Official Harvard Statement On Box Failures

Following our post regarding the software Update which caused some Goodmans, Grundig and Bush Freesat boxes to fail, Harvard International have released the following statement:

As a result of a recent over-the-air download to Goodmans, Grundig and Bush Freesat HD digital boxes, some boxes have experienced problems. Whilst the number affected is limited, the cause of this problem is nevertheless under urgent and active investigation by Harvard International in conjunction with its suppliers.

Meanwhile, Freesat viewers who have reported this problem are each being contacted and arrangements are being made to ensure they can continue to enjoy the full Freesat service. This process is ongoing and will be completed by Sunday 25th October.

This issue concerns Goodmans, Grundig and Bush Freesat HD Digital Boxes only. Freesat viewers and owners of these boxes who are experiencing this problem, and who have not already provided their details, should contact the Harvard Helpline T: 0871 230 1777. We can assure all affected customers that they will receive a satisfactory resolution based on their specific requirements.

Harvard International wishes to apologise sincerely to the Freesat viewers and users of its Bush, Goodmans and Grundig Digital Boxes who have experienced this problem, and who have been inconvenienced by not being able to access the Freesat service.

Are Manufacturers Missing An Opportunity?

We’ve just been advised that Alba Group’s next consignment of Freesat SD boxes (Grundig, Goodmans and Bush) have failed pre-release testing, therefore it is suggested that there will be no further availability of Freesat SD units until late June / early July.

Are other manufacturers missing an opportunity here? We think so. Surely it wouldn’t take too much investment in time and money for an existing manufacturer such as Humax or Metronic to develop an SD version and cash in whilst Alba Group are having difficulties.

Freesat is promoted on the basis of HD as well as “free from subscription” digital TV, but there are already approx. 80,000 SD boxes in customers homes so demand is most certainly there for a cheap alternative to a HD spec’d receiver.

The question of SD receiver availability was posed to Freesat in a recent FAQ session; it will be interesting to see what their take on this situation is.

Goodmans Launch New Freesat Box

Alba Group, the manufacturer of the Goodmans brand have launched a second generation Goodmans Freesat SD Digital Box, model number GFSAT101SD.

Goodmans Launch New Freesat Box
Click to enlarge

We were unaware of this new unit coming to market so are a little short on information. We can only presume that this supersedes the previous GFSAT100SD model.

Looking at the connections on the back, Goodmans have removed the Video Out Scart and LNB Output leaving just an LNB Input and single Scart Socket for connecting to your television. Removal of the LNB Output is probably a good idea, as it was a technical feature from the analogue days that should never had made it to the Freesat units…but removing the Video Out Scart will limit the ability for customers to record to external devices such as DVD/Video players.

We are unsure at this time whether the other Freesat SD models, Bush and Grundig (also Alba Group) will follow the same path of reducing the number of ports; and it is unclear whether the HD models will also be without, or whether this is to try and encourage HD box sales further.

Argos say no more Bush SD

Take this with a pinch of salt as it has come from Argos customer service; but in an email to a reader (Derek) of joinfreesat, Argos have told him that they will not be receiving any more stock of Bush Freesat SD digital boxes.

The conversation came about when the reader contacted Argos to request a replacement for a faulty Bush receiver; the email response explained that their current stock had all been sold and that they would not be receiving more. One can only assume they were willing to refund but nothing more.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Bush Freesat Box.

I am so sorry you have not been able to order a replacement for the freesat box. We have totally sold out and we will not be getting any new stock in. I hope you can find a suitable alternative from our wide product range.

Should you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us on 0845 640 2020.


Argos Direct E-Commerce Customer Service Team.

It’s understandable that retailers some times stop selling products, depending on how successful they are, but given that not only is the Bush brand name owned by Argos, Freesat SD boxes have been selling incredibly well and Alba Group as a whole are not able to keep up with demand.

This of course might all be Chinese whispers at Argos towers, so if we find out anything more, we’ll let you know.

Edit (28-Apr-09): We have had a subsequent response to suggest that Freesat SD boxes will be available again around the 22nd May 2009. Argos giving us the run around!

Shortage Of Freesat SD Boxes Continues

Once again there appears to be a shortage in supply of Freesat SD Digital Boxes. At present all Freesat SD receivers are manufactured by Alba Group, in the brand names of Grundig, Goodmans and Bush.

It would seem that Alba Group have taken the decision to build to order only, rather than producing large volumes to meet future demand.

Whilst this can be understood from a financial perspective, especially in today’s market, it doesn’t exactly promote Freesat in a good light when the low cost option is not available in-store or online.

There is certainly a good opportunity for further manufacturers to come on board and build low cost options to compete with Alba Group’s lack of supply, but it seems those already in agreement with Freesat (Humax, Metronic and TechniSat) don’t see standard-definition only boxes as a priority.

We can’t seem to get a response from Alba Group on why they have taken this approach, but will pursue Freesat for their opinion on the current shortage/situation.

Freesat SD Digital Boxes set for return

Little has been known of the reason why Alba Group have not been distributing Freesat SD Digital Boxes to retailers for some time. Most retailers ran out of stock a couple of months ago when availability dried out.

It seems now that Grundig, Goodmans and Bush branded receivers are due a come back within days, with one big difference…price! It appears that due to the weak pound, plus possible increases in manufacturing costs, that the trade price has increased by approx. £15 per unit, so expect the new retail price to hover around £65, not leaving much of a margin between the SD and HD variants.

