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I am absolutely ignorant of the subject of FTA and have read as much as I could on the subject but it's so large that I have to ask for help.
I live in a medium rise apartment building in Burlington ON, on the 5th floor, and face approx. SW. What is the absolute minimum equipment I need to buy to try FTA tv? Since it is a condo I am not allowed to mount any hardware on the building so any antenna or dish that's required would have to be temporarily installed on my small balcony. Does anyone have any advice on what I should buy?
 

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When I started FTA, I bought a 76-cm antenna with no rotor, a cheap LNB and a basic Pansat receiver. The antenna was pointed at 97 W which is the satellite with the most FTA channels. That would be a basic set-up. You probably can see 97 W from your balcony but it is easy to check with a compas. Of course you need to be sure that there is no building or tree in the way. If you can see the sun between noon and 3 PM from your balcony, you should be OK.
 

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scotsman, what kind of channels are you after? 97* has lots of international channels mostly from the Middle East.
 

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Since you are not allowed to attach anything to the building, your best bet is to mount your dish on a tripod. In order to secure the tripod, get 3 patio stones as heavy as possible from the hardware store, one for each leg and use tapcon screws and a hammer drill to attach each leg on the stone. Assuming the stones are heavy enough, the weight from all 3 stones should prevent the tripod from falling over under heavy winds.

So to receive a single satellite, you will need at least a 30 inch dish, tripod, 3 stones attached to the tripod for support, RG6 coax to connect the LNBF to your satellite receiver and a FTA satellite receiver. To receive all 28 Ku-band satellites, you will also need to get a motor as well which automatically rotates your dish when you tune to a different satellite.

If you don't want to receive any HD channels, any FTA satellite receiver will do. However, to receive HD FTA channels, make sure you get a HD FTA satellite receiver that supports DVB-S2 as more and more HD channels are using this format.
 

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Before investing in any equipment go to dishpointer.com insert your address and desired satellite, on the map find your building and see if from your balcony you will have clear line to the satellite. The tripod suggestion by DrSat is very good and it should work well for stationary dish (no motor). To add few channels to your OTA setup 97w and 101w are the best and they are both doable on one 30" dish. I would peak for 101w as SES1 is not as strong as Galaxy 19. Since you are not allowed to have any antenna or dish visible I would not go for more than 30". If you decide to get 30", get Winegard DS2076 as it has very good reviews for a dish of this size. For available channels check lyngsat.com. As always in situations like this my suggestion is to try to get as many channels as possible with ota tv antenna, and consider fta as supplement with few extra channels. If you can not get any PBS stations over the air, 125w might be good place to aim. It is a strong bird and it is doable with 30" dish. Have fun.
 

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I wouldn't recommend FTA for an apartment. The best stations are all on C-band and the dish needed will be too large. Ku-band might be possible for mostly foreign language and religious channels but will require a dish significantly larger than Canadian DTH satellites. In Burlington, you might want to check out OTA. It might be possible to pick up stations from Buffalo (to the side.)
 

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I agree over the air (OTA) tv is the best and there is wide choice of home made or store bought antennas to have them placed on small balcony without being noticed. However the two fta channels on 101w are nice addition to ota setup. If you like news 97w is good too. Both are doable from one stationary 30" dish, but the dish has to see the satellite so it might be visible from the street. Also 125w has PBS stations: Montana PBS, PBS Create, PBS World so if you can not get this over the air you can get it there.
 

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I wouldn't recommend FTA for an apartment. The best stations are all on C-band and the dish needed will be too large. Ku-band might be possible for mostly foreign language and religious channels but will require a dish significantly larger than Canadian DTH satellites. In Burlington, you might want to check out OTA. It might be possible to pick up stations from Buffalo (to the side.)
There are 82 English channels available on Ku band which is still a fair amount even without C-band. As these channels are spread across various satellites between 15W to 125W, a motorized dish is the only way to receive all of these. You may also receive up to 40 degrees of arc using a Toroidal fixed dish and multiple LNBF's. Going with a Toroidal dish would be more expensive and difficult to setup however which is why motorized is the way to go.

As the OP stated he is facing SW, he might not be able to receive the lower Atlantic satellites such as 15W. However, most English channels are on satellites located between 63W and 125W so this is not really a big issue. Lots of people limit themselves with a fixed dish aimed to 97W or 97W/101W and miss out on the other good channels available on other satellites.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
OTA info req,

Many thanks for all the information and suggestions guys, I learned a lot from your replies.
It seems it would be better. initially, to buy an OTA antenna and mount it on a tripod on my balcony. I would like to fit a motorized rotator to it so I can change the direction it is facing remotely.
I am considering a ChannelMaster 4221HD antenna mounted on a 3ft. tripod, (weighted down, of course). Does this sound reasonable to you more experienced members?
 

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I suggest you visit the OTA forums. You will likely find all the information you need there.
 

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Dr. Sat,

That basic setup you just described sounds interesting to me. What are the highlights of those 82 English channels?
 

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Mostly religious, but a quick breakdown would be:

63w - 5 ETV channels with 3 broadcasting. Mostly PBS style programming. Apparently coming to an end in July.

72w - 4 channel NBC mux. you will get everything spread across these channels at any given time. From NBC prime time programming, The weather channel, and MSNBC.

83w - 2 channels. Retro TV and Tuff TV. Retro plays old movies and TV shows. Tuff TV is a spike tv knock off aimed at men.

87w - The Patient channel. 2 Florida channels and a religious channel. The two Florida channels are S2.

89w - BYU channel and ABC news channel. Couple feeds in there to.

