FTA (Free-To-Air) Receivers

FTA (Free-To-Air) Receivers


Before I posted on my site, I wanted to test my FTA receiver for a couple of weeks to see how it would perform.  The results are in.

This whole FTA receiver thing is brilliant.  Irrefutably genius.

What is an FTA receiver?

An FTA (or Free-to-Air) receiver is a receiver that can pick up free-to-air channels from all across the globe.  All that is needed is the FTA receiver, a satellite dish (to pick up the FTA channel signals), and a coaxial cable to hook up the dish to the receiver.  With a little technical finagling and programming diddling, you can receive satellite feeds from such conglomerates as Dish Network and DirecTV.

What channels can I receive with an FTA receiver?

First and foremost, for all you fraidy cats and scary movies out there:  FTA receivers are LEGAL.  They were originally designed for folks to pick up FTA (free-to-air) channels.  These FTA channels primarily are channels that are broadcast internationally.  Most of these FTA channels are independent international channels (not your ESPN or TNT or etc.) – most of which you could give less of a shit about than China does about the age of it’s female gymnasts.  But, what you can also do is pick up the signal from big-name satellite cable companies like Dish Network and DirectTV.  To be quite honest, I have a very limited knowledge of what particular FTA channels actually exist because I’ve only used the receiver to “borrow cable without telling” (aka bootlegging).

Now, picking up the feed, like all things, is frustrating at first, but relatively simple afterwards.  The website dishpointer.com can help you determine at what angle and elevatoin you have to position your satellite to pick up certain feeds.  For the most part, you should be able to pick up either of the 2 canadian satellites (BEV) or either of the 2 Dish Network feeds.  With most receivers, when you go to the antenna setup of the receiver, your receiver will sense the signal you are currently receiving.  With my Viewsat Ultra Lite, my friend was on the balcony moving the satellite around at different angles and different elevations while I was inside seeing if the receiver caught the signal.  Normally, once you receive the signal, you will see it appear at the top right of your menu on the receiver.  Once you have that locked, you want to be sure to secure the current position of your dish and leave it like that.  You want to be sure to get a signal quality of at least 70% or more.

Positioning the satellite is the difficult part.  Once you have it positioned, you still will not be able to view any channels.  To do that, you must upload a file to your receiver that will descramble the satellite feed.  All that is needed to descramble these channels is a little programming ingenuity.  There are programmers out there who manufacture the files you’ll need to upload to your receiver.  And…they are doing it for free – at no cost to you.  I love folks who like to spite these large corporations.


There is an entire community of programmers out there who manufacture files that can descramble the satellite feed from the cable conglomerates.  All you have to do is upload the correct file to your receiver and within 10 minutes you will have free satellite cable.  And not only satellite cable, but premium satellite cable.  We are talking 200+ channels with everything from local channels to pay per view channels (and for all you giggity giggity folks out there – that includes porn).

I got to see the UFC fight last weekend – for free.  While curmudgeons across the nation paid 50+ bucks to watch Brock Lesnar dry hump the homo-erotic hell out of his opponent for 3 rounds, I sipped on a Honey Moon and enjoyed my gratis UFC fight.

Where can I buy an FTA receiver?

There are a ton of legit and legal websites that sell these receivers.  Let me reiterate, having an FTA receiver is LEGAL – so don’t worry about having to avoid a painful shanking in a rat-infested and dimly lit alley to get your own FTA receiver.  No worries folks – you don’t have to worry about going to jail and getting anally raped.  The site that I got mine from is www.shop4fta.com.  It is a good website with great prices.  I received my FTA receiver in 2 days.

What FTA receiver should I buy?

There are a multitude of companies that produce FTA receivers.  From my experience, the Viewsat series seem to be the most popular.  Also, keep in mind that the more popular a receiver is, the more likely it is that there will be more programmers releasing updated files.  If you get an obscure receiver that no one has, it is very likely that there will be fewer programmers working on files to release for your particluar receiver.  Plus, when they do release a file, it will be infrequently.  That is why I strongly suggest getting a popular brand of FTA receiver (such as Viewsat or Sonicview).  I would recommend going with any of the Viewsat FTA receivers (I bought the Viewsat Ultra Lite for $120).

What kind of satellite dish do I need?

Any satellite dish will suffice.  Most folks already have existing satellites that remain from subscriptions they once had with either Dish Network or DirectTV.  If that is the case, then the complete install will be very easy for you because your dish will already be pointing in the right direction.  All you would have to do is connect a cable from the dish to the receiver and upload the file.

THERE IS ONE CATCH THOUGH:  you have to have a clear view of the southern sky.  How exactly can you tell this?  There are two ways.  You can either buy a compass and see where it points south, or you can just look at where the other satellite dishes in your neighborhood are pointing and facing.

If you don’t already have a dish, then you can purchase a used one from online or craigslist for less than $50.

If you want to pick up more than one satellite signal, then you would need a dual LNB on your satellite.

Each satellite consists of the actual dish (the round part) and an LNB (the thing protruding from the dish that points to the satellites).  I currently have a single LNB on my dish (so I can only pick up one satellite at a time), but they sell LNBs that have multiple heads that will allow you to pick up different satellite feeds at the same time.  In that case, you could have over 500 channels.  It all depends on how much you’re willing to diddle around with this stuff.  For most folks, bootlegging one satellite feed is enough, for others (like my pocket protector geeky ass), it probably isn’t.

Where can I find the files that are needed to upload?

There are a few websites (mainly forums) that deal with this.  The one that I use is www.liveFTA.com.  They forum community on that is fairly huge, the tech support is pretty good, and they release new files very quickly.

What’s the catch?

The only catch is that once every month or so, the cable companies will “zap” the feed that you are receiving.  What that means is that you will no longer be able to view any channels off of that satellite feed.  This is where the programming support comes in handy.  When any feed is zapped, the programmers will work on releasing a new file that allows you to view your channels again.  Often, they upload a new file within a few hours, so you can be back up and running in as quick as a few hours.  Sometimes, it may took longer.  It just depends.  That’s why I would recommend subscribing to a very basic and affordable cable package with a company to serve as a backup.  You don’t want to solely rely on your FTA feed.  What if it goes out during an extremely inoportunate time?  If you can live with some inconvenient downtime, then you can stick with only have the FTA feed.  But, for most folks, having the backup legitimate cable feed will be the way to go.

I have left out a lot of details – I know, but this isn’t as difficult as it may seem.  You may feel overwhelmed the first time you set everything up, but once you get it right the first time, the only thing you will have to change in the future is the file you upload to your receiver (which can be done either by a serial cable or via USB on some receivers).

There are a ton of websites that describe in further detail how to set up your FTA receiver.  I have found though that the support forums provide the best resources and information.   Pretty much every question you can think of has probably already been answered on these forums.

You don’t have to be a geek or a technological savant to set up your FTA receiver.  You just have to be patient.  Once everything is set up though, you will never have to pay another dime for anything.  No monthly fees.  No taxes.  Nada.  Zilch.  Squadoosh.

For more resources, google “FTA receiver” or “installing FTA receiver” and you will find a ton of other information on this.

If any further information is needed (which I’m sure it will be), then feel free to comment on this post or shoot me an email.  When commenting, be sure to use the email address you want me to contact you back at.

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