Benjamin DaviesSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Awnings and accessories’ written by Benjamin Davies
Whether you want to tour in the UK or on the Continent, satellite TV is a great way of keeping up with your favourite TV and radio programmes.
How much does it cost?
A simple, manual system costs from £100, or a fully automatic system could cost up to £2000. You need no longer subscribe to companies such as Sky, because you can instead get freesat, a joint venture by the BBC and ITV (see below).
• Sky: If you have got a Sky subscription at home, you can take your Sky receiver with you as long as you have owned it for 12 months (note: although your domestic Sky card will work outside the UK, and it is not illegal to take it overseas, you do risk invalidating your contract). All BBC and ITV channels, and dozens of others, can be viewed for free on Sky but Channels 4 and 5 are encrypted. You will need a £20 freesat viewing card, from Sky.
• freesat: This new service will eventually have over 200 channels, including all those currently free on Sky, or on your domestic Freeview box. All you need is the freesat box and a suitable satellite dish. HD (high-definition) broadcasts are available without having to pay a subscription – you just have to buy a suitable receiver.
• Free to air: If you’ve got a suitable free-to-air digital receiver and satellite dish, you can access thousands of TV channels from the UK and the rest of the world for free, including BBC and ITV stations, but not Channels 4 or 5. It’s exactly the same as a Sky box without the viewing card.
This varies, depending on what you want to watch, how far you plan to travel, and how much you have to spend. Here’s a rough guide to what is available:
Manual systems (from £150)
Cheap, require no installation, and can be moved to get a better signal. You need to set them up each time you want to use them, though. Basic kits may not include a tripod.
Manual/semi-auto folding systems (from £250)
Cost less than fully automatic systems, require less preparation, and are permanently fitted to your caravan or motorhome’s roof. They need some positioning before you can use them, though, and doing so can be tricky.
Automatic folding systems (from £1250)
These are easy to use, can locate satellites unaided, and fold flat when not in use. However, dishes can be affected by wind, and can be complex to install. They’re heavy, too, and so are usually best suited to motorhomes.
Automatic satellite domes (from £1250)
These are simple to use, lock on to satellites in seconds, and are unaffected by weather. They also allow you to listen to UK radio on the move. However, they are tall – 30-40cm depending on the model – and are heavy, so again they are best suited to motorhomes. Note: with any permanently mounted system, installation should only be carried out by a reputable fitter such as RoadPro (see below for contact details).
For more information
Retailers and installers
Conrad Anderson www.conrad-anderson.co.uk
Online product news www.hdtvuk.tv
Free-to-air satellite TV www.ftasat.co.uk
Information on TV and radio in the UK www.radioandtelly.co.uk/satellite.html