A Digibox @ 19.2°E
Here is the older information concerning using a Sky Digibox to receive free-to-air channels from 19.2°E.
Firmware changes during the summer and autumn of 2005 have rendered most of this information obsolete; as you now cannot access the "Other Channels" list until the box has initialised itself with the EPG channels list (at 28.2°E), and it seems to want to reload the channels list if it hasn't in around six hours.
It is remarkably easy to defeat - simply rig up a switch box and two LNBs, one at 19.2°E and the other at 28.2°E.
But, in essence, life's too short and there are easier ways - a dedicated FTA receiver (which, ironically, is likely receive better than most Digiboxes) can costs as little as £30 (50 euros).
Therefore, this information should be considered mostly obsolete. It is here for reference, and in case your box is one of the few non-upgraded that doesn't ask you to insert your viewing card when you try to access 'Services' -> 'Other Channels'.
What's 19.2°E and 28.2°E?
Anybody who recycled their dish in the change from analogue Sky to digital Sky will be aware that the dish needed to be pointed to another part of the sky.
The Astra 1 satellites reside at 19.2°E (that is, sort-of south-south-east). All of the analogue Sky broadcasts were here. These days, there are a few analogue channels - Eurosport, CNN, CNBC, and an assortment of German channels. What you might not know is that there are loads of digital channels - English, Spanish, French, German, and one Italian.
Conversely, if you go hunting around the Sky EPG for foreign channels, you won't find anything besides the Arabic and Indian language offerings. This is because the Sky service has moved to 28.2°E on the Astra 2 / Eurobird satellites. Or, in simple terms, left-a-little from the old position in the sky.
So - in a nutshell: old analogue and now European foreign, 19.2°E. SkyDigital, 28.2°E.
Using your Digibox at 19.2°E (European channels)
IMPORTANT! When I switch on my Digibox (at 28.2°E), I often press 'services', '4', '6' to check the signal status while the EPG data is loaded. The other day, with the updated Digibox software, I did this but the Digibox missed my '4' keypress. No problem, this would normally show me the 'Other Channels' list. But NO! It asked me to insert my Sky viewing card!
I messed up the 'Default transponder' setting so the box wouldn't autoload the EPG, rebooted, and I added one of the independent freebie channels manually, rebooted again. My box would not let me access the 'Other Channels' list.
I have had this response confirmed by somebody else using a Digibox, they could not access 'Other Channels' while the dish was pointed to 19.2°E.
Once the EPG data has been loaded, the 'Other Channels' list is available (you do not need a Sky viewing card); though very obviously if the box behaves in a similar manner with the 19.2°E channels, as it might appear to be doing - this basically negates most possible use of the box on any non-Sky service! The only way to use an upgraded Digibox at 19.2°E if this does prove to be the case is to rig up a dish with LNBs to both 28.2°E and 19.2°E, and switch between them as necessary. If this is not possible... then it is obvious - such a receiver can no longer be used to view programmes from other satellites!
And if you were thinking of purchasing a Digibox for watching 19.2°E - DON'T. You get no interactive services and you get no EPG (only now/next). Frankly, you'd be better off with a cheapie FTA receiver unless you intend also to watch BBC and the like.
I am reliably informed that you can do 'useful' things with a Comag receiver (the sort that Lidl sell from time to time) if you install customised firmware...
Copyright © 2005 Richard Murray