Internet TV specialist Michael Coard explains why and when you will be losing your British TV this year

WHEN Channel 5 disappeared in a puff of smoke before Christmas taking with it all those chestnuts such as CSI and Celebrity Big Brother, there was – perhaps understandably – little more than a minor ripple of concern

That was until the million or so British expats in Spain learnt that ITV and BBC might be next.

The horror of losing Coronation Street and Eastenders, not to mention X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, was too much to bear for some people, with one even commenting in a recent article that his wife would ‘force him to move back to Blighty if she lost her British TV’.

Action stations then for many, rushing out to find the best value solution to the upcoming problem… but do they really need to worry?

Well the short answer is ‘yes’, but it is not imminent and nobody knows exactly which parts of Spain will be affected.

What is pretty certain though is Andalucia is in for the chop. And even if you live in Gibraltar you will almost certainly lose your Freesat channels this summer.

It all stems back to the launch of the SES Astra Satellite fleet some 13 years ago since when expats on the Costa del Sol could enjoy their favourite television programs via this satellite with little interruption.

However the recent and planned improvements to the Astra Satellite fleet will change all this.

Let me explain.

Our television is provided by several individual satellites positioned in geo-stationary orbit at an approximate height of 22.000 miles above the earth at 28.2deg east of south.

The individual satellites are placed several miles apart from each other and they all help to create a strong and reliable TV signal for their clients; the TV networks, such as Canal Plus, Rai Uno and ITV.

The problem is that the life of a satellite is around 12 years and as most of the present fleet were launched around 13 years ago they need to be replaced.

This was demonstrated by the rapid decline in performance of the satellite Astra 2D.

Although launched in late 2000, its performance declined so quickly that a quick fix was required and all channels were transferred to Astra 1N, a satellite intended for the use of German and Spanish channels at a slot of 19 degrees, but moved to 28.2 to assist the failing 2D.

All of the popular British channels were moved from 2D to 1N early last year and reception throughout Spain improved especially in Gibraltar and the Balearic Islands, with Andalucia also faring well.

However this is certainly all about to change this summer when 1N will be moved back to its original slot of 19deg as originally planned and all British channels will be moved to the new ‘big birds’ called Astra 2E and 2F.

Astra 2F was put into service in December 2012 and Astra 2E has a predicted launch date at the end of May.
These two satellites are of similar build and specification and have two main broadcast beams.

These are a ‘UK spot beam’ concentrated entirely on a UK domestic client base and a pan European beam.

And that is the problem as the UK spot beam will not be received on the Costa Del Sol even with a whopping three metre dish and therefore all channels will be lost.

How do we know this?

Well it has, in fact, already been proved when Channel Five moved to the UK spot beam in December and disappeared from our screens (apart from Five HD (High Definition) which is a part of the Sky package).

The date for the major ‘switch off’, as it has come to be known, is being estimated to be at some point this summer when all the UK public service channels will move to the spot beam.

It is likely to happen around two months after the satellite has been launched, positioned in the correct place and tested properly, so at a guess I would say late July.

This is already backed up by missives from the BBC (see end) where they explain about the changes being due to the need to improve services for all UK based viewers, particularly in places like northern Scotland.

Ultimately it seems certain that there will be a loss of channels in Andalucia, as well as Portugal and the Canary Islands.

Sky channels are less likely to be affected as it is probable that they will be broadcast via the pan European beam that can be received in Southern Spain without problem.

They’ve got plenty of clients down here, after all. But nothing is certain.

Luckily there are alternatives to continue getting UK TV using your internet connection.

Some free services, such as Filmon, already exist but you view on your PC or connect a cable to your main TV, however the image quality isn’t so good, and you have to pay if you want it in HD.

Another, better alternative is to subscribe to a professional streaming service and connect an IPTV set top box to your main television.

You will need a stable internet connection of at least 2M and will be able to enjoy many advanced features such as ‘never miss a program’ catch up TV, programme-recording, up-to-date movies in English and live Premier League football.

And to boot, you will be able to use the IPTV set top box to access YouTube, Google and everything else…

My advice, don’t hang around… get prepared for the ‘big switch off’ whoever you choose.

