What is Freesat?
Freesat is a free (no subscription) digital TV satellite service which offers over 140 digital TV and radio channels. The service was launched on 6th May 2008 as a joint venture between the BBC and ITV.
When Freesat was originally conceived one of its main aims was to provide greater coverage for areas where reception was poor or non existent. As we will see however, the service is turning into much more than an alternative to other forms of reception.
Freesat should not be confused with Freeview, the free digital terrestrial channel which has been around longer. Many of you may already be watching Freeview programmes which can be picked up through an existing aerial.
In addition to a growing number of TV channels, Freesat also gives you access to fast digital text and enhanced interactivity, as well as digital subtitles and audio description.
Why switch from Freeview to Freesat?
Freesat has the advantage of around 98% UK coverage (although Freeview is catching up fast). The major advantage however is the greater bandwidth, which allows Freesat to broadcast more channels; and tantalizingly for those of us who are craving High Definition (HD) material for our shinny new flat panel TV's, Freesat comes with two HD channels, BBC and ITV HD. Of course, an alternative is Sky HD, but you will pay a subscription charge which increases if you want HD content.
Because of the extra bandwidth, the number of Freesat channels will increase over time (already up from around 80 at launch to over 140) and there are likely to be more HD channels, with Channel 4 and Five HD likely to arrive soon.
You may have heard of another service, 'Freesat from Sky' which is indeed a no subscription digital TV service. Through Sky's free service you can view most if not all that Freesat offers although for High Definition content you will have to upgrade to a monthly subscription package.
Why don't I just use Sky or Virgin TV services?
It's true, Sky and Virgin offer a comparable service, and in Sky's case a much greater range of High Definition programming. Being subscription based however, you will need to pay a monthly charge for receiving programmes from both providers. In the case of Freesat, a one of cost for a set-top box capable of receiving Freesat or a TV with the functionality built in along with a satellite dish is a one of cost with no monthly subscription required.
How do I get started?
The next section in our guide to Freesat describes how you can start to enjoy this exciting new service ...