Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I get a FTA system?

FTA provides free programming you can't get anywhere else. Whether it's foreign language programming from faraway countries or multiple PBS feeds, there's always something on watch on FTA, but there's never a subscription fee.

Come on, is this really free? What's the catch?

Yes, once you set up your system, you never have to pay anyone anything to watch all of the legitimate, legal FTA channels listed on FTAList.

The catch is that you can't control what's available. With so many channels to choose from, there's always something to watch, but individual channels come and go without warning. That's why a site such as FTAList is useful to help you keep track of what new channels arrived and what channels went away.

Should I drop cable/Dish/DirecTV and switch to FTA?

Probably not. FTA is a great supplement to an existing programming package, but it's a weak alternative as a sole provider. You can't count on the big four broadcast networks being available on Ku-band FTA, and there aren't any HBO-style movie or sports channels. And channels come and go without notice, which is why you need a site like this.

If you watch your local broadcasters with an over-the-air antenna, FTA can add a lot of channels to your $0-per-month system. But if you're used to easy access to dozens of movie channels and sports any hour of the day, you won't get it with FTA.

How can I use FTA equipment to pick up ESPN or HBO?

Short answer: You can't.

Long answer: Some channels are meant for subscribers only. Those channels are sent encrypted; only authorized recipients may unscramble them. Once in a great while, a channel like this will be available in the clear for a few hours, but that's about it. Just as you occasionally find money on the sidewalk, it's nice when it happens, but you don't plan on it.

Cautionary answer: Some scofflaws spend a lot of time working to break the encryption on these channels. Sometimes they succeed, at least until the encryption changes. Their methods are typically illegal and can damage legitimate FTA equipment. The possible reward isn't worth the risk.

Can I use a Dish Network or DirecTV dish and LNBF to pick up FTA channels?

No, not really. Most Dish/DirecTV LNBs use circular polarity instead of the linear polarity that most FTA channels use. Most Dish/DirecTV dishes are too small for reliable FTA reception; even their wide oval dishes, are meant to replace several small dishes instead of concentrating the signal from one satellite.

What do I need for a FTA system?

This is covered in more detail in the Getting Started section. In short, you need a clear view of the southern sky, a 30-inch or larger dish, a Ku-band LNBF, a Free-to-air DVB receiver, and RG-6 coax cable to connect the receiver to the LNBF.

I'm ready to buy. Where's your order form?

FTAList does not sell equipment. Check the online dealers listed in the FTA Links page, or our dealer advertisers, or a local search (this used to say local phone book) for Satellite Television dealers.

Which FTA receiver should I buy?

FTA receivers are like cars. There are lots of different models, most of which perform basic functions the same way. There are lots of opinions about which one is best, but very few people have significant experience with more than one or two models.

If you're just getting started, I'd suggest that you make sure your first receiver has blind scanning to help you find channels. Even if you don't have a motor, you might feel like adding one later, so it's generally a good idea to make sure your receiver can drive one. After that, it's a question of which cool features you want and how much you want to spend. Shop around!

Do I need a separate FTA receiver for every TV in my house?

Yes and no. You definitely need a separate FTA tuner for every different FTA channel you want to watch simultaneously. For now, multiple-tuner FTA receivers are unusual, so you can pretty much say that you need multiple receivers for multiple simulaneous channels. And if you're planning on watching channels from two different satellites at the same time, you'll need two dishes.

But if you don't need to watch different shows at the same time, you can split the output of a FTA receiver to send the same channel to multiple TVs.

What's the sequence of steps to do something for one particular receiver model?

We probably don't know. There so many receivers out there! To solve a particular problem with a particular receiver, your best sources of information are: the receiver's instruction manual, the dealer who sold the receiver to you, the receiver manufacturer's web site, and online forums devoted to your brand of receiver.

I don't live in the US or Canada. Which channels can I get?

Although you can make some educated guesses by studying footprint maps, the easiest, best answer to that question will come from a satellite TV equipment dealer near you. That dealer will know exactly what's available and exactly what equipment you'll need to get it.

When I look at LyngSat, I see a lot more channels. Why don't you list them here?

Three main reasons:

  1. They're not visible from North America. LyngSat has some interesting lists that include all channels that originate from a given country, such as the US. That's not a bad thing, but it's not so helpful when you really want to see what you can receive here in North America. Or ...
  2. They're not free-to-air. Channels with notes such as PowerVu or Digicipher are scrambled. LyngSat lists them, but you can't watch them with FTA equipment. Or ...
  3. They're C-band channels. Any channel that LyngSat lists with a four-digit frequency is C-band.

What's a C-band channel?

It's a channel using the frequencies that used to be the only game in town for satellites. C-band signals are weaker, so you need the huge (6-foot or larger) dishes to receive them. There's nothing wrong with big dishes, but they're more complicated to set up and they're restricted from more areas.

Why don't you list C-band FTA channels?

To avoid confusion. A primary goal of is to present all of the channels that anyone can pick up with a smaller, Ku-band dish, in charts that are easy to understand. Future versions of FTAList may include a separate section for C-band FTA channels. Until then, check the C-band list (PDF) from Global Communications.

What are feeds?

Feeds are signals beamed from a remote location to a studio for editing (sometimes) and rebroadcast. Common examples are local news correspondents sending reports, and sporting events fed back to a studio without graphics or commercials. Because there's usually no good way to know when they'll be on, feeds are not listed with the standard channels here. If you want to find feeds, a FTA receiver with blind scanning can help.

Why don't you include the satellites that are east of 87 degrees W or west of 125 degrees W?

The lists here are designed to represent the satellites that have active FTA channels and that can be seen by all of the contiguous United States and southern Canada. For simplicity, especially for those new to the hobby, FTAList does not include those satellites that can be seen on one coast but not the other. That may change in future versions of FTAList.

Some channels have more than one language. Why do you list only one?

The main reason is to avoid confusion. If a channel uses five languages, it shouldn't be listed five times. If a channel alternates between languages, it may confuse newcomers who, for example, might find a channel on the English list but hear it in Arabic at the time they tune in. The second reason is that's the way the database is structured. Future versions of FTAList may revisit this question.

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