For more information visit www.smartsat-tv.com

1200 COMMENTS

  1. eric

    Jamie,
    As you know I changed my provider to movistar, They told me that I would be getting 3 to 6 MB this was a load of old bull.
    At peak times I am lucky to get 2MB, I am having murders with them, my neighbour is getting 6MB and he only lives 4 doors away.
    XBMC is working fine, however, when it is peak times all it does is buffer, and is un-watchable. My wife is going demented.
    I have loaded filmon on my tablet, this plays very well with no buffering, so I will have to use this at peak times.
    I have a movistar techy coming to try and sort out my line problems, do not think he will be able to make things better.
    Will have to wait for fibre optics, will have to wait for hell to freeze over first, they did admit they are way behind the times as opposed to other European countries

  2. I have found this article and some very good information while all a little bit too technical for us simple folk.

    We ended up buying one of the little stream boxes that promised the world (or at least the very friendly chap in the shop did) where we since find out that the unit used a VPN that had only been paid for for one month, beware the conmen are out there.

    We then asked for advice from our trusetd PC Man (Big Dave) and he recommended ukexpattv.com and did the whole install for us for a very small fee.

    I now have 40 uk tv services with radio stations galore and many channels have a catch up service.

    Worth a look and the quality is good all day long here where we only have a normal ADSL line from good old Telefonica.

    Oh, Thanks Big Dave

  3. To Eric

    Hi, With Movistar ADSL about 3Mbps down to about 1Mbps is typical. I’m surprised your neighbour gets 6Mbps. Is he measuring the speed using the same web page that you use.

    Concerning the buffering you experience on XBMC – I assume that is the Filmon add-on. Have you got the video definition set to high on the Filmon settings? If so then the buffering is not surprising – suggest you switch it to low def for peak viewing.

    I cannot recall from your previous comments – have you tried recording using Filmon’s free 10 hours? Then download the recording off-peak and save the Mp4 video file on your PC for viewing later. The resulting video is a good standard def quality – and, of course, because it was downloaded, is buffer free.

  4. Hi Jamie,

    Just to let you know down here on the Costa Del Sol, I am typically getting 8.7mbps, and at absolute peak (Eastenders time etc), it may drop to 6. but that is as low as it has been. The Astra2 system is working perfectly as is SkyHD and the Linksys UK VPN router to get sky catchup and on demand, which enables us to record the BBC1/ITV stuff we want to keep a while.

    We are now being told that within 6 months we will have fibre optic feed here, attaining speeds of up to 40mbps. I am informed it is already north opt Marbella. but have not had that confirmed.

    Hope all OK with you.

  5. Where we live, out in the Algarve countryside, we are still using the ancient copper wires and there is no indication that fibre optic cables are imminent. However, Portugal Telecom (PT) are giving us a very steady 5.15 Mbps and reception of UK TV is really good, even at peak viewing times. PT reckon it is better to have a steady download speed. They could have given us a slightly higher speed but said that it was unstable. The wife is very happy with the IPTV box and remote control and I operate the laptop when we want to watch catch-up in HD.

  6. Hi Jamie,

    Using XBMC I get buffering on all programs I watch at peak times, I use the minimum/lowest settings possible but still end up with stopping and starting.

    During the day we have no problem, every thing plays as normal, only when people come home from work does it play up, that is when traffic is at it’s highest.

    That is why I am using FILMON as a download on my tablet, I have no problem playing any channel using this even, at peak times. Until such time that their engineer arrives to check my line I will have to persevere.

    Paul, where do you live to get 8MB, I live between Marbella and Estepona, the gurther south you go the weaker the signal.

    Cancelada, which is approx 1KM from us only get 1MB, I feel that Movistar do not worry as long as they are getting your bucks.

    The wireless modem They gave me must be the cheapest on the market, it only has one telephone connection, and one adsl connection. When I queried this that told me that is what you get, if I wanted another modem it would cost me another 90 cents a month. I will be going to Marbella to purchase a bloody good modem and setting it up. I do know that the modems that any provider gives you for free is absolute rubbish. What annoyed me the engineer that set up my router took my D-LINK router I had with him. That had 4 connectors and 2 telephone lines. I did complain to Movistar regarding this but they have not come back to me.

    Eric

  7. To Paul

    Hi Paul, I recall you get a very satis broadband speed. However, I think you use something other than Movistar’s standard ADSL – maybe VDSL.

    To Eric

    I agree that what you experience is a contention issue – too many users at peak viewing times. If you are saying that you have set the Filmon add-on (under XBMC) to the low def setting (there are only two settings – high and low) then I am surprised you get almost continuous buffering at peak times.

    If you are playing Filmon recordings at peak times you will get serious buffering at low broadband speeds – those recordings are in what Filmon calls high def. A solution, as I explained, is to download a recording and save the file to view later.

    I doubt that that Movistar modem is contributing to the problem. If you try to use your own modem-router you could have real problems setting it up with Movistar.

