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Fault diagnosis & solutions

Over the years, we've been asked many questions on the subject of satellite TV. Rather than answer the same question again and again, we have made an attempt to list a range of typical questions and answers. We have grouped these into sections according to subject. Just click on the subject below that most closely matches your enquiry for a full range of questions and answers on that topic:

Extending TV to other rooms
Extending Radio stations to other rooms

Identifying the type of LNB you require
Choosing the right Sky or Freesat box
Receiving British TV in France
Receiving Britsh TV in Spain
Receiving British TV in Switzerland

Receiving British TV in the Netherlands
Receiving British TV in Germany
Faults with your satellite equipment

 

Extending TV to other rooms

Q - I want to watch my Freesat/Sky satellite TV in another room. Can I just split the cable from the dish and run it to another Sky box or Freesat box?

A - No, you can't do this on a satellite system because there's a two way signal running from the dish (or the LNB on the dish) to the Freesat or Sky box. Splitting the cable to run more than one box will confuse the LNB. What you must do is replace the existing LNB for another with multiple outputs. Essentially, you are splitting the cable at the dish. Multiple output LNBs usually come as twins (2 way), quads (4 way) or octos (8 way) and the one you choose will depend on the type and amount of Sky or Freesat boxes that you are connecting. The standard Sky or Freesat boxes either have a single 'dish input' connection, or - in the case of the Sky+, Sky+HD or Freesat+ boxes - two 'dish input' connections. Standard boxes have just one cable running from the LNB to the receiver, the Sky+ or Freesat+ boxes need two cables, and therefore require at least a twin LNB. If you are using a standard Sky dish though, Sky don't use a twin output LNB and you will have to use a quad LNB instead - there's no requirement to use all the outputs on the LNB.

Q - I don't want the expense of buying another Freesat/Sky box - can't I just run a cable to another TV without having a second box?

A - Yes, on a Sky box there's an output on the back labelled up 'RF2'. You can run a coax cable (TV or satellite coax) from this output and into the aerial socket of another TV. This will allow you to watch on the second TV whatever channel the digibox is set to. In other words, whatever is on the main TV will be shown on the second TV. By using a 'magic eye' or 'TV link' you can also control the digibox without having to go back to the main TV every time you want to change a channel etc. The magic eye or TV link simply connects between the aerial socket of the second TV and the extension cable that you've just connected from the main digibox, and picks up the remote control commands and passes them back down the cable to the digibox.

There are a few points to bear in mind if you are thinking about using this method:

1. Non-UK TVs can cause a problem - typically you may get a picture but no sound or vice-versa. This is because of the differences in PAL standards between UK and continental TVs and the fact that you are using the RF output rather than the scart or HDMI output. There's no practical (or inexpensive) solution to this except to purchase your second TV from the UK.

2. When you have connected the cable from the RF2 output on the Sky box to the second TV, you may have to scan the TV in order to pick up the output from the Sky digibox. Get the Sky menu displayed on the main TV and then scan the second TV until it picks up this same picture. Now assign a channel number on your second TV remote this new signal. Whenever you want to watch TV on the second TV you then select this channel number with the TV remote control and then use your Sky remote to change channels via the Sky box.

3. If you are situated near the second TV, the Sky remote control will not operate the Sky box until you have connected the magic eye (TV link) and powered it on. To power up the TV link, you need to switch on the 9V power supply on the RF2 output of the Sky box. (This is why you should use RF2, not RF1 - RF1 doesn't have this power supply). To switch on this power, stand in front of the Sky box and follow the procedure below (for standard or Sky+ boxes):

  • Press the 'services' button on your Sky remote
  • Press '4' on your Sky remote (for 'system setup')
  • Without reference to the screen, press '0' then '1' then 'select' - this should bring up the 'installer's menu'
  • Select 'RF outlets' and - using the right or left arrow buttons - turn the 'RF outlet power supply' to 'ON'
  • Select 'save settings'

If you have a Sky+ HD box, the procedure is a little different:

