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FTA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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dish dot Why should I get a FTA system?

FTA provides free programming you can't get anywhere else. Whether it's foreign language programming from faraway countries or TV stations from another state, there's always something on watch on FTA, but there's never a subscription fee.

dish dot Come on, is this really free? What's the catch?

Yes, once you set up your system, you never have to pay anyone anything to watch all of the legitimate, legal FTA channels listed on FTAList.

The catch is that you can't control what's available. With so many channels to choose from, there's always something to watch, but individual channels come and go without warning. That's why a site such as FTAList is useful to help you keep track of what new channels arrived and what channels went away.

dish dot Should I drop cable/Dish/DirecTV and switch to FTA?

Probably not. FTA is a great supplement to an existing programming package, but it struggles as a sole provider. Some of the big four broadcast networks aren't available on Ku-band FTA, and there aren't any HBO-style movie or sports channels. And channels come and go without notice, which is why you need a site like this.

If you watch your local broadcasters with an over-the-air antenna, FTA can add a lot of channels to your $0-per-month system. But if you're used to easy access to dozens of movie channels and sports any hour of the day, you won't get it with FTA.

dish dot How can I use FTA equipment to pick up ESPN or HBO?

Short answer: You can't.

Long answer: Some channels are meant for subscribers only. Those channels are sent encrypted; only authorized recipients may unscramble them. Once in a great while, a channel like this will be available in the clear for a few hours, but that's about it. Just as you occasionally find money on the sidewalk, it's nice when it happens, but you don't plan on it.

Cautionary answer: Some scofflaws spend a lot of time working to break the encryption on these channels. Sometimes they succeed, at least until the encryption changes. Their methods are typically illegal and can damage legitimate FTA equipment. The possible reward isn't worth the risk.

dish dot Can I use a Dish Network or DirecTV dish and LNBF to pick up FTA channels?

Yes, but not many. There are only a few Dish Network and Bell ExpressVu TV channels, mostly system promos, that a FTA receiver can pick up with Dish/DirecTV equipment. There are a fair number of audio channels in the clear. In general, a Dish/DirecTV setup and a switch can be a cheap way to add this small set of channels, but by itself, it won't give you much reason to buy a FTA receiver.

dish dot What do I need for a FTA system?

This is covered in more detail in the Getting Started section. In short, you need a clear view of the southern sky, a 30-inch or larger dish, a Ku-band LNBF, a Free-to-air DVB receiver, and RG-6 cable to connect the receiver to the LNBF.

dish dot I'm ready to buy. Where's your order form?

FTAList does not sell equipment. Check the online dealers listed in the FTA Links page, or our dealer advertisers, or your local phone book under Satellite Television.

dish dot Which FTA receiver should I buy?

FTA receivers are like cars. There are lots of different models, most of which perform basic functions the same way. There are lots of opinions about which one is best, but very few people have significant experience with more than one or two models.

If you're just getting started, I'd suggest that you make sure your first receiver has blind scanning to help you find channels. Even if you don't have a motor, you might feel like adding one later, so it's generally a good idea to make sure your receiver can drive one. After that, it's a question of which cool features you want and how much you want to spend. Shop around!

dish dot Do I need a separate FTA receiver for every TV in my house?

Yes and no. You definitely need a separate FTA tuner for every different FTA channel you want to watch simultaneously. For now, multiple-tuner FTA receivers are unusual, so you can pretty much say that you need multiple receivers for multiple simulaneous channels. And if you're planning on watching channels from two different satellites at the same time, you'll need two dishes.

But if you don't need to watch different shows at the same time, you can split the output of a FTA receiver to send the same channel to multiple TVs.

dish dot How will the February 2009 digital conversion affect FTA?

Not at all; FTA channels are already digital. The digital conversion will only affect analog over-the-air reception. For more information, go to DTV Answers.com.

dish dot I have a specific FTA receiver, and I need to know the exact sequence of steps to do something in particular. Can you help?

No. There are a lot of receivers, and I've used only a few of them. To solve a particular problem with a particular receiver, your best sources of information are: the receiver's instruction manual, the dealer who sold the receiver to you, the receiver manufacturer's web site, and online forums devoted to your brand of receiver. To find those web sites, try Google.

dish dot When I look at LyngSat, I see a lot more channels. Why don't you list them here?

Three main reasons:

1) They're not visible from North America. LyngSat has some interesting lists that include all channels that originate from a given country, such as the US. That's not a bad thing, but it's not so helpful when you really want to see what you can receive here in North America. Or ...

2) They're not free-to-air. Channels with notes such as PowerVu or Digicipher are scrambled. LyngSat lists them, but you can't watch them with FTA equipment. Or ...

3) They're C-band channels. Any channel that LyngSat lists with a four-digit frequency is C-band.

dish dot What's a C-band channel?

It's a channel using the frequencies that used to be the only game in town for satellites. C-band signals are weaker, so you need the huge (6-foot or larger) dishes to receive them. There's nothing wrong with big dishes, but they're more complicated to set up and they're restricted from more areas.

dish dot What are feeds?

Feeds are signals beamed from a remote location to a studio for editing (sometimes) and rebroadcast. Common examples are local news correspondents sending reports, and sporting events fed back to a studio without graphics or commericals. Because there's usually no good way to know when they'll be on, feeds are not listed with the standard channels here. If you want to find feeds, an FTA receiver with blind scanning can help.

dish dot Why don't you include the satellites that are east of AMC 6 or west of Galaxy 27?

The lists here are designed to represent the channels that can be seen by all of the contiguous United States and southern Canada. For simplicity, especially for those new to the hobby, I have left out those satellites that can be seen on one coast but not the other. That may change in future versions of FTAList.

dish dot Why don't you list C-band FTA channels?

Again, it's for simplicity. A primary goal of FTAList.com is to present all of the channels that anyone can pick up with a smaller, Ku-band dish, in charts that are easy to understand. Future versions of FTAList may include a separate section for C-band FTA channels. Until then, check the C-band list from Global Communications.

dish dot How do you list the FTA channels that you can only get with a circular LNBF?

These circular-polarity channels are marked with *C*, and with a different background color for the channel names. There aren't many of them, but if you've got a system that includes a circular-polarity LNBF, then here are a few more channels to watch.

dish dot Some channels have more than one language. Why do you list only one?

The main reason is to avoid confusion. If a channel uses five languages, it shouldn't be listed five times. If a channel alternates between languages, it may confuse newcomers who, for example, might find a channel on the English list but hear it in Arabic at the time they tune in. The second reason is that's the way the database is structured. Future versions of FTAList may revisit this question.

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Last update:
10/14/2008