    Sounds as though the engineer ‘stole’ the D-LINK router. He must have known it is not a model used by Movistar (at least I guess it isn’t). When I had a new broadband installation last year I removed the original modem for that reason, before the engineer’s visit. Although on that occasion the modem had been provided by the same internet provider, I wanted to keep it.

    “That is why I am using FILMON as a download on my tablet”

    Not sure what you mean by ‘download’. Are you simply saying that you use the Filmon app on the tablet to watch live? In that case you are not, strictly speaking, downloading.

  8. To Peter,
    Thank you for your help. We are in spain at the moment and are watching tv with our sky card from the uk and filmon on the laptop. We have a company in our area that can get the tv channels back (itv, bbc etc.) with a box and dish that’s not through the internet, the box is technomate and I have ordered one from amazon they can also provide all sky channels for 25 euros a month.

  9. If you think the guy is legitimate Linda that’s up to you and your choice,i can only pass on a little bit of info.You seem a genuine person and I don’t like good people getting stung,ask the guy if it is dodgy or not,ive nothing against the guy,but you need the facts first……….Good Luck

    Ps look around for Technomate recievers and 25 euro sky, I may have made mistake and if I have I apologise…

  10. I had not heard of Technomate before, but having read these latest comments and googled a little, I wondered whether this is what Eric´s local contact was offering, as per Eric´s post here on March 13th 2014. What´s the latest on this Eric?

  11. Hi Guys,
    I live in the Frozen North (Navarra)and like so many others lost all my TV channels – apparently I live in a dead zone and a larger dish and upgrades won’t help. So far I’ve connected up a raspberry pi with repositories from Mash Up and Fusion – both of which work reasonably well with back catalogs of series and very well with films. Unfortunately live streams from Filmon tend to have more than just the ‘occasional’hiccup although if I connect my laptop to the telly it works much better, i.e. small pauses during buffering, but still quite watchable. I intend to buy a Samsung Smart TV to run via wifi from my ONO modem with a future intention of getting a VPN so that I can watch BBC and ITV i players. So, in the hope that some of you learned gentlemen out there can offer some help or assistance, that brings me to my question…

    How do you trick the TV into thinking it is in the UK? and do I need any other device such as a streamer (not exactly sure what one of these is or indeed what it actually does)to send my XBMC films etc. to the TV from my laptop?

    Any help or info would be greatly appreciated as ‘Her Indoors’ is beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms (especially after a particularly fraught viewing of the new episode of ‘Endeavor’) to the extent that I have had to hide all sharp objects and sleep with one eye open….

    Bill Mac

  12. IP blocker or VPN

    I added some comments a while back regarding my use of Apple TV and also using my Ex Pat Uk for the I player

    My results were good however due a dispute between PayPal and ex pat Uk I now have no VPN

    Neither company seems to do customer service so I am now without my expat Uk VPN

    My hope is to get the two companies sorting out their mess and connecting me up again but if they are slow or continue to Ignore the issue can anyone recommend a good quality VPN that works on Apple

    I was paying £5.00 a month

    Many thanks

  13. @Peter W

    Have you got an iPod/Pad/Phone?

    I’m using an iPod to get FilmOn via the YO-TV TV Guide app, and throwing it to my TV via an Apple TV box.

    No VPN required, so I’m paying £0 a month for this service.

    Gets pretty much all the UK Freeview channels, even regional variants.

    All live TV though, so not so good if you really want catchup, but might tide you over until PayPal and ExPatUK settle their differences.

    There are going to be more than a few shakeouts in the VPN service world in the coming months, and I certainly would not buy a box from any of them at the moment, nor sign up for more that a month at a time, until we know which one(s) have staying power.

  14. Heard from someone today who had their dish realigned to get the Intelsat channels, that the unlock codes were changed recently, their supplier updated their system and everything was fine.

    So it seems that the Intelsat thing isn’t a scam, but the best option right now of getting your free TV channels back, if not the cheapest.

  15. Hi ady,

    I am still waiting for him to bring the box round to me. I do not know who provides the box, however, he reliably informs me that it gives you umpteen channels. This is a one off payment of 200 euro’s with no monthly fee. It does sound too good to be true, but until tested I cannot comment.

    The box’s that he had have all been sold, he is waiting for a new delivery
    Eric

  16. Ted
    Thanks for your comment.We have just returned from spain and are back in May and are having this put in our villa then, it’s not cheap around 300 euros and £150 for the box, which we are taking over with us. The guy is our local t.v. sat man who has been working here for 18 years and has put this box in many of the local residents homes, he puts up another sat dish which picks up itv and bbc channels and runs a cable to your router for the sky channels.