  • Press the 'services' button on your Sky remote
  • Press the 'right arrow' button once (highlights 'settings')
  • Press the 'down arrow' button once (highlights 'picture')
  • Without reference to the screen, press '0' then '1' then 'select' - this should bring up the 'installer's menu'
  • Using the right of left arrow button, move across the different option until 'RF OUTLETS' is highlighted
  • Select 'RF outlets' and - using the right or left arrow buttons - turn the 'RF outlet power supply' to 'ON'
  • Select 'save settings'

With the power supply switched on, and everything connected properly, a red light usually apears on the magic eye to indicate that it is powered up. If you point your remote at the 'eye' it should now pass the command back down the cable to the digibox.

Unfortunately, Freesat boxes aren't equipped with this RF output, so to use this method on a Freesat box, you need to add an extra bit of kit that creates the RF output from the scart output of the Freesat box and injects the power into it. This is called a 'modulator' and is available to buy as a complete kit, including the 'magic eye'. Obviously, you may want to consider whether it's worth buying the modulator rather than simply fitting a multi-output LNB at the dish, buying another Freesat box and simply running the cable from the dish to the new Freesat box (rather than from the original Freesat box & modulator to the second TV). Buying the extra Freesat box would give you independent viewing at each TV, meaning that two people in different rooms could watch two different channels at the same time. Using the 'magic eye' method would be useful if, for example, you have a Freesat+ box and want to access your recorded programmmes from two different locations. This leads onto the question below...

Q - What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a TV link (magic eye) type setup compared to using a multi-output LNB and connecting up different Sky or Freesat boxes?

A - The main advantage of using the TV link / magic eye method is cost - you only need some coax cable (TV or satellite) and the 'magic eye' itself, which isn't expensive (although you will also need the modulator if you are using a Freesat box). If you have a Freesat+ PVR type receiver, you can access your programmes from any other room in the house, something that it wouldn't really be possible to do using separate boxes.

Unlike the cable that runs from the LNB on the dish to the satellite receiver, the RF output cable can be split to supply a signal to more than one TV. You would need to use a distribution amplifier to do this.

The main disadvantage of this method is that it doesn't give you independent viewing on each TV in the house. All connected TVs can only watch the same channel, and if one person in one room changes the channel, it changes it for everybody else. Being able to watch completely different channels at the same time is therefore the big advantage in using individual boxes, each connected to the dish via a multi-output LNB. 

Q - Are the any wireless methods available?

A - You can use a wireless AV sender. This device consists of a transmitter and receiver and connects to the scsrt output of the satellite receiver and scart input socket of the second TV. Signals are transmitted wirelessly between the transmitter and receiver, and it is possible to change channels remotely without having to be in front of the Sky or Freesat box. Wireless transmission is not quite as reliable as a physical cable connection, but this is a good solution in situations where it's not possible to drill holes and run cable etc.

Extending satellite TV radio stations to other rooms

Q - I like using the satellite TV radio stations on my Freesat/Sky box, but I want to listen to them in other rooms that don't have a TV. Is there any device that I can buy that will enable me to listen to radio in a different part of the house, but without being tied to the TV?

A - We supply a wireless FM transmitter that connects to the back of your receiver and sends the audio content of any Freesat or Sky channel to your FM radio. The transmitting frequency is user-adjustable; set the same frequency on your FM radio and you will be able to listen to your favourite radio stations anywhere in the house or garden. There are a lot of very low power FM transmitters available, all of which are useless for this kind of application. This device is very powerful and has a range of up to 100 metres - walls and other similar obstructions do not present a problem. There are two types available - a battery powered version and a mains powered version. The device is mono, but we can get stereo output if required.

Identifying the type of LNB that you require

Q - You sell lots of different LNB types and I'm confused. Which type of LNB do I need for my dish?

A - There are three main types of LNB that we sell - the standard Sky LNB, the 40mm LNB and the C120 LNB. To determine which type of LNB you need for your dish, you need to find out what sort of dish you have.