The rumours of a 2nd generation box are true, which should launch around April/May, but are not the reason for the lack of supply over the past few months, this is believed, although not confirmed to be down to lack of component availability, i.e. Alba Group had not anticipated the high uptake of their Freesat receivers and didn’t have enough parts ready!

With availability again of SD boxes, plus the announcement of new products from Panasonic and TechniSat, sale volumes of Freesat, which are currently at 250,000 should rocket…no wonder Freesat are considering a large advertising campaign this Spring.

Shortage Of Freesat Everywhere

Freesat must be absolutely furious at the moment, having announced a fantastic 200,000 sales in 8 months since May 2008, it appears that the majority of retailers have no stock of the biggest selling products.

Alba Group have not distributed any Grundig or Goodmans SD/HD boxes since October/November 2008, and with Argos now owning the Bush brand, these are unlikely to be seen for sale anywhere but Argos. We are waiting for confirmation from Alba Group, but it’s been hinted that a 2nd generation box is in development which might mean no supply until February or maybe even March!

There’s no such issue with Humax’s HD Freesat box (FOXSAT-HD), they are still available everywhere, but the PVR version (FOXSAT-HDR) remains in very short supply, with no distribution since before Christmas! Humax have indicated that the PVR’s will be available from the major retailers and independents this week, but not in large volumes, with increased quantities expected from February. We of course will let you know when/where stock becomes available, alternatively visit Maplin who are taking pre-orders with an estimated delivery date of 14 days.

Panasonic’ supply of Freesat IDTV’s seems fine, no major issues on any of their screen sizes. John Lewis have said to a number of potential customers that the 42in Freesat Plasma (TH-42PZ81) has been discontinued. Panasonic have confirmed to us that this is certainly not the case and both the LCD and Plasma’s have all been selling very well.

Hopefully all these shortages are just a blip, a result of Christmas shutdowns etc; using the excuse of the present economic climate shouldn’t be much of a factor given that the large majority of the distributors have firm orders placed, they just can’t get the supply.

Visit our product pages to help you find available stock from the major retailers

What Should We Expect From Freesat In 2009?

With 2009 fast approaching, what can we expect from Freesat in the new year? Our poll which continues on the left hand side would suggest that more than 50% of you want C4HD as a priority, but in reality will that happen? We know that C4HD is currently tied into agreement (encrypted) with Sky so unless they can terminate early, or the contract concludes in 2009, can we expect this channel at all in the coming year! We will continue to try and find out the in’s and out’s of the contract, but if anyone knows linked to C4 or Sky, let us know.

So what is more likely to appear in 2009? Well BBC are still promising the on-demand iPlayer, directly linked to your Freesat digital box via the Ethernet port. This seems likely to go ahead around spring time, assuming no further delays. Kangaroo looks dead in the water at this point.

Will we see more manufacturers on board? Possible, talks are on-going with a number of large manufacturers although given the current economic climate, this could be a little longer than expected. It’s certain that Metronic will have their HD digital box out soon, although retailing at £150 wouldn’t result in many sales. Metronic’s PVR receiver is also due within the first quarter of 2009, although again, this could be delayed given that the HD receiver from them already has. Alba Group are said to be developing a PVR too, but no timescale as yet, and rumours of Panasonic working on a combined PVR and Blu-ray player/recorder just won’t go away, although the official PR release at this stage is that nothing is in the pipe-line.

So what about other channels? Well Freesat’s target of 200 channels has not yet been reached, so the remaining FTA channels can certainly be expected in the coming months, although will this include FTA channels such as Sky News, we are still awaiting confirmation (don’t forget Sky News and others can be added in non-freesat mode). Will channel Five manage to find space on 2D to bring us Fiver and Five US, lets hope so. As for other channels, well many still expect that the line-up should/will match Freeview, but that’s highly unlikely, as channels such as Dave, UK Gold etc are tied into subscription contracts on DSAT with Sky, so unless these channels/networks can find ways of raising revenue through advertising rather than subscription, it’s not going to happen unless Freesat’s viewing audience substantially increases.

Most will no doubt agree that ITV HD need to drastically improve the quality and quantity of HD programming, at the very least to match a constantly improving BBC HD. Would ITV HD benefit from having a separate channel than using the existing red button facility? Maybe, but the possible downside of this would be access to the channel via Sky, which in-turn could reduce Freesat’s potential viewing figures.

Rather than expected, we hope that BBC and ITV can improve the quality of sound on Freesat, with many, if not all programmes being broadcast in stereo, rather than Dolby 5.1 allowing us to enjoy films etc in surround sound quality. This must surely be a priority?

The platform thus far has been largely successful, but lets hope for an even better year ahead for Freesat, with increased popularity and exposure.

Happy new year from all involved with and thanks to all of you that have contributed over the past year.

Low Stock And Price Hikes For Freesat SD Receivers

It is believed that Alba Group, who currently manufacture all Freesat standard-definition digital boxes (Grundig, Goodmans and Bush) are struggling to meet the demands of their products. Supply has been massively strained over the last few weeks with many of the major retailers and independents now without stock.

In addition, it’s also suggested that Alba Group have increased their trade prices by more than £10 per unit to cover demand/manufacturing costs so expect to see retail prices rise soon to in the region of £60.

If you are looking to purchase a standard-definition Freesat Digital Box, now may be the time to buy, before either they run out everywhere, or the price increases.

Let’s hope it’s only a temporary issue as the supply has been very good for the past 8 months and the price is at an acceptable level for the products.