Satellite TV in Australia

Satellite TV has been my hobby and fascination for many years. I have numerous satellite systems at home pointing at many satellites and receiving many hundreds of programs. I also have had a satellite tv and radio installation in my full size caravan for years and altogether have more than 30 years experience with digital technology.

I have been particularly interested in the mobile aspect of satellite TV in caravans and motorhomes and the best ways to ensure great TV viewing no matter the location.

There are a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings around about satellite tv so in this article I would like to cover as many aspects as possible with a view to informing you of the options available to you.

I will deal predominately with scheduled tv services, and cover briefly the unscheduled ones. The scheduled services are important, as it is these services that are:

  • guaranteed to stay there
  • fully supported by the industry, government and broadcasters
  • have equipment approval processes that provide guarantees that service will be correctly received

There are a number of other services that are reportedly available but need proper scrutiny by the viewer if money is being invested to receive them.

Australian Direct to Home Free to Air Digital Services - Enjoy Them All:

ABC and SBS Television and Radio in all states PLUS commercial TV services from the 7, 9 and 10 networks via their regional affiliates.

Because of the technology of the transmission system, all sound is in superb digital quality. When listening to these services directly by satellite, you’ll realize the full benefits of digital reception.

ABC Programming Including News and Weather

The ABC has 7 separate television broadcasts available on the satellite. These services broadcast from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth, Melbourne and Hobart. Each channel is responsible for their own programming, however, they may use the national feed from Sydney for all or part of their news broadcast.

The typical content of the news includes National Headlines followed by State based news content. The same format is used for the weather forecast. There is also specific regional content for news and weather.

One of the great benefits of satellite viewing is that you have available, news services from other states. Similar benefits occur with ABC Radio Services.

Remember that during summer time, Perth is 3hrs behind, Darwin & Brisbane 1hr behind and Adelaide 1/2hr behind Sydney time.

SBS

SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) provides multi-cultural service in four time zones.

Don’t be fooled by the name, programs are excellent with English language coverage of World News, current affairs, documentaries, and serials. SBS is often known as ‘the other channel’.

VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television)

Australians can now access the new digital satellite TV service known as VAST. VAST is ideal for travellers and anyone living in poor TV reception areas.

Travellers can access the VAST service by purchasing a VAST decoder with smartcard and activating the service at www.mysattv.com.au then clicking on the ‘Traveller's Registration’ button about halfway down the page.

People living in poor TV reception areas can visit www.mysattv.com.au and click on the Satellite Decoder Online Registration button. You will then be taken to the Digital Ready website where you can enter your address and check the satellite eligibility tab.

The VAST decoder runs on 240V which means that you either have a 240V power supply or use an inverter which will enable you to operate this decoder from a 12V source such as a cigarette lighter socket. Now you can get the full range of digital TV channels while travelling in your van using this setup as part of your existing dish system.

This satellite decoder model number DSD4121 (bundled with VAST smartcard) is the only model that will run the new VAST satellite service. The VAST service will provide the same number of channels that are currently available in metropolitan areas: programs from the Seven, Nine and Ten networks and the national broadcaster's main channels, ABC 1 and SBS 1, along with all the other digital channels ABC2, ABC3, ABC NEWS 24 HD, SBS 2, SBS 37, GO, GEM, ELEVEN and ONE HD, in total more than 50 channels. Regional channels and news feeds are also available so you can watch news and weather that is more relevant to your area. Travellers in caravans are well catered for too and can use the VAST system as they travel. Access to the service is easy and guaranteed if you are a traveller. If you purchase the VAST kit from us, we will provide any technical support and backup necessary to get your system up and running and beyond should need support when travelling around the country.

Educational TV Services

Specialized services such as Westlink are now available at no cost to the satellite viewer.

Narrow Casting

This is a relatively new term used in Australia and it relates to services with specific appeal to narrow audiences, rather than to broad audiences. Australian legislation and licensing does differentiate between them with more relaxed rules for Narrow casting. Such services are the shopping network and specialized educational services.

Pay-TV services use the same type of technology, however they charge for their service, own the equipment and do not cater for caravan and motorhome owners. Pay-TV operators do not provide the Australian Satellite Free to Air Services.

Pay TV Reception

For those of you who are subscribers to the Pay-TV services, do not overlook the capability of your equipment to allow you to watch these services when you are away. This means that your Free to Air equipment can be configured to receive the pay services, but it does mean that you need to already be a satellite Pay-TV customer at home.

Equipment

My advertised package is perfect for receiving these satellite services over all of Australia in most weather conditions and will provide more than adequate signal margin for most viewers.

I provide a complete package specifically designed to cater for the customers who are on the move.

There are some issues that need to be considered with caravans and motorhomes:

  • Dish size of 75cm or greater is sufficient for 95% of the country, however if you travel to the far north, or far south west going up a dish size to 80cm may be of advantage in very severe weather conditions.
  • The pay TV foot print is not Australia wide, it just covers a narrow banana shaped band say 500km wide from Rockhampton to Adelaide, with spots in Darwin and Perth. Outside this area pay TV reception will not be reliable.

Configuration Issues

  • The Satellite is located above the Solomon Islands, so pointing varies from just east of north in Eastern Australia to just north of east in Western Australia
  • The satellite look angle is up at 70 degrees at the Cape to below 35 degrees in southwest WA. Unlike terrestrial TV, we need to have nothing in the way of the beam. Even small trees have water in their leaves, which absorb the signal and reduce picture quality
  • The easiest way to point the dish is to use a small satellite finder meter which is supplied with the kit.

Any intrusion into the beam by trees or buildings will reduce the satellite signal. The beam must just clear any obstruction. It doesn’t have to be clear around the dish only in the beam path.

Satellite beam coverage of Australia & New Zealand

Map showing coverage by C1 satellite.

This map indicates the relative signal strength of the free-to-air signals onto Australia and New Zealand. As you can see, the signals do not vary greatly across the continent and therefore can be received with the same sized dish wherever you travel.

Dish elevation chart for the C1 Satellite

Map showing dish elevation for the C1 satellite.

The above chart indicates the dish elevation angles relative to the horizontal plane. You can adjust the dish using the supplied angle finder (inclinometer) or the scale on the rear side of the dish.

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