Sky Digital (SD)

Sky Digital is the brand name for British Sky Broadcasting’s digital satellite television service, transmitted from SES Astra satellites located at 28.2°E and Eutelsat 28A satellite at 28.5°E. With over 9 million subscribers, Sky delivers more than 200 channels of programming to homes and businesses that have digital satellite equipment supplied by Sky; this equipment includes a small satellite dish (minidish), a Sky box (a digital satellite receiver) and remote control.

There are two types of standard definition receiver available for Sky, the basic digital receiver and Sky+, which will enable you to record and store programmes. Both models have been discontinued and are no longer offered by Sky.

Sky competes with Freesat, Freeview and Cable for viewers, however, it remains the first choice for those wanting to watch the latest films and the best sporting events. Sky offers a Freesat service called Freesat from Sky, a valid card is required to watch Free-To-View channels.

For information and prices on the various Sky packages, visit Sky at

History of Sky Television
Sky Digital was officially launched on 1 October 1998, although small-scale tests were carried out before then. For the first time, BSkyB used the newly-launched Astra 2 satellites, which have since come to broadcast exclusively to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

At this time the use of the Sky Digital brand made an important distinction between the new service and Sky’s analogue services. Key selling points were the improvement in picture and sound quality, increased number of channels and an interactive service branded Open….. Sky Digital competed with the ONdigital (later ITV Digital) terrestrial offering.

New Astra satellites joined the position in 2000, and the number of channels available to customers increased accordingly. This trend continued with the launch of Eurobird 1 in 2001.
Originally Sky Digital launched with a set-top box known as the Sky Digibox, however, in more recent years the Sky+ and Sky+ HD boxes have launched alongside the original box.

Sky+ is a digital video recorder with an internal hard drive which allows viewers to ‘pause live television’ (by switching from a live feed to a paused real-time recording that can be restarted at any point) and schedule programs to record in the future.

Sky standard definition broadcasts are in DVB-S/MPEG-2, with the Sky Movies and Sky Box Office channels including optional Dolby Digital soundtracks for recent films, although these are only accessible with a Sky+ box. Provided a universal Ku band LNB (9.75/10.600GHz) is fitted at the end of the dish and pointed at the correct satellite constellation, most digital receivers will receive the free to air channels. Some broadcasts are free-to-air and unencrypted, some are encrypted but do not require a monthly subscription (known as free-to-view), some are encrypted and require a monthly subscription, and some are pay-per-view services. To view the encrypted content a Videoguard UK equipped receiver (Sky) needs to be used.

BSkyB has no veto over the presence of channels on their EPG, with open access being an enforced part of their operating licence from Ofcom. Any channel which can get carriage on a suitable beam of a satellite at 28 East is entitled to access to Sky’s EPG for a fee, ranging from £15-100,000. Third-party channels which opt for encryption receive discounts ranging from reduced price to free EPG entries, free carriage on a Sky leased transponder or actual payment for being carried. However, even in this case, Sky does not carry any control over the channel’s content or carriage issues such as picture quality. Recent years have seen the launch of numerous low-budget channels, including foreign and shopping channels, often with very poor technical quality.

Sky has stopped taking channel launch applications for it’s Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). Ofcom has said that this will give existing channels an unfair advantage and may force Sky to replace older set-top boxes for customers with the newer ones. Due to either limited regional availability of certain channels, or conditions relating to their must-carry status, Sky operates four regional variations of their EPG for domestic customers. The four different EPGs transmitted are Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England/Scotland. The Northern Irish EPG has the most listed channels, with the Republic of Ireland having the least, the difference is major as Channel 5 and BBC Radio are missing.

Each viewing card or smartcard provided by Sky is programmed with the customer’s postcode, so when inserted into the user’s set-top box it selects which EPG is used, as well as determining which regional variation is allotted to the BBC One, BBC Two and ITV channels for users of the England/Scotland EPG.

sky+1Sky+, is a personal video recorder (PVR) service for Sky Digital, was invented by Hollie White. It is very similar – in principle – to the TiVo service. Launched in September 2001, Sky+ allows the user to record, pause and instantly rewind live TV. The system performs these functions using an internal hard drive inside the Sky+ set top box. Its chief competitors in the UK market are the Freeview+ PVR, BT Vision, and Virgin Media’s V+, which has 3 tuners, a 160 GB hard drive and HDMI output. In the Republic of Ireland, Sky+ competes with UPC’s Digital+ box which offers 160GB or 250GB of storage. As of 30 September 2009, there were 5.9 million customers with Sky+.

The £10 per month subscription fee was discontinued for subscribers from 1 July 2007 but will continue for Freesat from Sky use. In July 2006 Sky added remote recording functionality to Sky+ in the UK and Ireland. This enables customers to schedule recordings when they are away from home via a mobile telephone. Programmes can be added to the planner either by downloading an application to the mobile phone, called ‘Sky By Mobile’, or by sending an SMS with details of the programme name, time, date and channel.

In February 2007, Sky added remote recording via the website, so customers can program their STB from any web browser (except Chrome) using an EPG similar to that found on the Sky+ system.

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