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What is Free-to-Air

Mike's Digital Channel Lists
of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4
Free-to-Air TV & Audio Signals in North America:
Please visit here (updated regularly)

North American C-Band Satellite List - click here
North American Ku-Band Satellite List - click here
Atlantic Region C and Ku-band Satellite List 1 (78 to 45 West) - click here
Atlantic Region C and Ku-band Satellite List 2 (43 to 1 West) - coming soon


Free-To-Air is an often misunderstood method of distributing satellite TV and radio signals without the trouble or expense of a subscription system. It has nothing to do with DBS systems, and should not be seen as a way of getting those signals for free. Instead, Free-To-Air (also known as FTA) is a totally separate group of channels transmitting in a free digital format spread across dozens of satellites. It uses medium powered Ku-band satellites that typically require a 30 to 39 inch (75 to 100 cm) solid offset antenna, as well as many channels using the larger C-band antenna that is typically 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 meters) in diameter.

The most common North American FTA system is pointed at Ku-band satellite Galaxy 19, located at 97 degrees West longitude, which is due south from the middle of the country. Over 200 video and nearly 100 audio channels are now transmitted in free digital format for anyone equipped with the appropriate dish and receiver to view. Channels are available from around the world, with something of interest to just about anyone. English language news channels now include RT from Russia, Al Jazeera from Qatar, Press TV from Iran, JN-1 from Israel, CNC from China and the World Radio Network from London, U.K. There are over 60 channels of video and audio providing family programming as well as religious channels. Languages available span the globe, with about 40 channels in Farsi alone for the Persian/Iranian viewer. Nearly as many TV and radio channels in Arabic. Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, French and Spanish are also represented. It is truly the United Nations of broadcasting. Entry level systems use a 75 cm / 30 inch dish, although 85 to 90 cm sizes are strongly recommend to easily lock in some of the weaker channels during
periods of rainy weather.

If you are curious about exactly which channels are offered on this and other satellites, visit www.global-cm.net for its Free To Air channel charts. These are maintained by Mike Kohl at Global Communications in Wisconsin, who also happens to be part of the Manhattan-Digital team.

97 West is not the only place in the sky that has free programming on Ku band. There are channels available to much of North America from 30 to 125 West, scattered across the satellite arc. Enthusiasts of public television will find 14 feeds from PBS at 125 West. State networks from Montana and Oklahoma are there, in addition to national PBS networks and feed channels. Louisiana has three more PBS signals of its own on 87 West.

Those interested in news feeds will ultimately consider a motorized or multi antenna system. Ku-band is how satellite news-gathering trucks get their signals back to the home station, and many of these signals are in the clear. Motorized Ku-band antennas are sometimes a challenge to maintain, given the mixed quality in some Chinese made antenna motors found in today's market. Prepare to get your hands dirty and learn how to align a motorized system, if just for the sake of being able to fine tune the antenna when the need arises, especially if you live in an area with few technicians experienced with motors. The author of this article prefers the reliability of fixed multiple antennas that are connected to automatic switching systems. Access to signals is instant, without having to wait for an antenna to move, and there is little or no need for maintenance on systems wired directly to antennas fixed in one position. Still another step above multiple dishes is in retrofitting larger Ku-band antennas in the 1.8 to 2.4 meter (6 to 8 foot) diameter, for multiple satellite reception. You can greatly increase the reliability of Ku-band as well as DBS reception in bad weather with an oversized antenna that gets huge signal levels, and spans the ability to receive satellites over a 25 degree or greater chunk of satellite arc.

Study the Global Communications website for more ideas on this subject.
Go to www.global-cm.net


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