Leaving Sky and Installing Freesat - Important Things To Consider
If you have found the monthly subscription payments are too much, or you’re just not using your Sky TV enough to warrant keeping paying for it, you will inevitably be looking at free alternatives to Sky TV. You could choose to use Freeview instead, which is free terrestrial TV delivered via a TV aerial but perhaps the most obvious choice would be to go for Freesat instead as you already have a satellite dish. In this blog, I discuss how to go about cancelling Sky and installing Freesat in it's place, together with some other points to consider. Lets begin!
Check Freesat Services and Channels
Before you do anything else, I recommend checking the Freesat channel guide to see that you’re happy the channels offered. There are over a hundred TV channels on Freesat. Inc all the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 channels as well as numerous High Definition(HD) channels. Although there are a few, Sports, Movies and music channels are quite slim pickings, if you want to receive more of these types of service, you may want to consider something like BT Vision or Virgin Media instead or compliment your Freesat service with something like Now TV/ Netflix which could still save you a bit of money.
Cancel Your Sky Subscription
Inevitably, your going to have to contact Sky to cancel your subscription. This usually means a relatively lengthy and often painful phone-call with the cancellations department, although you could try cancelling in writing. When you sign up to Sky TV, you will sign up for a minimum period time. This means that if you’re still in contract you will probably want to put off installing Freesat until then. When you cancel Sky, if you’re beyond the minimum contract term you usually have to make another payment or will have a period of time until the service is cancelled. You might as well make the most of this and carry on enjoying Sky until this period has finished.
You may find that you get the VIP treatment by Sky in an effort to keep you from leaving them. You may receive an offer for a reduced price subscription or a subscription free period. You may want to take them upon the offer and delay Freesat until a later date.
Phoneline & Broadband?
If you receive your Sky, phone and broadband as part of a package. I don’t subscribe to Sky but it’s usually quite a good offer you get for all three. You will need to arrange for an alternate provider if you wish to keep these. There is no such thing as a Freesat broadband package. You can usually find good deals on a online comparison check.
Can I Use My Sky Dish For Freesat?
There is no need to change your satellite dish when leaving Sky for Freesat TV as both services use the same satellites in space, so no need for any alterations to your satellite dish alignment. For standard Sky, Sky+ and Sky+ HD the exact same satellite dish and LNB can be used. If you’re leaving Sky Q this is slightly different however as you will need to a change the LNB on the satellite dish itself. The existing wideband LNB used for Sky Q is not currently compatible with any Freesat related service. This may change the the future. For your reference the following LNB’s are compatible with the following services:
Universal LNB, Quad, Octo – Sky, Sky+, Sky+HD, Freesat, Freesat+
Wideband LNB – Sky Q
Hybrid LNB – Normal Sky(s)/ Freesat(s) and Sky Q. Some Hybrid LNB’s require you to connect the cables to certain outputs. For example, some outputs will be wideband and the other a conventional Quad. The reason I mention this, you may need to swap over the coaxial cable connections/LNB outputs at the dish to support Freesat.
The following articles/ videos should also help with this question.
Do I Need To Give Sky Equipment Back When I Cancel?
It used to be with the older Sky services that after a year the kit required to receive Sky became yours. It’s a little bit different with Sky Q as they may want the equipment back. This may change as time goes on. It’s highly unlikely that they will want the satellite dish back and this is probably why Freesat is the best choice for a free TV alternative to Sky as you already have the satellite dish and wouldn’t need to install a new TV aerial or similar. In my 13 years I have never heard of Sky ever wanting their dish back but I can’t really speak on their behalf. The only reason I could think that they may want it is if you have renegaded on your contract and they are looking to recover costs.
Can I Use My Sky Box For Freesat?
The answer is yes and no here, it may sound the same but you can use your old Sky box for free to air(FTA) satellite TV, but not to receive “Freesat”. This is because Freesat specifically a trade name and a joint venture between BBC and ITV. Freesat uses it’s own programme guide/ numbers and doesn’t pick up all of the free-to-air satellite services that are on the satellites. Your Sky box can be used to receive the free-to-air channels, this may be fine for you but the channels will still appear as they are in the Sky channel listings. This means that you will have to go through lots of channels that you can’t access, whereas with a Freesat box everything will be ordered nicely and everything listed you will be able to receive. This can be partially overcome but setting favourites on the channels that still work after you have cancelled your Sky subscription.
If you currently subscribe to Sky Q, this cannot be used for Freesat. In fact Sky may want the equipment back so don’t go trying to sell on Ebay to be on the safe side. It’s also important to mention that once the Sky subscription has been cancelled and your contract terminated. Along with losing your subscription services, you will also lose the ability to record onto the internal hard disc drive(HDD) and the ability to access existing recordings as these are encrypted onto the hard drive.
Best Freesat Box To Buy
If you have decided that using your Sky box as a free-to-view decoder is not for you. I recommend buying a Freesat box in its place as these are custom made for the job or free to air/ view British satellite TV. Freesat boxes can vary in price between £50-£300 approx depending on what facilities that you want. There are a few things to consider here before you know which Freesat box to buy to replace your Sky box. I have identified the following:
1- Do you want to be able to record on your Freesat box? Recordable boxes are usually a fair amount more to purchase than non-recordable versions. Some Freesat boxes are branded Freetime, which is a platform that allows you to scroll backwards in the electronic programme guide(EPG) to watch programmes on earlier in the week.
1a – How much recording space do you want? Typically, recordable Freesat boxes come with the option of 500GB, 1TB and 2TB options.The larger the more space you have available to store recorded programmes. As a rough guide, on a 500GB HDD you can store either 300 hours of standard definition(SD) content or 125 hours of high definition(HD) content. Obviously the higher the resolution, the more information that is required to store it.
2- Do you want Smart catch-up based services, like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub etc? Most boxes can with this option as standard now but some of the lower cost ones still do not. Important to mention that for video-on-demand/streaming services an internet connection is required. Usually this can be done via WIFI but others require a wired Ethernet connection. Also worth mentioning that Channel 4’s catch-up service 40D, is no longer on Freesat.
3- What is the best manufacturer of Freesat boxes? Traditionally, I have always recommended Humax as being the best, but if you were just after a budget non-recordable Bush/ Manhattan were OK also. Going forward it seems that you will not have as much as a choice as Freesat have selected Arris as the manufacturer of their next generation boxes, meaning Humax will no longer be manufacturing them. You can read more on this here: https://www.smartaerials.co.uk/blog/humax-no-longer-manufacturing-freesat-boxes
Sky Playback/ RF2 Replacement For Freesat
This facility was lost on Sky Q, but if you have a Sky system where you can watch your Sky programmes around the house and wanted to know if you could keep this with Freesat. The answer is yes, just not out of the box. You will need a modulator to convert the Freesat box into a analogue/ digital TV channel and also something to power the remote eyes that allow you to control your Freesat box in other rooms, this was both supplied via the RF2 output on Sky boxes but no Freesat boxes I have encountered have this facility. I recommend something like a Triax Tri-link modulator for this task I recommend that you read my older article on ‘Freesat and remote eyes’ before purchasing one. It can be a bit tricky setting this up so you may need a professional installer if you do not feel confident.
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Until next time,
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