Reception of Free Irish TV by Satellite

Some information here is preliminary and not yet confirmed.

Saor is the Gaelic for Free. Existing analogue TV (TV via an aerial) is free. You pay a TV licence simply for having a Receiving Apparatus. Saorsat is the name for the new all digital service that is for 2% to 8% people that won’t be able to get Saorview, the Digital Terrestrial Service via an aerial. It’s not a competitor to Sky, Magnet or UPC.

Simply an alternative way to deliver Saorview. It will probably have the exact same content as Saorview, or slightly less if  TV3 doesn’t pay the small extra carriage charge compared to Terrestrial.

When and How?

The Saorsat service is to be supplied via Ka-Sat @ 9E, using Ka-Band. The Satellite is many for Internet use and has 80+ spots. One covers Ireland. The satellite was launched successfully 26th/27th  of December 2010. It’s unlikely a service will be available before  Autumn 2011, though test loop Transmissions have been received since 26th May 2011

Reception will be possible with an HD Satellite receiver (but not a Sky branded Model), but a different kind of LNB and dish to that used for Freesat or Sky is required, likely an 80cm dish.  A second dish is possible for those with existing dish, or a large “dual feed” or “multi-feed” dish for those getting a new install including Freesat and/or Sky as well as Saorsat. The LNBF needs to be Left Circular Polarised for Ka-Band (20.185GHZ). Suitable LNBF became available during February 2012

What to buy?

Do not buy any equipment for Saorsat until RTE NL announce the service is a “public” live transmission and the required equipment is publicly available in Irish Retail.

A low cost  automatic switch (clips on pole and about size of a box of Kitchen matches) can be added to use a single existing coax if the receiver is a “Freesat HD” type, or similar non-Sky box or TV with built-in “Diseqc” settings.

The “official” Ka Band LNBF for Ka-Sat is now available from a few suppliers, but wait until the Official RTE announcement

The system is only at the testing stage and now may not be live till early 2012


The content of Saorsat is likely a copy of what ever Saorview is. This is because it will be a backup feed for most transmitters and possibly direct feed for some very small transmitters. It’s for the 2% to 8% that may not get a good enough signal via aerial.

Saorsat is simply the branding for Irish Free Digital TV via a satellite dish.

Sky services initially will be unchanged. RTE have no plans to add extra Saorview content, RTE HD or the RTE Digital Radio to Sky. The existing provision of RTE, TG4 and TV on Sky is at Sky’s request and costs. [Since writing this Sky & UPC requested and added RTE2 HD]. Saorview and Saorsat only carry RTE2 in HD.  TG4 and TV3 are likely to be HD during 2103, though likely TV will not be on Saorsat unless forced by legislation.

As the service only adds a backup feed and perhaps 1% to 2% more viewers (some people without Saorview will not bother or have PayTV), TV3 are unlikely to pay to be on the service. So probably no TV3 or 3E.  With a dual feed system you can have BBC, ITV, C4 and C5

See the Channels page for details of content, but TV3 & 3e are unlikely to be carried.

Why Ka-Sat @9E and not on Freesat @28E?

Mr. Conor Hayes:
Another innovation by RTE is promotion of its satellite option, Saorsat. Some members of the committee will be familiar with the equivalent UK service, Freesat. The BBC, ITV and a number of other companies have put their services on one of the wideband Astra satellites. The services are broadcast unencrypted, or “in the clear” as we call it. The trouble with those wideband satellites is that they have a very big footprint. If RTE were to be put up on a wideband satellite, its services would be in the clear to the UK, France, Holland and many other countries. One might ask why that should not be done, to which I would respond that we do not have the resources to purchase the rights to enable us to broadcast into those countries. We buy programming that allows us to broadcast to 4.5 million people. We do not have the money to broadcast to 100 million people. Therefore, the option taken by the BBC when Freesat was launched is not available to us.

It [Saorsat] will cost us approximately €1.5 million per year. We can manage it. As other channels come on board, part of the cost will be defrayed. In light of the security this option provides and the ability to supply to the 2% of the population who do not currently receive public service television, the cost can be adequately justified. We might have a different take on the situation were the cost €20 million or €25 million, but the actual amount is appropriate and reasonable.