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What is Freesat? Free TV through your satellite dish

What is Freesat?

Latest news for FreesatFreesat is a non-subscription digital satellite TV service, similar in some ways to Freeview but needing a satellite dish instead of a TV aerial.

It’s a ‘free to air’ service, meaning the channels are free to watch – there’s no cost to you besides the initial set up. There are standard definition and HD Freesat set-top boxes and Freesat TVs. And there’s the word ‘Free’ in the title.

What is Freesat?
What is Freesat?

What channels can I get on Freesat?

Most of the Freesat channels available are the same as the ones you can get on Freeview.

The standard PSB and ITV channels are all present and correct. BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four plus BBC News and BBC Parliament are on board, as are ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 (plus their timeshift equivalents).

Channel 4, E4, More4 and Film 4 are available on Freesat as well as Channel 5, 5USA and 5Star. As well as this, there are on demand services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and The Space available on Freesat.

There are some differences between the Freesat and Freeview programme guides. Dave, for example, isn’t available on Freesat despite it being one of the more popular Freeview channels.

Freesat does have other channels which Freeview doesn’t, such as CBS Action (currently showing the digitally remastered original Star Trek series), Movies4Men and the Horror Channel.

What is Freesat?

What about HD channels?

There are a handful of HD channels available on Freesat including BBC One HD, BBC HD, Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD.

A full list of Freesat channels is available here as a PDF.

What do I need for Freesat?

To get basic Freesat you’ll need two things: a satellite dish and either a Freesat set-top box or TV set.

If you’ve already got a dish on your home then you’re good to go – old Sky digital satellite dishes will work because Sky uses the same satellites to broadcast TV as Freesat does. If not, then you’ll need to arrange for an engineer to visit and install a dish on your home.

If you’re not the homeowner, then you’ll need to check with your landlord first about having a dish fitted. If they’re not happy about it, or the building is listed, then you may need to find a workaround. For instance, a dish can often be hidden in the eaves of a building where it’s invisible to anyone except the birds, or clamped to balcony railing of a flat, making it a temporary fixture that doesn’t affect the fabric of the building.

What is Freesat?Freesat set-top box vs Freesat TV. Which should I get?

Once you’ve got a dish sorted out, you’ll need to decide whether or not you want a Freesat set-top box or a Freesat TV.

One advantage of having a set-top box is that it’s easy to change or upgrade your Freesat equipment, or move a Freesat box into another room in the house. Another plus is that many Freesat boxes come with hard drives inside, letting you record programmes for later viewing. Freesat TV sets tend not to come with recording features built in.

The advantage of buying an all-in-one Freesat TV means you’ve got everything in one device all ready to go.

If you’ve already invested in a large TV and home cinema system for your living room, then getting a Freesat set-top box might be easier. It saves you having to replace your TV with a Freesat TV if you’ve already got one, or you’ve got your heart set on a shiny new panel that’s not part of the Freesat range.

What is Freesat?Freesat: Is there anything else I need?

If you want to make use of the on-demand services on Freesat, like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and The Space, then you’ll need to get a Freesat set-top box or Freesat TV with an internet connection.

Most Freesat set-top boxes and TV sets will come with an Ethernet port on the back. All you have to do is connect your set-top box or TV to your broadband router with an Ethernet cable.

If your router is in another room to where your Freesat TV is set up, then you can use Powerline/Homeplug adapters to create a connection from one room to whichever room your router is in, using your home wiring as an ad-hoc network.

This is really easy to do. Powerline adapters plug into mains sockets – plug one in each of the rooms where your Freesat set-top box or TV is and the other in the room where your router is.

Then connect the set-top box/TV and router to their respective adapters with Ethernet cables and you’re good to go.

Finally, if you’re going to be making use of on-demand TV delivered over the internet, you’ll need a broadband speed of at least 2Mbps.

What is Freesat?

How much does Freesat cost?

A standard Freesat engineer visit costs around £80. If you’ve already got a Sky dish fixed and you’re no longer with Sky then you ought to be good to go. As both Freesat and Sky broadcast from the same satellites all you’d need to do is plug the same satellite IF cable in to your Freesat box or TV and you should be fine – no retuning required.