  17. To Linda

    Ted is right. That is the Intelsat 907 satellite. It is not a scam – at least not provided you have been told of the possibility that the ‘service’ could be lost through a change to a stronger encryption and provided you are not paying too much.

    However, the price that you have been quoted is on the high side. Normally the package includes the satellite box. In your case, the box from Amazon is or was very recently £140. Add that to the €300 for installation and the total is excessive. Some people on this blog have been quoted about €220 in total for the dish and the box. OK, maybe your guy is including the installation of the ethernet cable from router to Sky box for what I presume is BBC, ITV etc On Demand via Sky On Demand – but even then his price seems excessive, unless he is including a router.

    To Peter W

    You said “can anyone recommend a good quality VPN that works on Apple

    and you were referring to iPlayer. I have just (today) set up, for a friend, a free trial of Smarty DNS to compare with the VPN he already has. The SmartyDNS is set up on a Rasberry Pi for iPlayer BBC live – but I am sure it can just as easily be set up on another platform, such as AppleTV.

    It streamed live TV (1.5Mbps stream) with no problem this p.m. on his rather slow Movistar ADSL.

    SmartyDNS accept PayPal.

  18. Roy thanks for your comments I have used as you say for free and yes it works great via Apple TV
    The VPN was just a little extra I used from time to time in other countries not just in Spain .

    Jamie – thanks for feedback I was given a few free trials last night I will look at at the weekend some are cheaper than expat uk and don’t use PayPal so it looks like they both did me a favour as they also give access to American tv on the deals for no extra money .

    Thanks to you both

  19. To Jamie,

    The 300+ euros is for dish for intelsat 907, software/emcrption and eternet cabling, then you pay 25 euros a month sky. If it is expensive it is worth it for us to have the local sat man on hand if there are any problems.

  20. Hi,Jamie question time again,i see ITV have brought out ITV Essentials,which gives you Corrie,Emmerdale,Jezza Kyle,and the other I wont mention,you can only get that through wifi,so if you have a smart tv can you pick it up automatically thru your tv in Spain I don’t have Smart TV so I cant try it,have you any opinions on this,if we can get it on smart tv boy will that keep the missus quiet,cheers

    PS Its only 5.99 euros a month what a bargain compared to everybody shelling out a fortune for corrie.

  21. Found this on another site

    How does it work?
    Can run on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC. Attach an HDMI cable to your PC/Mac to view on your TV. It’s not clear whether the iOS app blocks video output to an external device, as with the Sky Go’s iOS app.
    A Mac or PC needs to have Microsoft Silverlight installed. You may already have this if you use Sky Go. Does not work over 3G/4G.

  22. It’s taken forever, but I have the Pi up and running finally. The picture for BBC iPlayer live is a bit sketchy on the 60″ screen, but it’s more than enough for CBeebies, which is the main thing there. Not sure I could do a big World Cup match on it, but let’s see.

    XBMC I find a bit temperamental. It often takes time to run commands and reboots a bit. You get there in the end, but need patience.

    Can anyone recommend a decent remote control for the Pi?

    SmartyDNS working fine and well-priced. Am not bothering with a VPN right now, although Smarty wasn’t getting some services such as Sky Go so I may have to get a VPN also. VPN is handy if you’re out and about.

    Anyone else still out there or have we all gone into an Astra 1N silence??

  23. Mike think everyone has gone on to the ,cough cough,iptv solution,all the tv they could ever want,if its ok for bankers and politicians to nick a bit whats wrong with the common man………lol only joking of course….

  24. Hi Ted,

    Yup! They’ve gone. Should we not meet again folks, it’s been a pleasure. Particular thanks to Paul and especially Jamie, who has been a shining IP light for so many people. Thanks to everyone who has shared advice. I’ve got as much telly as I need, although it’s not quite the same as before.

    ¡Viva la Telly!

    Mike.

  25. jamie,

    I was buying some bits off the internet for the one who must bee obeyed.

    I had a quick look at the chromecast dongle, someone had put a write up on it. He did not mention any thing about xbmc.

    Can it be used for xbmc through my media system and then to the tv, not sure on this one, will not buy until I am 100% certain.

    eric

  26. Hi All,

    IPTV working really well and laptop backing it up with catch-up BBC in HD. Don’t have a need to stream to a Chromecast. Don’t need any more kit at present but will continue to monitor this feed periodically out of interest. Thank you Jamie for your contributions.

    Signing off from the Algarve, Bill.

  27. Well, it seems that the majority are happy with their own solutions. I am very happy with my IPTV system, and using a UK VPN Linksys router for Sky catchup.