If you're located in the UK, the chances are that you have standard Sky dish - black or dark grey, distinctly oval in shape and perforated with small holes. This takes the standard Sky LNB. A one point there used to be single output versions, twins (2 outputs), quads (4 outputs) and octos (8 outputs), but with the advent of Sky+, the single output version is rarely used anymore. Also, it's hardly worth fitting a twin LNB only to have to change it later for a quad or an octo when someone wants another Sky or Freesat box installed in a different room of the house, so the standard LNB is now the Sky quad, with the Sky Octo supplied where there are more than two Sky+ or Sky+HD boxes in the house.

If you live outside the UK you may well have a standard (non-Sky) offset focus dish. This type of dish is very common in countries like France, Spain, Portugal etc and is almost always found on dish diameters from 50cm up to around 1.5 or 1.8 metres. The dishes are normally solid (ie not perforated), and usually have one main dish arm that extends from the bottom of the dish and which holds the LNB in place. The LNB won't appear to be held right at the centre of the dish, but will be positioned more towards the lower section of the dish. The LNB for this type of dish is the 40mm universal type - if you are not sure, just measure the inside diameter of the collar that holds the LNB in place - it should measure 40mm (or 4cm).

If you have a large dish, usually 1.4m up to 3m or above, the chances are that you have a C120 LNB. This type of LNB is normally used on 'prime-focus' dishes, where three arms project from the dish and hold in right in the centre of the dish, at its focal point. This type of LNB consists of two parts - the LNB itself and its feedhorn. The feedhorn is easily distinguished as a separate unit and the two parts are joined together via a C120 type circular flange. When you are replacing an existing C120 LNB, it's not normally necessary to replace the feedhorn, only the LNB itself.

Choosing the right Sky or Freesat box

Q - Which type of satellite receiver is right for me - Sky or Freesat?

A - This depends on many different factors, including considerations that may not normally spring to mind, such as your location if you are outside the UK, so it pays to consider the options carefully and to evaluate the alternatives before making a hasty decision. To complicate matters, Sky also supply their own Freesat system - 'Sky Freesat'. In the discussions that follow, 'Freesat' will refer to the service supplied by the Freesat consortium, independently of Sky, whereas Sky's Freesat service will always be referred to as 'Sky Freesat'.

The main consideration, of course, is cost. Are you happy to pay extra to receive extra channels? If you do not want to pay a subscription, you have two options - Freesat or Sky Freesat.
Sky Freesat's system requires a Sky Freesat card and a Sky Digibox in order to pick up the free channels. You have a choice of the standard definition Sky box or the Sky+HD box. The latter will enable you to receive the free HD channels (BBC HD, ITV HD, C4 HD etc) but forget Sky+ recording - this will only work with a Sky subscription card.
Freesat's system requires only a Freesat receiver, you do not need a card. With the Sky box, most channels come through without a card, but the Freesat card is required for some regions of ITV1, Channel 5, Fiver, Five US and Sky 3.
Where Sky+ recording is not possible unless you subscribe (£10 per month minimum), Freesat+ is a similar recording system that just requires a Freesat+ receiver, such as the Humax Foxsat HDR.

If you are located somewhere well away from the UK, on the fringes of the satellite footprint - for example, Greece or Cyprus or some areas of Spain, you should definitely think about buying a Sky box and Freesat card. This is because some regions of ITV1, and some alternative Channel 4 broadcasts, which are easy to receive in these parts of Europe, are encrypted and only available with the Sky Freesat card (or subscription card). This isn't an issue if you are located in, say, France, so in this part of the world the decision would simply be about cost.

Q - Should I choose a standard Sky or Freesat box, or should I choose Sky+ or Freesat+?

