HD Ready’, Freesat will also give you access to the world of ‘free’ High Definition programmes, presently BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD (with the appropriate digital box).
How many channels can I get?
Because Freesat is delivered via satellite (i.e. same satellite setup as Sky TV), there’s a huge range of TV, radio and interactive services to choose from with around 170 channels presently available, and increasing all the time.
You won’t be overwhelmed by all these channels – they’ve been organised into easy to use categories within the Freesat electronic programme guide (EPG), so you’ll easily find what you want at the press of a button.
Where can I buy Freesat?
Freesat is available through selected high street retailers (see right hand column) and some independent retailers. Help support joinfreesat.co.uk by buying online through the links supplied. Visit our price comparison pages here.
How much does it cost?
A one-off payment will get you the lot. You pay for the digital box (from around £50); and the satellite dish and installation (from around £80). There is a selection of digital boxes available with a range of functionality to deliver additional benefits, such as personal video recorders (PVR – Freesat+), high definition (HD – Freesat HD), standard definition (SD – Freesat) and TVs with Freesat receivers built in (IDTV). NB: You will still need a satellite dish if you purchase a TV with an in-built Freesat receiver.
Are there any ongoing costs?
No! Freesat is just that, a free service. Once you’ve purchased the equipment, its all free, forever.
What’s the reason behind Freesat?
The main intention of Freesat is to ensure the consumer has choice when it comes to the digital switchover. When the analogue signals switch off, it’s apparent that quite a large percentage of the UK would have no means of receiving an ‘acceptable’ digital signal from the current ‘Freeview‘ (by aerial) option. Freesat via satellite takes care of this, covering the whole of the UK (or most anyway!). The other reason is to clear up the misconception that pay-tv from BSkyB is the only satellite TV service in the UK. Freesat is deemed to be the long term replacement of Freeview.
What about HD?
Watching TV in high definition (HD) is an incredible experience. With five times as much picture detail as standard TV, HD makes a massive difference to your enjoyment of TV.
The BBC currently has two HD channel (BBC HD and simulcast channel BBC One HD), where you can watch live sport, national events, stunning natural history, landmark drama, world-class documentaries and more. ITV also have a channel (ITV1 HD) showcasing a number of premium films, prime-time drama’s and sporting events such as Champions League Football. Further additions also include the popular Channel 4 HD and award winning news channel NHK World HD. As the HD revolution progresses, more HD channels and services will be added to freesat over time.
11 million households already have HD-ready TV sets but until now haven’t been able to access HD programmes for free. Freesat will give you high definition programmes, guaranteed free from subscription.
If you have an HD-ready television, or are thinking of buying one, Freesat is for you!
Who’s behind Freesat?
Freesat is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV and comes to you from many of the same people that launched Freeview. Freesat came together formally as a joint venture in May 2007, and is funded 50/50 by its shareholders, ITV and the BBC. The joint venture is run on a ‘not for profit’ basis.
As TV advances with many more channel choices, interactive services, and high definition TV, these broadcasters want as many viewers in the UK as possible to have access to their new services, such as HD TV. ITV and the BBC believe that viewers should have the choice of accessing all of these services and more, without paying a subscription.
Can I get Freesat regardless of where I live in the UK?
Because Freesat’s content is delivered via satellite, almost every household in the UK will be in coverage. Only 2% of households will not be able to, and this is typically either because they won’t have ‘line of sight’ of the satellite due to obstructions, or because they live in a listed building which cannot gain approval for a satellite dish. That’s a massive improvement on Freeview’s 75% terrestrial aerial coverage.
For the technically-minded amongst you, if you have a 43cm or 60cm dish pointing towards Astra2 at 28.2° East / Eurobird at 28.5° East, you will be able to receive Freesat. Note that these satellites are also already in use for existing UK digital-satellite television platforms (Sky TV).
If I already have a SKY TV setup, can I just purchase the Freesat digital box?
