In order to watch digital satellite TV, you’ll need a dish to receive digital signals, a set-top box that can tune in and decode the signal, and a TV that can receive and display the signals from the box. You will also need to pay a subscription fee if you want to view some channels, such as certain sports and movie channels.
There are both free and pay-to-view digital satellite services. In both cases you will need to buy a dish and a set-top box and pay for installation. You will also need to make sure your TV can pick up and transmit the signals from the set-top box.
Installing your dish
Even if you are capable of tuning your TV and configuring your set-top box, putting up a satellite dish requires some expertise and equipment.
Like analogue satellite TV before it, digital satellite television requires a relatively small satellite dish that serves just your household. Some are designed to receive signals from just one satellite, others are designed to handle several satellites. Which type of dish will work for you depends somewhat on where you live - your installer should be able to advise you.
The dish is usually fixed to the roof or a wall of your house. Before buying one, you should check whether your local council has any restrictions on satellite dishes. The installer will choose the right location to ensure that the dish has a clear line of sight to the satellite(s). However, if you do not like the location he chooses, you can (and should) ask whether there's a less objectionable alternative.
As well as a satellite dish, you’ll need to purchase a set-top box that can tune in and decode the signals received by the dish. The set-top box may or may not include recording facilities and storage space for programmes.
Because the channels available via digital satellite are also available via digital cable, check what options you have in your area and do a careful price comparison before committing to a particular service.
Free service – or pay-to-view?
Free satellite TV is available from both Sky and Freesat, a service set up by the BBC and ITV to make digital satellite TV available for free across the country.
Currently, Freesat does not have facilities for separately adding pay-to-view channels. Sky offers a ’Freesat from Sky’ service, and also sells a number of add-on packages and premium sports and movie channels, for which you pay a monthly subscription fee.
You should make sure that you are not tied into an existing contract with another service before signing up for pay-to-view channels.