Sat4Free, which is based on the Freesat service available in the UK, gives Irish viewers access to all FTA UK channels including BBC One and Two, ITV, Channel 4, Film4, plus many more; in addition to a selection of UK and Irish radio channels.
The service offers both SD and HD receivers, which are re-badged Alba units displaying the Sat4Free name instead of Freesat. The EPG is also an edited Freesat version.
The pre-set region for this platform is Northern Ireland, with a postcode already programmed in. RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and TG4 are not available on this service, but RTÉ International will be, once launched as a Freesat exclusive channel later this year / early next year.
Sat4Free is being sold through Tesco, Powercity, Woddies DIY and Atlantic Homecare. The standard-definition version costs approximately €299, with high-definition available at approximately €399. This price includes installation. For those that don’t need installation, Powercity are selling at €89.95 (SD) and €199.95 (HD) without.
A PVR receiver is planned for the future, but Humax are not willing to comment on their involvement, so it’s likely the PVR will be of Alba Group brand, due in 2009. Panasonic are also said to be planning release of an IDTV version, although the existing Panasonic plasmas with Freesat built-in are available through ROI already.
With a service so closely matched to the Freesat service, we are quite surprised to find that Freesat have no involvement. We asked whether they knew about the service, and were told that it had been reported a number of times by members of the public. In a statement provided to us, Freesat said:
Freesat is a UK only service. It has not launched in any other countries and has no plans to do so.
We really can’t comment any further at this point.
It would be great to have a similar service in Ireland, but have to wonder what will happen next…