Freesat Vs. Freeview: Which One Is Best?

Are you are interested in buying one of the latest digital TV systems? You may have already started to ask whether Freeview or Freesat is best? We are here to give you information on each system to help you make a more informed decision. Quite often the decision is made based on how good the reception is for your TV aerial, see ‘how to improve your TV reception‘ for more info. To begin with, we will tell you more about the characteristics associated with each system.

Freeview

Freeview is a UK based digital terrestrial TV service, which is delivered to homes through aerials. It comes in different forms which include the set-top boxes. Plus, televisions that have Freeview built in. To link up to Freeview, just connect your existing aerial. Also, if you plan to buy a Smart TV you will require an internet connection.

Freesat

Freesat is a free-to-air British satellite TV service which is available through a satellite. It comes with similar selections of channels when compared to Freeview, but without a subscription for the users that purchase the receiver.

Even though these systems share a few similar aspects, there are differences which make each service unique, which will assist you in determining which option is best for you.

The next section we will cover a few points on both the Freeview and Freesat services:

Coverage

This is perhaps the most important of the differences because even though Freeview is made available to 98% of the UK. Freesat has virtually total or total coverage. Additionally, there are a few areas where Freeview only offers the reduced service known as the Lite version. So for these situations, Freesat is regarded as the better option.

The Channels

On this point, it is important to consider that the channel numbers on both systems are constantly changing (in most cases increasing). Freeview, provides more than 70 channels, with many of these in HD, and approximately 20 radio stations. Freesat provides over 200 TV and radio channels. This wider variety of channels may appear impressive, yet it is still better to find out which channels interest you before you decide which system suits your needs best.

HD Versions

Both, Freeview and Freesat provide HD channels. So when it comes to this point, there are no differences between the two.

Upfront Costs

Even though watching these TV channels will be free, there are a few upfront costs to think about when it comes to the installation. For instance, the satellite dish installations cost more as you are required to buy the satellite dish along with an additional cost for the installation. Yet for most people, this expense is more than compensated for, due to the wide selection of channels to choose from.

Freeview on the other hand only requires the standard digital TV and TV aerial. If your TV is not digital, you still have the option to buy a cheap set-to-box which usually costs around £30 for the non-recording versions and they are available in the majority of supermarkets.

Which is better quality Freeview or Freesat?

On the 6th of May 2008 a new digital TV platform was launched called Freesat. This new free to view Digital TV service was a joint venture between BBC & ITV plc.  The then new TV platform was launched to compliment the other Free to view Digital TV platforms currently available, namely Freeview via terrestrial and free to view channels on cable. This service was launched due to the fact that Freeview via terrestrial transmission was limited to a population coverage of 73%, where as a Satellite Broadcasting service has the potential to reach as many as 95% of the UK population. So, does that mean that Freesat is better quality than Freeview? When discussing quality, we can be referring to either the broadcast signal itself or the type of viewing and programmes available on each platform. 

Quality

Firstly, let’s compare the signal quality of Freeview and Freesat. Essentially there is no discernible difference here. Both platforms provide SD (standard definition) and HD (High Definition) digital services and as of June 2020 the line up of HD channels available on both platforms is more or less the same.

What about TV channels available? The line-up of channels is comparable, with but a few differences. All the main broadcast Multiplexes and their channels- BBC, ITV, CHANNEL 4, 5 and the FREE to view Sky channels etc and all their groups are represented on both platforms including regional variances between say for example BBC London and BBC Northwest as an example.

Same Channels different Platforms

As most people generally watch the above channel groups, no meaningful discernible difference is noted between the two platforms. However, there are more channels available on the Freesat platform, simply due to the fact that the Satellite Bandwidth, broadcast from the Astra 2 Satellite is substantially less crowded than the bandwidth used by the terrestrial platform. The additional channels are it has to be said ‘lower quality’ channels and if one was considering switching from Freeview to Freesat it would be worth while first checking the channel line up here: https://www.radioandtelly.co.uk/freesatchannels.html  to see if any of the additional channels available on the Freesat platform are worth the cost of a satellite dish installation.

Also, if you live in what we call in the trade a signal ‘Black Spot’ then opting for a satellite system like Freesat definitely makes more sense given that satellite has the edge in providing 95% coverage of the UK compared to 73% with Freeview. So, while there isn’t a huge difference in the channels available on either platform what reasons would someone opt for Freesat (satellite system) over Freeview (TV Aerial system). This short video discuses three reasons why someone might choose Freesat over Freeview:

 Is Netflix Free on Freesat?

No. Netflix is an independent Internet Streaming Service and is in no way affiliated with Freesat. The Netflix channels are streamed over the internet not via satellite. Having said that, those with Humax Freesat Boxes, will be able to access the Netflix app and platform through their box having signed up to a monthly subscription, providing they also have high speed broadband in the home. Netflix does offer a 1-month free trial for those interested in the platform.

Can I use my Sky Dish for Freesat?

Yes. You should be able to use your Sky dish for Freesat. Freesat Broadcasts off the same satellite Astra 2. However, you may need to change the LNB on the dish in order for the Freesat receiver to see the channels. This only applies if you were previously a Sky Q customer.