95w - CCTV news in english and a racetrack (horse) channel.

97w - Lots of religious channels on this one. Plus two excellent news channels, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. River broadcasting has been replaced with R and R TV, a travel and hobby channel.

101w - History and Bio. They are test channels from the Hotel networks.

103w - The Pentagon channel. There are also two channels that are essentially live feeds of Huntington beach. There are also some NBC feeds. several different time zones and universal sports. These are very finicky and you can't count on getting them. The skew is off and they are S2. Very unforgiving. Even with a 4ft dish I can not pick these up with a stable signal. Maybe with a spitfire LNB.

116.8w - 2 BYU channels.

123w - Washington state affairs channel and Washington University feed. Couple more religious channels

125w - PBS world, PBS create, Montana PBS, and two HD PBS channels (east and west). TV montana which is a state affairs channel. there are also several S2 channels on this sat. Another create channel, Louisiana PBS, Oklahoma channel in SD, and Oaklahoma in HD.

This isn't a complete list but is pretty close. There may be a few here and there that I have missed.
 

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trckr,

Thank you for this very useful information. I've been thinking about dipping my toes in FTA and it seems like it's worth it. My idea is for an isolated summer cottage. With some significant effort, we should be able to get CBC, CTV, TVOntario, Sun, and Global in digital over-the-air.

But it sounds like, even with a cheap used box, and other quality dish/equipment, we could add in standard definition digital -- History, Biography, Al-Jazeera English, Russia Today (RT), Retro TV, Tuff TV, PBS, PBS Create, PBS World, amongst the other channels you listed.

To me, these channels plus the OTA channels would be way more than a decent selection of free TV stations for an isolated summer cottage.

I'm going to give this a try.

To confirm, it appears most of these channels seem to be in standard definition. Am I right? Al-Jazeera, RT, History, some PBS, RTV -- are they all reachable with an older used standard definition digital satellite box?
 

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With an older SD DVB-S unit you should be able to get everything I listed with the exception of the HD PBS and the channels that are S2.
I should note that geography plays a role also. I am in Calgary so my results could differ slightly from yours. You should be able to receive what I have listed but I am unsure of PBS Montana. Hopefully someone in your area with a KU dish will confirm?

With the pirates being shutdown a couple years ago you should be able to find a used box for fairly cheap. Check flea markets, garage sales, ect.
 

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72w - 4 channel NBC mux. you will get everything spread across these channels at any given time. From NBC prime time programming, The weather channel, and MSNBC.
CNBC is also available during weekdays on this satellite when the markets are open

103w - The Pentagon channel. There are also two channels that are essentially live feeds of Huntington beach. There are also some NBC feeds. several different time zones and universal sports. These are very finicky and you can't count on getting them. The skew is off and they are S2. Very unforgiving. Even with a 4ft dish I can not pick these up with a stable signal. Maybe with a spitfire LNB.
Alignment is more critical for AMC 1 @ 103W as the skew is off due to a defect on this satellite although this will be resolved soon once the satellite gets replaced. I am able to pick up the NBC studio feeds fine even with just a 36 inch dish using a 0.2dB or better LNBF. Once your dish is tracking the arc, move your dish to 103W and slightly turn the LNBF on the holder until the quality spikes on the Pentagon channel. That should be enough for the NBC DVB-S2 channels to come in assuming your dish is not warped.

If you have a spare fixed dish laying around, you may want to set it up dedicated for this satellite if you have issues receiving in on a motorized dish. It is worth it to have a dedicated dish for this satellite alone as it allows for NBC timeshifting in HD with East, Central, Mountain and West studio feeds with much better quality than an NBC affiliate, even from OTA. When comparing side by side with the same timezone as the NBC affiliate you are receiving, you will notice that the digital artifacts around the NBC "peacock" logo are non-existant on the studio feed. These channels are only active when NBC network programming is on but there's usually always at least one active due to timezone differences.

The list you provided is not so bad as there are only a few channels that you missed. Some of these can't be received from your location so it's understandable that you did not list them.

15W - Telstar 12 (east of London, ON only)
MSNBC full time channel unlike 72W where it is not on all the time

30W - Hispasat 1C/1D (east of Winnipeg, MB only)
Fashion TV - Fashion shows and LOTS of "eye-candy" from France and beyond. Think Victoria Secret but 24/7 ;p Too bad channel is in SD but those of you with C-band can get it in HD and even 3D from time to time on Intelsat 805 @ 55.5W

Cubavision - Although channel is normally in Spanish, they always show English Hollywood movies during the weekend, apparently for Cubans to "learn" English. The movie selection is quite good actually as they don't seem to respect copyright laws. There's usually 1 first run movie every Saturday night. I once saw 007 Quantum of Solace 2 weeks after I watched it here in the theatre.

85W - AMC 16
Bloomberg TV - Business news channel in DVB-S2

107.3 - Anik F1R
CBC feeds - you will often see news and the occasional hockey game here. Feeds are in 4:2:2 chroma so you need an AzBox or PCI card on your computer with the right drivers to receive these

111.1 - Anik F2
Saskatchewan educational channels - Mostly distance education from the University of Regina. You can often learn something by following these courses.
 

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85W - AMC 16
Bloomberg TV - Business news channel in DVB-S2
Are your sure Bloomberg is on 85W? I can get the color bars slate but have not found any DVB-S2 transponders. Is it on C-Band?
 

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Ditto here.

I do get a Bloomberg affiliate feed on 87 or 89 (don't remember which off the top of my head), but it isn't an S2 feed.
 
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