About the WinTV-Nova-s, FTA, and DVB

The specsheet on the card is available from Hauppauge. The technology is being refered to, goes by such names as Free-To-Air (FTA) and Direct Video Broadcasting (DVB).


Basically, Back 15 to 20 years ago people used really large satellite dishes that were usually 8 to 12 feet in diameter. These are refered as C band. Later another satellite technology appeared that’s refered to as Ku band. The difference between the two is that C band operates typically from about 3.4 to 4.8 GHz and using relatively low power. Ku band on the other hand operates typically from about 10.7 to 12.75 GHz and using relatively high power. A good page on frequencies and such is at the MLESAT Web Site.

Note: FTA and DVB operate in the Ku band. Although there are still alot of free channels on C band as well.


In the last 5 to 10 years, satellite started going digital. The reason for going digital is you can pack more channels into the same amount of space (bandwidth). A side effect is you can easily encrypt a digital datastream, and therefore control who can see it, and therefore charge money for it.

Note: Most FTA and DVB channels are digital, but are not encrypted and thus FREE to air. Yes free as in free beer.

The main advantage to Ku band is that it allows you to use a much smaller dish that C band does. In fact there are some dishes as small as 1 foot diameter out there. However for a reliable signal 18 inches is typically the minimum. Most Ku band systems use about a 3 foot diameter dish.

What You’ll Need

In addition to the Hauppauge card you would also need the following components:

  1. A dish. You’ll need a dish and of course a clear view of the southern sky. Most FTA systems are aimed at people that are not from the US. Therefore you’ll notice that most dishes are sized in centimeters. So if you don’t want to bother converting, just remember bigger is better. At least for your signal.
  2. A dish positioner. You’re not going to want to aim your dish at just one satellite. Therefore you are going to want a dish positioner. You’ll want one that is rated for the size dish you’ll be getting. You’ll also want it to be DiSEqC compatible. The Hauppauge card and all FTA receivers support DiSEqC. DiSEqC stands for Digital Satellite Equipment Control.
  3. A PC. Duh.

The Downside

The downside to all of this (if there is one) is that, if you only speak english, you’re limited to what you can watch. Unlike most everything else (DirecTV, DishNetwork, etc.) in world of satellite over the US, more than 1/2 of the content out there is in non-english languages. If you speak another language, or two, this is the perfect system for you. Also you can’t use any DirecTV or DishNetwork equiptment to view FTA. Nothing about them is compatable with FTA (or even each other).

Why bother?

So now you’re thinking why even bother… Well on reason would be to catch a non-US-centric view of the world. Most everything broadcast in the US is controlled by the US. The so called war in Iraq is one example. The US had to approve everything that the US media broadcast to us from Iraq. But I won’t get off on that rant.

Another reason would be there is alot of content that you just can’t get with DirecTV and/or DishNetwork. For example PBS. You can only get PBS if you live in an area that can have local channels. Then, you have to pay for PBS anyway. Which should be free to begin with. With FTA you can get ALL the PBS feeds for free. Even the High Definition PBS (requires High Def. receiver) feed!

SCPC is also a good reason. Although the Hauppage Card’s specs don’t state (so it probably doesn’t) that is supports SCPC, most receivers do. SCPC stands for Single Channel Per Carrier. SCPC is usually used to provide radio feeds to radio stations. However, it can be used for phone and data was well. More info on SCPC is available on Quantum Prime Communications’ website.

What’s Out There

Here’s an idea of what’s out there. A quick and dirty list of the free channels is here. Also check out the LyngSat website for a more accurate view of what’s up there.

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