|What is Free-To-Air?
We get many calls and emails asking "what is free to air, how does it work, and what channels can I get". This document will give you that knowledge on what satellites are available and what channels you can expect to get. The benefits of owning a free-to-air satellite system is you can have access to thousands of channels with no monthly programming bill. The only cost you will ever incur is the purchase of the satellite receiver, dish, and some installation supplies. Before we start looking at what hardware you will need, let's figure out what satellites and channels are available. Once we have established what satellites you want, picking an FTA system that is right for you will be very easy with the help of this document.
What satellites are available?
When contacting us with what satellites you want, all you have to tell us is the degree of position of the satellite and the name of the satellite.
For example, 129.0 West Galaxy 27 (The 129.0 West is the position of the satellite, and Galaxy 27 is the name of the satellite)
Occasionally the satellite name changes, so we usually refer to its position by degrees. Generally, the satellites that are viewable in North America are 61.5 Degrees West to 148 Degrees West. With that said, if you live on the west coast, it would be easier to get a satellite signal from a satellite that has a higher number (129.0 West for example) and if you are in the East, it would be easier to get 83.0 West.
Here is a diagram showing the locations and names of the most current satellites:
What are the most popular satellites?
125.0 West AMC-21 (PBS channels, some in HD) 123.0 West Galaxy 18 (many local channels around the USA, Fox, etc) 101.0 West AMC- 2 & 4 (History channel, Biography channel) 99.0 West Galaxy 16 (Fox network feeds) 97.0 West Galaxy 19 (many multi cultural channels, Arabic, Farsi, Russian, etc.) 83.0 West AMC-9 (RTN East and West channel, they are retro TV stations)
Before choosing between getting a stationary and motorized free-to-air satellite package, let's figure out what satellites you want. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE LIST OF FREE CHANNELS currently available via satellite.
Motorized vs. Stationary?
Now that you have an understanding on what satellites you want, let's go over the 2 types of free-to-air satellite systems you can get:
If you would like to point at just one satellite, you would need 1 LNB (remember, 1 LNB per satellite). If you want to point at more than 1 satellite and they are WITHIN 35 degrees of each other (97.0, 101.0, 123.0 for example), then you can use a multi LNB holder to hold each LNB together onto the satellite arm.
If you would like to view as many satellites as possible, then a motorized free-to-air satellite system works best because the dish is going to move from east to west and point to any satellite you choose. The motor is a piece of hardware that connects on the back of the satellite dish. No external power is needed for the motor as the satellite cable will power the motor. This is the best way to get maximum satellites and channels.
How easy is this to install?
We always recommend having a qualified satellite installer set up your dish for you, even more importantly on a motorized dish. We can provide a list of installers in your area. Depending on the complexity of your install it can range from $100 - $200 for a professional installation.
Alternatively, if you are willing to read some instructions and enjoy an afternoon off learning, you can install the satellite system yourself. Many customers set up stationary or motorized system with help from our included installation CD and access to our satellite angle calculator that is found in our learning center.
We also recommend going to www.youtube.com and watching some install videos from actual customers. We also give lifetime tech support to our customers through our online tech support community.
If you do decide to do the install yourself, here are some recommended accessories that will be useful to you.
If you are using more than 1 LNB, then you will want to combine those LNB lines (running a coax cable from each LNB) into the EMP 4X1 switch.
The switch is normally used outside the house; therefore you can have 1 line from each LNB going into the switch and have 1 line from the switch that will go into your receiver.
The benefits of purchasing an EMP 4X1 switch is that it's heavy-duty and weatherproof, which will provide protection from the elements like sun, rain, snow and ice.
We have do-it-yourself installation kits for both stationary and motorized systems:
We suggest 2 meters depending on your budget:
1) Analog Satellite Meter
This meter is a very basic satellite signal strength finder that will give you an indication of what satellite strength you are getting.
2) Accutrac 22 Pro
This digital meter will make it easier to find the satellites and give you a more accurate reading on the satellites you are on to help you tune the dish to the best picture quality.