Where did all of these receivers come from?   While the U.S. and Canadian Cable industry distributes their programming largely via products made by General Instruments, which they own part of, the rest of the world chose the MPEG-2 format.  Granted, even though, the GI Digicipher II has some MPEG-2 attributes, it nevertheless remains a totally proprietary platform.  Who has chosen MPEG-2 as a platform? Dish Network, Scientific Atlanta, and the rest of the world.   Even DirecTV is an early version of MPEG-2.   MPEG-2 is a digital platform that allows several digital broadcasts to be compressed onto one frequency or channel.  Without MPEG-2, Digicipher, or other compression  platform, it would not be possible to have direct broadcast television services like DirecTV or Dish Network.

      What does MPEG2-FTA mean? MPEG stands for Moving Picture Experts Group.  Is is a method for compressing data. FTA stands for "Free to Air"- meaning that the signal is not encrypted with a conditional access module.   Smart Cards are generally used for this purpose.

       MPEG-2 is not a encryption method although encryption can be added. Dish Network uses the Nagra system, DirecTV uses a News Data system and cable primarily uses the Digicipher or Videocipher system. Transponder time has become so expensive that with the exception of the preachers, the porno channels, and the home shopping networks, it doesn't make sense to place only one channel on one frequency.   With HBO, and Discovery Networks planning 25 channels each, it would take over two C-Band birds to air their material the old fashioned way.


         FTA or "Free To Air" simply means that the signal is not encrypted.  Most cable programming is encrypted.   Occasionally programmers may turn the scrambler machine off and you can see a channel or two with an MPEG-2 receiver.  The barker channel can occasionally be seen on Dish Network.  You will never see Time Warner cable programming, i.e. CNN, HBO in fta mode in the U.S..  CNN, and other international news channels, are available to viewers around the world in free to air mode, but not to the U.S..

        In the U.S. there are a number of channels that are available via MPEG-2 FTA receivers that have indicated that they plan to remain in the clear or are believed to intending to stay clear.  These include Saudi TV, Abu Dhabi, Thai TV,Asian TV, Kuwait TV, Syria TV, Taiwan, Iran, and as we go to press, Bloomberg TV all on Telstar 5, ku, which can be received on a 30 inch dish. The list changes now and then but these and more can be seen today.

       On Anik E2 look for CTV and CBC.  CBC-East is already testing on Nimiq at freq 12730, with a symbol rate of 20000 I am told. GE-1 is the home of a bouquet of channel from Paxton Communication's PAX TV.  PanAmSat 5 at 58 degrees west is home to the Latin American Weather Channel, RTP, EWTN, WACC-Am Miami, CCTV China, NHK, Deutche Wella, another major English language news service from Europe which I won't mention by name for fear of seeing it scrambled,,,, shhhhh, an Arab bouquet, and Caracol from Colombia.  MPEG2 FTA feeds are numerous and more and more are being added every day.  The economics of compression, allowing more than one service on each frequency dictate that we will see more.  Every time another satellite fails, and they are failing, we see the prices of transponder time go up.  A couple of thousand dollars an hour for a better bird are not unusual for part time use.


     The answer is simple, you find it on the Internet.  There are two sites that are very good. Every day Christian Lyngemark spends a few hours updating loading information from every satellite in the world from his office in Sweden. His site is supported by advertisers.  He relies on information from the programmers and satellite owners plus an army of volunteer spotters located around the world.   His lists aren't always up to date or totally accurate, especially since many of the services go to great lengths to hide their feeds, but he is a very good detective.   Christian's site is <http://www.lyngsat.com/> and he lists everything from HBO to Solo Tango.  A competing site that Christian Lyngamark was formerly associated with is <http://www.satcodx.com/> and has similar lists.


     Most receivers come programmed with just a few channels or a couple of satellites.  Since most receivers are made for the Asian markets it is not unusual to see satellites such as AsiaSat programmed into memory.  Fortunately, all receivers come with the ability to delete programming.    With our MPEG2-FTA receivers, programming is done via the remote control.  Fortunately, one the information is entered, the information is stored into the receivers memory.

     All MPEG-2 FTA receivers require information to be loaded into memory. All that the receivers require be placed into memory in order to program a channel are the L-Band tuning frequency, which must be calculated, the Forward Error Correction, The PID rate, and the Symbol Rate. It has only been a couple of years since most of this information had to be calculated and entered. Today the receiver manufacturers have programming a lot easier.

      Most modern receivers require only two items be entered, the frequency, and the symbol rate.


I have gone to <http://www.lyngsat.com/> on the Internet.  There I clicked on the map of the U.S. and then selected Telstar 5.  I have scrolled to the next to the last entry which is a group, we call them a bouquet, of channels that can be programmed as one.  This group includes channels from Abu Dhabi, SaudiTV, Kuwait, Syria, Thai and Taiwan plus some radio stations.  All of these channels are compressed onto one transponder. I know that I can receive this bouquet because column five indicates that the signal is MPEG-2 and no scrambling system is noted.  The entry above is NTSC which is the standard analog U.S. TV system.   Viaccess and IRDETO listed above  are scrambling methods. PowerVu is a Scientific Atlanta system and can sometimes be received with MPEG-2 FTA receivers.  At the bottom of the page we see that all MPEG non scrambled listings are highlighted in a light yellow color.   The last column is also of use.  The listings on this page say beam which doesn't tell us much but if you see " East Hemi", you know the signal is pointed at Europe and, sorry soccer fans, I don't care how big an antenna you have you can't see it from that Sports Club in New Jersey!  


Typically most receivers start with the downlink frequency.   Looking at the Lyngsat chart we see that is 12152 Mhz and this frequency is programmed into the first line in our example.  This is simply the downlink frequency or transponder 24.  The next item that is typically required to be entered is the LNB L.O. freq.  This is the local oscillator frequency of the LNB, which is located out at the antenna, that allows the received signal to be converted into a usable signal within the receiver. Domestic U.S. C-Band L.O. frequency is 5150 and Ku band is 10750. In our case T5 is ku so 10750 is entered.  The receiver uses these two frequencies to calculate the L-band frequency that all receivers use to tune the channel.  The next figure entered is the Symbol Rate.  This is the rate the size of the digital package transmission, akin to a modem bit rate.   This figure can be anywhere from less than 5000 to over 30,000.  This figure is entered but be sure that you get the numbers in the right place.  You may have to begin the entry with a 0 to make it work right, i.e. 6000 may have to be entered as 06000.  In the case of our T5 example we can see from the forth column that the SR is 20000.  The 3/4 is the FEC and is automatically calculated by most receivers. It is always easiest to manually enter the symbol rate manually.

     The PID rate, package identifier, and the FEC, Forward Error Correction, which corrects bit errors, are automatically calculated by most receivers.   Some receivers also allow for manual PID entry allowing some signals with incomplete data stream information to be watched.