Aside from the cost of your Freesat set-top box or TV, there’s no additional costs with Freesat. No subscriptions, no contracts, no hidden charges.

What’s the cheapest Freesat box?

Freesat boxes start at £35 for the basic, standard definition models like the Goodmans GFSAT101SD. This is a very basic Freesat box with a 7 day programme guide, no recording functions and no internet capabilities (so no on demand services).

More advanced Freesat HD set-top boxes include the Humax Foxsat-HDR Freesat HD Recorder. Costing £225, this has twin tuners (letting you record one programme while watching another), an Ethernet port (letting you access on-demand services) and broadcasts HD channels up to 1080p. It comes with a 500GB hard drive built-in, which lets you record up to 80 hours of HD or 200 hours of SD.

What’s the cheapest Freesat TV?

Freesat TV sets vary in price, with some like Samsung’s 6 Series UE32ES6710 32-inch set costing £630.

This features built in Wi-Fi so you can connect to your broadband router wirelessly instead of using Ethernet or Powerline to access on-demand services like BBC iPlayer.

Higher up the scale are Freesat TVs like Panasonic’s Viera TX-L55DT50B, costing £3,000. A 55-inch TV, this Freesat-ready set comes with smart TV features like the ability to chat on Twitter and Facebook while you’re watching live TV and make Skype video calls.

Normally an Ethernet cable will come included in the box of whatever Freesat equipment you get, if you’ve bought a set-top box or TV that’s capable of using on-demand services. If not, you can pick up Ethernet cables fairly cheaply, from PC World, Maplin and Currys.

Powerline equipment, depending what you reach for, varies more in cost. The Solwise Ethernet gear costs £20 whereas the more pricey and sophisticated Power Ethernet Socket costs £110.

Latest news for Freesat

YouTube launching on Freesat this year

YouTube will be coming to Freesat later this year, letting viewers tune in and stream their favourite cat videos on the big screen.

Details are pretty thin on the ground right now, but we know that the service will be built on HTML5, which is what FreeTime from Freesat runs on. This suggests that YouTube will sit next to the likes of BBC iPlayer and ITV Player in the FreeTime on-demand menu.

What is Freesat? YouTube launching on Freesat this year
What YouTube on Freesat could look like.

We don’t yet know if regular Freesat as well as the new Free Time from Freesat smart TV platform will get YouTube.

What we do know is that YouTube on Freesat will feature a ‘visually stunning and fully interactive viewing experience.’ Hopefully it’ll follow in the footsteps of the Nintendo Wii YouTube app which featured one of the best YouTube-on-TV interfaces we’ve seen.

As well as giving viewers the chance to play their regular YouTube favourites, you should also be able to watch YouTube’s own pay-to-view channels. We’re expecting that logging in will be enabled via YouTube Leanback which should make things easier – having to input lengthy email addresses and passwords on your TV set is a real chore.

There’s no launch date as such for this and no word yet if this’ll be coming to a particular channel number on the Freesat programme guide or via a separate on-demand panel. More information as and when we get it.

Update: Freesat has confirmed that YouTube will be coming to FreeTime only and not regular Freesat as well. You’ll also be able to log in directly with your YouTube details through the On Demand section of the FreeTime menu.

February 11, 2013

Sky News, Pick TV and Challenge TV now live

What's new for Freesat?   Sky News, Pick TV and Challenge TV now live

Freesat has added Sky News, Pick TV (formerly Sky 3) and Challenge TV to its channel line-up.

The three new channels are available to watch on Freesat now and will be available on the following channels after you’ve done a quick re-tune:

Sky News: Channel 202
Pick TV: Channel 144
Challenge TV: Channel 145

While we’ve still not got Dave or Yesterday we’re happy about this all the same – we might not get Red Dwarf repeats but we can get our Craig Charles fix via Challenge’s repeats of Takeshi’s Castle.

November 3, 2012

Humax Free Time from Freesat box HDR-1000S 1TB box now on sale

The bigger 1TB edition of the Humax HDR-1000S Free Time from Freesat box is on sale now, going for £299.