    I will also sign off now, and thanks Jamie in particular for his input throughout.

    And, Mr. Gold, enjoy Funny Beach, you probably deserve the rest!

  28. No not everyone has gone to iptv as this is not so cheap, especially the monthly subs. Although I remain interested in Eric´s friend´s offering which has all the free and paid for channels for a one-off fee and no monthly charges (OK yes I know it´s illegal!), I am managing perfectly well by connecting a tablet or laptop to the TV and using the BBC, ITV, C4 and Filmon sites. I can even pause and rewind live TV on all the BBC channels, and Filmon even allows 10 hours of recording time per month absolutely free! I can also use iplayers for BBC, ITV and C4 (but strangely NOT C5). My only monthly costs are for a decent proxy server for which I pay 9 US Dollars (less than £6) per month.

  29. I am so glad that most of you have managed to sort out your UK TV problems. The input has been very helpful to most people out there. I use XBMC for all my needs, it works well for 90% of the time, peak hours are a problem.

    This is Movistar, I can only get 3MB from them, I will have to wait until they upgrade their systems, god knows when that will be. I am fortunate that I am techy minded and able to use XBMC to its full advantage, I get all the films I want, and all the documentaries, she who must be obeyed gets her daily injection of the programs she wants so the house is a happy camp at the moment.

    It has been a pleasure to correspond with you all and hope that all are happy campers now. Just let us hope that it continues that way.

    Eric

  30. I have just moved to a new home.
    IT is a massive hassle to get permission to install the dish and install. I am probably going to cancel the whole subscription.
    Sky is missing out by not providing an internet service for there programs.

    Chaps what close to Sky’s channels thats over the internet?

  31. To Bill Bullock:

    Hi Bill,

    Would you kindly tell me where you got your IPTV box from, what you paid, how many channels do you get and what are the monthly channel charges?

    I remember very clearly what you put on the blog about your box, and as I am now in the market for one, I thought I
    would impose upon your hospitality by asking you all about it?

  32. Hi John K,

    I live in the Algarve so can only tell you about my local experience. The important thing to remember is that you should purchase from an established dealer, preferably one that has traded in satellite equipment for many years. These dealers do not intend to go out of business after struggling to make a living for the past year when few people in their right mind bought satellite equipment in Iberia. They will have a shop and an IPTV box on demonstration. They will offer to install the box if you have any doubt about your ability to do so. They will also be available at the end of a phone to answer questions and react to any problem you might incur. They act as the agent between you and the company that is streaming television to you.

    I bought my Blade 250 box from Marcelectronica in Portimão for €169 and I paid €180 for 12 months’ service. There are other dealers in the Algarve but some are much more expensive. I get about 65 channels at the moment which includes all the BBC and ITV channels, Channel 4 and Channel 5, some regional BBC channels and BBC 1 in HD. The SD stream is very good, even at peak viewing times on Saturday and Sunday. BBC 1 HD sometimes pixellates because of broadband / internet problems but, otherwise, I am very pleased with the reception.

    I have a steady download speed of 5.15 Mbps over the Portugal Telecom lines and this is very important. I have moved my router to the main TV set in the sitting room and connected it by ethernet cable directly to the IPTV box. The package includes 7 day catch-up and the ability to record onto a USB-connected device; I use a USB flash drive. The electronic programme guide is excellent, just like my redundant Freesat box. Even my wife can operate it!

    I hope that’s enough information for you John. Regards, Bill.

  33. To Bill Bullock:

    Hi Bill,

    I see on the net that there is a Mag-254/5 comming in June. I don’t know what the difference is from the 250, that you’ve got, but I expect subtitles will be included as there is a big demand for them.
    Regards, John

  34. To John S:

    I have never seen any reference to a Mag-261? and I always read the poss. I have searched on the Net and can find no reference to a 261. Can you guide me to posts about it? Do you know if it supports subtitles?
    Thanks for your interest.

  35. Who can recommend a good company to buy an XBMC stream tv.Box either in the UK or Spain

    I have seen loads all around £80-£100

    I want one that does Uk on demand but also gives back up support if needed

    I would appreciate any feedback

    I don’t want any that chage subscriptions

    Many thanks

  36. Provided you have a decent broadband speed, i.e. at least 2 Mb, I’d definitely go for a VPN connection from a good laptop via an HDMI transfer to your TV. It will cost you around £60 for the year. Do make sure that you’re on unlimited download from your broadband provider, though. I get much wider choice of channels than I ever did via satellite, and can even get all my Virgin Media channels from UK.

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