A - Sky+ and Freesat+ are both great systems. Once you have tried them, you won't want to go back to a 'standard' receiver, so we would always recommend that you choose this type of system over the standard box that doesn't record. However, some points to bear in mind are: 

  • Sky+ only works with a Sky subscription card, but it doesn't cost any extra, over and above the standard package rate.
  • Sky+ and Freesat+ are 'twin tuner' devices, which enables them to record two programmes simultaneously, or which lets you watch one channel while recording another at the same time. This means that you need two cables running side by side from the LNB on the dish, and the LNB will therefore need at least two outputs. If you only have an LNB with one output, you need to change this for a twin or a quad. It's not a hard job to do yourself, and we can supply all the parts you need, but if you don't fancy this, it's a quick job for your local satellite installer.
  • Freesat+ boxes are also HD boxes by default (ie they show a small quantity of free HD channels in addition to the many standard definition channels).
  • Sky+ boxes can be standard definition or high definition (Sky+HD). Buying a Sky+HD box from an independent supplier such as ourselves does not tie you into having to subscribe to the Sky HD channels. You can just buy the Sky+HD box for the Sky+ recording features and the free HD channels.

Q - Having chosen to 'go Freesat' what are the different box choices?

A - There are several different brands of Freesat box, but the mains categories of Freesat boxes are:

  • Standard definition Freesat boxes. Fairly cheap and cheerful, they don't record and only show the standard definition Freesat channels.
  • High Definition Freesat boxes. These show both the HD and SD channels. The 'single tuner' version of the HD box has no built-in hard drive and does not record.
  • High definition Freesat+ boxes. These show both the HD and SD channels. These 'twin tuner' versions of the HD box have a built-in hard drive (various capacities are available) and have recording facilities.

The main brands are Goodmans, Grundig, Humax and Sagem. We have found the Humax boxes to be the best built and to have the most sensitive tuners and recommend these for any one planning to use their Freesat box outside the UK, especially in 'weak signal' countries - Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy etc.

Q - Having chosen to go with a Sky subscription, what are the different box choices?

A - You have a choice of three different types of Sky box

  • Standard definition without recording
  • Sky+ in standard definition with built-in recording features
  • Sky+HD - shows both the standard definition and HD channels and also has built-in Sky+ recording.

The emphasis these days is on Sky HD, but if recording is not necessary, there are some good quality standard Sky boxes available. For example, the Pace 2600C1 is no longer manufactured, but still remains a very good quality receiver with a very sensitive tuner. It is ideal for use abroad in any weak signal area such as Spain, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Sweden etc. If the signal threshold of the box is not as important - let's say you live in France or the UK, for example, then the new Sky Amstrad DRX550 is a good choice.

Sky+ standard definition boxes are no longer manufactured, but it is possible to pick up some very good quality used models at a fraction of the price of a new HD box. The Thomson DSI8210, the Amstrad DRX280 and the Pace TDS470N are the last three models that were manufactured and have a 160GB hard drive. Don't go for any other models, as they will have a smaller hard drive. The Pace 3100 Sky+ is probably the exception. This has a very sensitive tuner, so it will work well in a weak signal area, but the hard drive is small (40GB) and the box isn't capable of updating to include the Sky Anytime function.

Of the new Sky+ HD boxes, avoid the older models such as the Thomson DSI8215XXXXXXXXXXX or the Amstard DRXXXXXX. Avoid any models manufactured by Samsung - we have found these to be unreliable. The best HD box is the latest one - the Amstrad DRX890. This is reliable (we have had very few failures to date) and, just as importantly, it has a very low threshold tuner, which makes it excellent at picking up on a weak signal. Reports coming in from Greece and Spain indicate that this is perhaps the most sensitive box ever made for Sky and is capable of displaying channels that other boxes struggle to receive.

Q - Do the channels shown on Sky Freesat differ from those shown on Freesat?

A - Yes, slightly. For example, while Channel Five is available on both systems, only Sky Freesat includes the Channel Five sister channels, FIVER and FIVE US, but there are other variations, and some less popular channels are added or removed occasionally. The best idea is to look at the Freesat website (www.freesat.co.uk) for an up-to-date channel guide.