Yes! If your existing Sky TV satellite setup is in working order, you’ll just be able to purchase the Freesat digital box and plug in, no need for installation by a professional etc. The channels are broadcast from the same satellite as used for BSkyB.
What if I already have a satellite dish on my house?
If you currently use this dish to receive services such as BBC and ITV (most likely through SKY), then your existing dish is probably suitable for receiving Freesat.
Will I need an aerial upgrade?
No. Freesat is not delivered through your aerial but via a satellite dish, so no need for aerial upgrades, but you will need a satellite dish. Don’t get confused between Freesat and Freeview.
What is digital switchover?
Starting in 2008 and ending in 2012, TV services in the UK will go completely digital, region by region. This process is called digital switchover. The UK’s old television broadcast signal (‘analogue’) is being switched off and replaced with a ‘digital’ signal. Any TV set that’s not converted to digital when switchover takes place will no longer be able to receive TV programmes. freesat is a great way to convert to digital TV.
Will it mean my TV will work after digital switchover?
Yes! If you have Freesat you will have digital TV, so whichever TV set in your house you connect to, it will be ready for digital switchover.
Do I need an HD-ready television to watch high definition programmes?
You need an HD-Ready television and an HD digital box in order to view high definition programmes. You will need to connect the digital box to your television via HDMI (Component is somewhat of a dead technology now!). Once you have the right equipment installed, you can watch live sport, national events, stunning natural history, landmark drama, world-class documentaries and more in amazing HD.
If you haven’t yet got an HD-ready television you can still be prepared for the future by getting a Freesat HD digital box. With a Freesat HD digital box you can still view HD programmes on your standard definition television but the content will be scaled down to standard definition. If you buy a Freesat standard definition box you will not be able to view HD programmes even if you have an HD-ready television.
What about interactivity/red button?
The BBC offers a wide range of red button services on Freesat. You are able to read the latest news and sport stories 24 hours a day, check out what’s happening in the world of business, enjoy entertainment news and quickly access the official lottery results. Coverage of the London Olympics 2012 utilized the interactive service, allowing you to choose between coverage of different sports and highlights on over 20 channels, it was a huge success.
BBC have somewhat diluted the amount of red button services since due to funding, but the choice is still wide ranging.
Will Freesat have subtitling and audio description capabilities?
All Freesat receivers offer Subtitles and Audio Description, though the menu options for selecting them may differ slightly between manufacturers and models.
What about teletext, is that available on every channel?
Not yet, Freesat are still working on this, so teletext services are only really available on the BBC channels and Teletext’s own channel, 986.
Can I get the range of C4 and Five channels on Freesat?
Yes, you can get all the Channel 4 family, including Channel 4, Channel 4 HD, E4, More4 and Film4, plus the +1 hour time-shift channels. You can also receive Channel 5, 5* and 5USA, plus the +1 hour time-shift channels. The only one missing is Channel 5 HD which is currently tied into contract with Sky as a free-to-view (FTV) channel, meaning encrypted for access only on Sky, but not requiring a subscription. We expect Channel 5 HD will make an appearance in the future when their existing contract with Sky ends; there is rumour this will be in 2013.
What on-demand services can I receive?
Selective Freesat receivers can pick up BBC iPlayer (channel 901) and ITV Player (channel 903), utilising your broadband connection (minimum speed 2mbps). 4OD and Demand 5 are also expected to make an appearance in late 2012/early 2013 but only on the new Freesat <free time> receivers.
Will we see more high profile channels on Freesat, like Dave, UK Gold, sports etc?
There’s a possibility of these channels, but that would be determined by the broadcasting channels themselves, not Freesat, as they would need to broadcast in the clear and buy in to Freesat’s TV guide. As Freesat’s popularity grows, the chances are more channels will consider a move to Freesat as the advertising opportunities should provide enough revenue to make it a worthwhile investment. At present channels such as Dave etc are subscription on satellite via Sky, so by going FTA they would need to recoup loss revenue from subscription fees and balance it with advertising.