Freesat is a relatively new entrant to the Satellite TV market. It uses the same hardware as a Sky setup, but as the name suggests, the service is completely free. All you need to pay for is the Freesat card itself.
Freesat cards generally come with a new satellite setup, but if you are downgrading from sky or have performed the installation yourself, you will have to purchase one of these from a shop specialising in Satellite equipment. Do not panic though, they are not expensive.
If you have a recently installed satellite system without a card, you will notice that when you turn on your TV and satellite receiver, nothing happens. This is because all the subscription information is stored on the freesat card and without it, the receiver doesn’t know how to interpret the signals coming from satellite.
The reason a card is required is to prevent unauthorised people from viewing the channels. Much in the same way as a standard Sky installation, where all the channels you have paid for and are authorised to view are stored on the channel, instructing the box which you can and can’t view.
Sky freesat cards are used extensively by British ex-pats living in Europe as it gives them the opportunity to watch British TV channels on the continent. When used in any UK Sky digibox, channels on offer include: Al Jazeera, Bid TV, Chart Show TV, Christmas Shop, EuroNews, Game In TV, Game Network UK, God Channel, Islam channel, Men and Motors, Playboy, Poker Channel, Thomas Cook TV and hundreds more.
There are certain popular channels which do not require a freesat card to unscramble, although you must make sure that your satellite dish is capable of receiving the Astra 2D signal on 28.2 degrees east. These include: BBC1, BBC2,BBC 4, BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, BBC Three, CBBC Channel, CBEEBIES, CNN International Europe, ITV, ITV News, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and Sky News.
If, when you try and pick these channels up, you get a message reading ‘No satellite signal is being received’, ‘Searching for listings’, or ‘there is a technical fault’ then chances are, your dish is not big enough to receive the signals from the Astra 2D satellite. (This generally affects only viewers on the continent and not customers in the mainland UK). You may be able to upgrade your Satellite to pick these signals up, but consult a local satellite engineer for advice before going to Thailand to steal the iPSTAR-1.