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Get Free Satellite TV with Free-To-Air

Updated on March 14, 2016

With the economy slow to recover, many people are cutting down expenses and cutting out the non-essential expenses to save money and make ends meet. This means no cable or satellite television for some families, and that makes the idea of free satellite TV all the more appealing for some. Some people may simply be curious about it for the technical aspects, and many will fall somewhere in between. Regardless which category you fit into, the good news is that there exists a way to obtain free satellite TV.

There is important word of caution one should heed before we start though. If one does a quick search on the Internet, that person will quickly discover many websites which promise to give free access to Dish Network, DirecTV, or other commercial services. These websites are often selling receivers or modifications for existing receivers at a fee. What many of those sites don't tell potential customers is that these products are illegal. Purchasing and using them could potentially lead you to being fined or maybe even facing jail time. So, how can one promise free satellite TV? Thankfully, there is a way to get satellite TV for free and to do so legally with free-to-air.

What is Free-To-Air Satellite?

Free-to-air (FTA) is the broadcast of radio and television signals in an unencrypted form which allows anyone to receive and use the signal assuming they have the proper equipment. FTA satellite is the broadcast of such signals from satellites. Typical satellite providers, such as DirecTV, encrypt, or scramble, their signals using with special mathematical formulas when broadcast to Earth. This means only those people with special equipment from these companies, or subscribers, can view the signals. With FTA satellites, the signal is unencrypted. This means one does not need to subscribe to a service in order to watch the signal, and best of all once the equipment discussed below is purchased there will never be any subscriber fees.

What Programming is Available?

There is a surprisingly wide range of programming available through free-to-air satellites, but the availability of certain networks and channels is limited to certain regions covered by those satellites. To provide specifics, here is a brief sampling programming available in North American:

  • My Family TV (General family-oriented programming)
  • Retro Television Network (Classic TV shows)
  • Pentagon Channel
  • Trinity Broadcasting Network
  • NHK World (Japanese news in English)
  • ABC News Now
  • Jewish Life Television
  • PBS

One must be realistic about the programming which exists on FTA. One should not expect to receive premium programming such as HBO or Showtime or many of the standard cable or satellite channels (e.g., Discovery, TNT, etc.). And before purchasing FTA equipment, one must evaluate whether or not FTA programming will best serve one's needs or desires.

What Do You Need?

FTA Receiver

The receiver does all the nifty work with the signal to translate it into something which your television can recognize and display. Many FTA receivers come with information about existing satellites and channels, so it is unnecessary to manually program that information into the receiver. There are also some receivers which come with built-in DVRs.

Satellite Dish

This is one of the most obvious pieces of equipment. While the size of satellite dishes has dropped significantly over the years, the use of FTA often requires a larger dish than normal services. That's because the signals are coming from a variety of satellites with variable signal strengths. A larger dish allows the system to better focus on a signal. But, there is no need to worry because they are still quite manageable in size.

Low-Noise Block Downconverter

Don't let the technical sound of this piece of equipment scare you. The low-noise block downconverter, or LNB, is the little adapter attached in front of the satellite dish. This allows the LNB to capture the broadcast signals which off the dish.

Satellite Dish Motor

With most satellite services, the dish can stay focused in one direction. That's because the dish focuses on a single satellite or a cluster of satellites in the same area of the sky. With FTA satellites, they are often located in different places, so it's necessary for the satellite dish to be repositioned to access the different broadcast signals. The satellite dish motor saves you the effort of going outside and repositioning the dish yourself.

Odds and Ends

Beyond the core equipment, you'll obviously need things like cable, audio-video cables, a remote control, and some knowledge on how to install the system. While installation is pretty simple and straight forward, some may feel more comfortable hiring a professional to do the installation. Alternatively, with the purchase of complete systems through some online retailers, one can obtain a simple step-by-step guide which directs one through the installation process.

Where Can You Purchase the Equipment?

It is possible to purchase some of the equipment for FTA through Amazon, but it is often better to purchase through an online distributor or retailer which specialize in satellite TV and FTA systems. They often sell complete systems for first-time buyers, and as specialists they can provide valuable information to customers. Thus, unless you're experienced, the best option is to start a specialist which can be discovered through a simple Google query.


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    • p10kabhijita profile image

      Abhijit Aswath 5 years ago from India

      Interesting read. Voted up and shared :)

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago

      Glad you found it interesting. I wanted to provide a concise and simple introduction to the subject. It seems like I was successful. :) Hopefully, as I dive more into things, I'll be able to add more hubs about FTA.

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 5 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Interesting. I've looked at FTA dishes for myself because I like gadgets. I think most people are content driven and won't find the type of programing they want/like on FTA. But it's worth doing because it's so cheap if you like to tinker. If only I had more time these days. Voting up. Why? Because its interesting and concise. I'd like to see more of this kind of article on Hubpages.