Sky's Freesat channel list can be found at http://www.sky.com/shop/freesat/home/what-can-i-watch/ 

Receiving British TV in France

Q - How do I receive British TV in France?

A - Given it's location just below the UK, France finds itself in a good position to pick up all the UK channels. The Astra 2D spot beam is supposed to restrict the satellite coverage on unencrypted channels (such as the BBC) to an area just surrounding the UK. In practice, a satellite postioned well over 30km above the earth can't transmit a signal with that kind of pinpoint accuracy and it's therefore possible to pick up a signal with the small standard (zone 1) UK minidish right down past central France. The signals of the Astra 2D beam do eventually weaken as you approach the south coast, so at some point it's necessary to choose a larger dish in order to receive the same quality of signal.

In practice we normally recommend the Zone 2 Sky dish (a larger version of the zone 1 dish) for pretty much the whole of France, with the slightly large 80cm dish recommended for the south coastal area, or the area to the South-West as you approach the border with Spain. Anyone living in the North of France - Normandy, for example - could choose the Zone 1 dish. To the vast majority of France, with the exception of the South, we supply to Zone 2 dish as it doesn't look massively different from the zone 1, isn't a lot different in terms of cost, and provides a good 'one size fits all' solution.

The dish needs to be supplied with a suitable digital LNB - normally purchased with the dish so that you can be sure the two are compatible.

Apart from a suitable dish, the only other kit that is required is a suitable receiver - Sky box, Freesat box or a general purpose 'free-to-air' receiver (although this last option is not recommended).

Once aligned with the Astra 2 satellite at 28 degrees east of south and connected to the receiver, you will pick up all the UK free-to-air channels.

Q - Is it legal?

A - Yes, the onus is on the broadcasters to restrict their signals, rather than on you not to try to receive it. Free channels (eg BBC, Channel 4) can be picked up by anyone with a satellite receiver and a suitable dish, so their reception outside the UK is restricted by the coverage of the signal, which is broadcast on the Astra 2D spot beam. Other channels - Sky Sports channels, for example - are broadcast on a much wider satellite footprint. Their reception is restricted by the encryption system and the issue of a decoding card to UK residents only.

Q - Do I need a special LNB?

A - No, just a suitable universal digital LNB to suit your dish. Most LNBs are this type by default.

Receiving British TV in Spain

Spain obviously encompasses a vast area of land, and the reception of UK TV channels in one area of Spain is going to be a lot different from another area in another part of the country. Satellite dish sizes for Spain can vary anywhere between 0.8m (eg Barcelona) and 2.4m (eg Alicante), depending on your location. For more information on dish sizes for Spain, see our 'satellite footprint and dish size' page.

Given that you get the right dish size, the principles are just the same as for any other country. Connect the dish to a suitable Freesat or Sky receiver, align the dish correctly with the Astra 2 satellite, and all the UK channels will be available to you. The only other point worth noting is that, as in any country with a weak satellite signal, it pays to go for a good quality LNB. We recommend the Invacom range of LNBs for Spain.

Receiving British TV in Switzerland

For most regions of Switzerland a good signal, capable of receiving all UK channels, can be received with a 70cm dish - the Zone 2 dish is a good choice. In the East, beyond Zurich, an 80cm or 90cm dish would be a better choice.

Receiving British TV in the Netherlands

Receiving British TV in Germany

Typical satellite TV faults

Q - I have a fault with my satellite TV system. Is their a procedure to follow to ascertain where the fault lies?

A -

Q - Some of my channels are working, but not others. Is this a fault with the Sky/Freesat satellite receiver? If the dish or LNB wasn't working, surely we wouldn't receive any channels?

A -

Q - I'm getting the message 'no satellite signal is being received'. Why is this?

A -

Q - I'm getting the message 'no signal' and a blue screen on the TV. Why is this?

A -

Q - I'm getting the message 'this is the wrong card for the set top box'. Why is this?

A -

Q - I'm getting the message 'your viewing card is not inserted correctly. Remove the card...'. Why is this?

A -