Sky Q was launched as a new service in February 2016. Sky customers who wanted to upgrade to the new service had to upgrade their Satellite dish with a new Wideband LNB.  What the heck is an LNB, I hear you ask? An LNB is the receiver that sits on the end of the dish arm. It receives the satellite signal reflected off the dish (parabolic)

Will Freesat work off a Sky Q Dish?

Because Sky Q is wideband a different type of LNB is needed specifically for Sky Q boxes. Hence, if you cancel your Sky, order a Freesat box and plug it in, it may not work if the LNB on your dish is a Wideband LNB. This is not a big fix and is a relatively inexpensive in that a qualified TV Aerial & Satellite Engineer for the cost of a call out and approximately an additional £20-30 for an LNB can remedy for you.

If you had previously had the regular Sky or Sky Plus, in that case your Freesat box should work just fine. It is simply a matter of unscrewing the two ‘F’ connectors at the back of the sky, disconnecting the HDMI cable, then reconnecting those cables to your new Freesat box. Please note;  if you have a Freesat+ receiver you will require a dual cable feed from the dish, a non Freesat+ (non-recorder) requires only one.

How do I connect my Freesat box to my Sky dish?

Once you are satisfied you have the correct LNB on your dish, then make the swap from Sky to Freesat. When disconnecting and re-connecting the satellite cables behind your set top box, make sure the box is not connected to the power as a poor earth on the satellite cable can damage the LNB. Once you have ensured the power is off, you are safe to disconnect the Sky receiver. You will note the following behind the Sky receiver; 1)

  1. Power cable 2)
  2. Satellite feed cable(s). 3)
  3. HDMI cable and 4)
  4. Telephone cable.

Disconnect these cables one by one carefully.  You will notice that the satellite feed cable(s) have screw type connectors, these are called ‘F’ connectors, hence these will not just pull off you will need to unscrew these. Once you have done that, connect them carefully to the Freesat receiver. Once the freesat receiver has all the cables connected (you may not require a telephone cable) switch on the box and allow it to boot. For a new box, you will be prompted to set up the box.  This will require you to tell the box what your postcode is.

Don’t worry they are not spying on you, this is just to ensure that you get the correct regional BBC & ITV channels. Once you have added your postcode, the box will prompt you to scan for channels, this can take a few minutes, so be patient while it scans all the channels. Once complete, you will be able to view your channel, how easy was that!

What if my Freesat box gives me the message ‘No satellite signal is being received’?

If you get this message here is what you will need to check. We’ll start with the most obvious. Do you have the correct LNB? As already discussed, If the LNB is a Wideband LNB it will not work (see the paragraph, can I use my Sky dish for Freesat?

Make sure that your satellite dish does indeed have the correct LNB. The next thing to check would be the connection of the satellite coaxial cables to the back of the box. Again, first disconnect the power. Then check first that the cables are firm and not loose. Gently tug them to so the cable is fits correctly in the ‘f’ connector. Sometimes the cables can work loose thus either effecting the earth. Hence no signal.

Or the conductor- a thin copper core in the centre of the cable doesn’t quite make contact inside the receiver. Hence again no signal. The inner core should be about 5mm proud of the cap of the ‘f’ connector. Also, whilst checking the ‘f’ connector make sure that the inner core hasn’t got bent. This can easily happen when you are pushing the connector onto the receiver inputs. So check that are nice and straight. Once you have checked those things, reconnect the receiver and re-boot the box. When the ‘no signal being received message’ then it might be time to call an engineer to run some tests with a Field meter.

Can I get Freesat on my Smart TV?

Yes you can get Freesat on a Smart TV, if that TV is an integrated Freesat TV. Intergrated Freesat TV’s essentially have a Freesat (satellite) tuner built into the TV. It’s so that they will work with a Terrestrial TV Aerial and a Satellite dish.

Terrestrial signals and satellite signals operate a very different frequencies. Hence, only TV’s that have inbuilt satellite tuners will be able to decode satellite signals. Thankfully there are more and more manufacturers making these. TV’s like Sony, Panasonic, LG and others now manufacture TV’s with built in Freesat tuners. Thus avoiding the need for a set top box, and let’s face who wants another remote control!

The only limitation with Integrated Freesat TV’s is that you cannot record your programmes. To record you will need to purchase a Freesat+ box. Then, ensure that the LNB and cable attached to your satellite dish allow for a dual feed. This is because the Freesat+ boxes requires 2 cables feeds just like Sky+.  This is because satellite set top boxes that record have two tuners. One is watching the other is recording, this is how you are able to pause live TV.

In conclusion…  

Freesat absolutely has a place in the Free to Air Digital TV space due to the fact as already mentioned. The reason being that Freeview has only 73% coverage of the UK. Plus, those in ‘Black spots’ can save having to have a huge TV Aerial/Antenna and mast on their property! Instead they have a neat little satellite dish. With that they get all the same programmes on Freeview plus a few extra ones to boot.

For help from a professional engineer contact us on the number below.

TV Aerials Manchester, 83 Ducie Street, Manchester. M1 2JQ Tel: 0161 883 1945

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