That’s a mere £20 more than the standard HDR-1000S box which comes with a 500GB drive – sounds like a steal to us.

 Humax Free Time from Freesat box HDR-1000S 1TB box now on sale

The Humax HDR-1000S is the first product that works with Free Time from Freesat, a new digital TV platform which blends subscription-free digital satellite TV with on-demand programmes powered by BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. Content from 4oD and Demand 5 are coming later this year and there’s scope for other on-demand services to arrive on Free Time along the way.

We reviewed the HDR-1000S recently and loved the slick blend of broadcast channels and on-demand as well as how easy to set up the whole thing was – read our Humax HDR-1000S review here.

You can buy the Humax HDR-1000S from John Lewis, Argos, Currys and all leading high street retailers.

October 24, 2012

Humax Free Time from Freesat box HDR-1000S on sale this week

The first Free Time from Freesat box, the Humax HDR-1000S, goes on sale on Wednesday the 17th of October.

The Humax HDR-1000S costs £279 and will be available from John Lewis, Currys, Comet, Argos and Euronics as well as independent retailers. This version of the HDR-1000S comes with a 500GB hard drive which lets you record up to 300 hours of standard definition programs.

As well as this you’ll have access to all of the regular Freesat channels, plus BBC iPlayer and ITV Player apps and Freesat’s new Free Time feature which lets you access previously broadcasted shows directly from the programme guide and the new Now & Next ands Showcase recommendations features.

We’ve inquired about the availability and price of the 1TB edition of the Humax HDR-1000S and we’re waiting to hear back.

Recombu Digital was lucky enough to be at the launch event of Free Time from Freesat and we’ve been able to get plenty of hands-on pictures and video of the service in action.

Update: Humax has confirmed that the 1TB edition of the new Freesat HDR-1000S will be out in shops next week. We’re still waiting on pricing details for this but at least those after a bit more recording space with their new Free Time service know they don’t have long to wait.

October 17, 2012

1TB Humax Free Time box to have WiFi

The forthcoming 1TB edition of Humax’s Free Time from Freesat receiver with be equipped with WiFi connectivity as well as Ethernet.

Humax’s commercial director confirmed the extra feature, speaking to TV industry newsletter Digital TV Europe at the IBC 2012 TV technology show. However, the release date and price of the 1TB product have not been announced.

September 10, 2012

Free Time from Freesat announced today

Freesat today announced Free Time, the next generation of Freesat HD which lets you watch programmes you’ve missed, much like YouView does.

Connecting to a Freesat satellite dish and your home broadband via Ethernet, your Free Time box will broadcast the regular Freesat channels as normal and pull in on-demand content from the web.

So if you’ve missed an episode of EastEnders then going back in time in the programme guide will let you select that episode – your Free Time box will then pull up the episode from the BBC iPlayer.

Whats new for Freesat Freetime from Freesat adds YouView style catch-up EPG

Freetime (or as it’s styled) will be launched before Christmas with the first set-top boxes being made by Humax, Sagemcom and Manhattan. 500GB and 1TB models will be available, with prices starting from £279.

Head over here for our hands-on pictures and video walkthrough with Free Time from Freesat and an early look at the first Humax-made Free Time box.

September 4, 2012

Next-generation of Freesat details emerge

Freesat will launch the first of its next-generation satellite TV receivers on Tuesday (September 4), marking the first upgrade to its technology standards since it launched in 2008.

Dubbed the ‘G2’ spec, details have been closely guarded, but it was announced in 2011 that the lead manufacturer will be Sagemcom.

One of the key upgrades to Freesat is expected to be YouView-style support for iPlayer-style video delivered over broadband. Many Freesat HD products already support iPlayer, but it’s not been guaranteed.

Encryption for on-demand TV is also expected to arrive, enabling paid-for services like Netflix, Lovefilm and Blinkbox to launch on new Freesat products.

Other rumoured features include support for DiSEqC 1.2 to control motorised multi-satellite dishes, and single cable routing, which makes it easier to have several satellite receivers around the home.

August 30, 2012


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