Free to Air (FTA) TV
Free-to Air, FTA or free-over-the-air TV simply means television that can be received without a subscription by a suitable receiver, thanks to unencrypted channels broadcast via satellite or UHF or VHF bands. In some countries, it’s common for mainstream channels to be broadcast free over the air. This is obviously less common in the U.S., however, and Free to Air TV may be difficult to receive in certain areas of the country. Still, receivers can be used in many rural locations as a fairly reliable source of television without subscribing to cable TV or satellite TV. Free-to-Air TV can be an economical option for viewers who don’t mind limited programming.
Free to Air television requires a receiver, satellite dish and low-noise block converter (LNBF). Once your system is set up, you can access legal channels free over the air, without a subscription. This includes foreign language programming, regional TV stations or educational programming like PBS.
NOTE: While you can position your dish towards specific satellites, you may not be able to control what Free to Air programming is available to you at any given time. Free to Air channels may appear and disappear unexpectedly. For this reason, many reserve Free to Air programming as a hobby, or compliment their existing pay-TV programming with FTA. Check out a free to air channel listing to see what channels may be available to your specific location.
Free to Air TV Equipment
You’ll need a Free to Air TV receiver to convert direct video broadcasting signals into images on your television screen. FTA receivers can be set-top boxes or computer cards, depending on where you want to view your programming. Advanced feature options include HD capability, wild feed or multiple dish support, and the ability to control motor-operated satellites.
The next required piece of equipment is called a LNBF, which stands for low-noise block converter with integrated feedhorn. This piece of equipment amplifies the signal so it can be carried to your television through a coaxial cable. It also reduces noise or unwanted signals from reaching your TV. This ultimately improves sound and picture quality of your free-to-air satellite TV.
Finally, you’ll need an FTA satellite dish. FTA dishes range in size, with larger diameter usually able to pick up weaker signals. Local satellite TV dealers and online retailers will have what you need. Choose from motorized or stationary dishes, single or multiple satellite options.
Just like satellite television, you’ll need a clear view of your satellite in order to find FTA broadcasts with your dish. Online resources can help you get started locating channels commonly found in your area. Then use a satellite angle calculator to pick a satellite, enter your location and see what happens!
Free Over The Air HD
While not technically free-to-air TV, more people are picking up free HDTV signals with HDTV antennas.
If you already own a high definition television set, you can likely pick up HDTV signals from Network TV stations such as ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX for free with an HDTV antenna.