SES Astra are due to launch a new satellite. Astra 1N will launch on Friday 1st July 2011.
Astra 1N was designed to be placed at 19 eat, and provide new satellite capacity for Western Europe, like Spain, France and Germany. However, Astra have said that 1N will initially be deployed at 28 east, providing more satellite TV capacity for UK broadcasters like Sky, BBC and ITV and Freesat, and to help as a backup in case one of the existing satellites, Astra 2a, Astra 2b, or Astra 2D, fail.
But what does Astra 1N mean for watching UK TV in Spain? SES Astra have released a signal footprint map for this new satellite, but the map is focused on the UK, and does not show the full signal footprint that covers the rest of Europe.
However, an “unofficial” footprint map did appear for a short time on the Astra website.
The footprint map shows the signal reception when the satellite is at 28 east. If you move the footprint slightly east and slightly south, then you can see how it covers Spain and France and Germany, as it should do when 1N is deployed at 19 east.
As you can see there is a large area of Spain not covered by this footprint. However, is should be noted that the outermost line is the expected reception for a 1.25m dish. There is no indication of reception for larger 1.8m or 2.4m satellite dishes in Spain. But it looks like, i repeat looks like, reception of Astra 1N in Spain will be similar to that of AStra 2D that carries the main BBC channels. That will be a case of cross your fingers and wait and see.
But what could this mean for reception of channels.
Well nothing official has been said by anyone, either Astra, Sky, BBC or ITV or Five, or any of the other UK broadcasters. The idea is that this new satellite will be able to provide more capactity, and thus more channels.
However, there are lots of rumours going around.
One rumour is that the 8 ITV1 regions that currently require a sky card to view will move to Astra 1N. This may mean that those people receiving ITV1 on a small satellite dish with a Sky card will no longer be able to receive ITV1.
Another rumour is that channel Five and its sister channels Five USA and Five*. Five have always indicated that their channels, apart from Five HD, would eventually be free to air. And it may just be that with Astra 1N all Fives channels will go free to air. So, as mentioned for ITV1, this may mean that those people receiving Five on a small satellite dish with a Sky card will no longer be able to receive Five.
And there are rumours that this extra capacity will mean more HD channels…such as more HD channel from Channel 4, like E4 HD and More4HD being made available free to air. Or more BBC Sports streams being made available in HD, especially with the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics.
Some people have said that SES Astra wants more pan European coverage, not less, as this is better commercially (for their advertisers / broadcasters), and so the signals on new satllites will be stronger. This is incorrect, as SES Astra can actually charge a premium rate for a satellite beam that is area specific. Eurobird 1 is a Pan European signal footprint, and as such is relatively cheap for channels to be on there, which is why a lot of the “cheap” channels are on Eurobird and not Astra.
However, all this is rumour and speculation and nothing will be confirmed until the satellite actually launches, is tested, and is made operational.