Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BBC switches off satellite signal, what’s next?

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The reasons behind last week’s shut down are fairly well known and not unexpected. Viewers in Portugal, have reported the loss of all main UK TV channels, including BBC One and BBC Two after transmission provider Arqiva ended broadcasts of a satellite back-up signal, known as BBC Satback, via the Intelsat 901 satellite at 27.5°W.

Intelsat 901 is reaching the end of its life, having been refuelled in 2020 to extend its life by a maximum five years. The signal was turned off on Thursday 4th April, leaving viewers without access to TV services. Social media has been full of complaints, questions and general shock and horror.

The new satellite is the Telstar 12V satellite at 15°W. In theory with a larger dish, it may still be possible to still receive the BBC Satback service as before. The signal will be weak in the Algarve and stronger in Lisbon and Porto. The size of dish is, as yet, not known, but satellite dish suppliers will, no doubt, be experimenting to see what works.

There are alternatives

The transmissions were never intended for direct reception by viewers, so the change was not publicised. BBC have made it clear that the service was only intended for the British Isles. The fact is that it was extremely popular throughout Europe, especially for those without a strong internet signal at home.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to receiving the BBC and the other main broadcasters, and these are not controlled by the BBC. However, you will need a good internet signal and unlimited data.

There is also the option of Sky, which is delivered by satellite, but it doesn’t offer BBC, ITV or Channels 4 and 5. What Sky does offer is a catch-up service which is similar to BBC iPlayer and ITV X. But you will need to add an internet connection and a VPN (virtual private network) to disguise that you are in Portugal. If your existing satellite dish is 1m or larger, your supplier should be able to move it to receive Sky. Many dishes that were instilled for the BBC signal were only 80cm and that’s not large enough to get a good Sky signal.

IPTV

There are several suppliers of IPTV in Portugal, they basically offer a receiver which for a monthly fee, will give you a large selection of UK and other channels and a seven or fourteen day catch up service.

Costs vary, it depends on what premium channels you want, Sky sport, Sky movies are extra. Service standards are reasonably good, it depends on what supplier you choose. Ask friends who have this service to get recommendations. Choose a IPTV supplier who is based in Portugal.

BBC iPlayer and similar

A supplier with a very large range of products and services is Skycards.eu They supply Sky cards, Sky receivers, Sky+ and Sky Q. They also supply their own routers with VPN which can work alongside your existing router and transmit a UK based signal around the house. They supply a range of other receivers, Freeview, Sky Stream, Roku all of which will give you full access to BBC iPlayer, ITV X etc.

All Sky receivers have a catch-up system bult in, as long as you have internet access. Bear in mind that the Sky catch up is good, but doesn’t have as many programmes as the iPlayer etc. BBC and ITV players allow you to watch live as well as choose from a vast range of programmes and box sets.

Plenty of options

You can get plenty of VPN services online, Express VPN is good. Then you can connect Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV etc. The IPTV services are well proven and used by many people to watch UK TV. Don’t take the first offer, ask several friends and neighbours what services they use. Always go for a well known product or service supplier. Be cautious about buying ‘free to air’ boxes and dongles that are advertised on Facebook etc.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman

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