Receiving SES 5, Eutelsat 7A, Amos5 on one dish

Free To Air Satellite TV For Beginners


Notice that this article has been written primarily to those who have never had Free to Air satellite or are thinking of having one installed. It uses Basic English and has Technical words trimmed to the very essential bare minimum.
FTA stands for Free to Air. Free to air satellite is a phrase used to refer to TV channels available on satellite without any scrambling or encryption of any sort. There are very many free to air satellite Movies, Series, Documentaries and International News channels out there receivable without any charge at all. For example those of you who have heard of Emmanuel TV, you can receive it plus many others using free to air satellite. The TV and Radio stations are usually carried by frequencies from the satellite approximately 35,000 Kilometers above the earth’s surface. These channels are usually receivable using a Free to Air Digital Satellite Decoder that can handle the method used to compress the Video, Audio stream(s), and other services like EPG (Electronic Program Guide), Tele text, Subtitles and UTC (local time) that may accompany a TV channel.
The service providers usually up-link their content to the satellite at up-link stations with High power amplifiers so that the end consumer or viewer can get it Direct to Home (DTH) without any subscription fee at all. The only money the consumer spends is when buying the equipment required to receive the channel like satellite dish, digital satellite decoder, coaxial cables and in some cases the installation fee if the viewer is not a DIY enthusiast. In other words its usually buy, install and forget but not buy, install and keep paying monthly installments the rest of your life. This is what you need to receive Free to Air Satellite TV channels
Why are there free to air satellite channels? The first reason is that the Broadcaster wants to provide you with his/her content for free. Broadcasters like these usually make money by placing adverts in between programs and Movies. The second reason is that what you may think is a TV channel is actually a feed. A feed is a frequency leased from satellite companies for use when it is only required. It is mainly used to re-transmit Live TV content to the main broadcasting station. Examples of times when feeds are used are during Football matches, Seminars, political rallies and other events.

If you read the following tutorial carefully you will be able to setup and install a satellite dish and enjoy the exciting channels receivable for free.

Satellite Terms explained.


A satellite is a  piece of telecommunications electronics sent to space using a rocket for the purpose of communications. A communications satellite is approx about 35,000 Km above the earths surface. Geo stationary satellites use the equatorial orbit in the plane of the equator. The geostationary orbit is a unique equatorial orbit such that its height and velocity makes it appear stationary with respect to a point on the earth’s surface. That’s why satellite dishes are usually bolted pointing a particular place (satellite) in the sky. If there is any vibration or movement of the dish then the signal is usually lost. Satellite dishes must also have a clear view of the sky, trees and nearby buildings usually cause bad or no reception at all. This means a satellite dish cannot be installed in the house like a normal indoor UHF antenna. Read more on the difference between an offset and a prime focus dish.


A transponder is in very simple terms a transmitter on a satellite that sends information on a particular frequency only. For example this12321MHz is a transponder frequency in the Ku band range and this 3123MHz is a transponder frequency in the C band range. A group of transponders can be aimed at a certain region on the earth’s surface to make a satellite footprint. A satellite in the sky can have a group of transponders in Ku band and C band or Ku band only or C band only.


Footprints are sometimes referred to as beams. A footprint is the area on the earth bounded by a contour where the received power is above a certain level. The power level is expressed in terms of EIRP. The central point where the beam is located has a high power so smaller satellite dishes can be used. As you go further away from the footprint the signal intensity fades and thus people in these areas need to use a bigger dish.
The footprint contour power will depend on whether the satellite is global, Hemispherical, zonal or spot.

In Sub-Saharan Africa there are common satellite beams from a variety of satellites like Europe and Africa from Intelsat 20, Sub- Saharan Africa from Eutelsat 36B and SES5, East-West Africa from Amos5  just to mention a few.


A frequency is the the number of times an electromagnetic wave changes while carrying information (TV channels) from the satellite. The two main frequency ranges normally used for transmission of Free to Air satellite TV are C band and Ku band.  To receive C band you need a prime focus satellite dish and to receive KU band you require an offset dish.


The polarity is the orientation of an electromagnetic wave as it travels from the satellite to the earths surface. There are usually two types of Polarity for KU band namely Horizontal and Vertical abbreviated as H and V respectively.

Symbol Rate

Symbol rate usually abbreviated as SR is the number of symbol changes of an Electromagnetic wave made to the transmission medium per second. Some Free to Air Decoders can handle very high and very low Symbol Rates but others cannot. So buying a good decoder here is Key to enjoying more content.

FEC Rate

FEC stands for Forward Error Correction and is usually part of the broadcast meant to reduce the errors in transmission by correcting them at the receiver end instead of requesting a fresh signal like in the case of computers.

HD and SD

HD stands for High Definition a TV picture quality system that is usually viewed on a HDTV using a HDMI cable. Only HD receivers can receive HD content. Many international TV stations are now offering HD content. SD on the other hand refers to Standard Definition TV, what all local TV are offering in Kenya. A black and white 14 Inch Great wall TV set and a 25 Inch LG CRT TV set are categorized in the same SD group though the bigger colour TV offers much better picture quality.