Hotbird adds more international free-to-air HD services

The Hotbird satellites at 13°E will become a lot more interesting for viewers wanting free-to-air HD versions of foreign TV channels in 2020.

Italy's RAI and Spain's RTVE are rolling out free-to-air HD channels on Eutelsat's Hotbird satellites, as part of a move to high definition by both broadcasters.

Telefonica, which is responsible for the international distribution of the TV channels from RTVE, has selected Hotbird for the distribution of the new HD versions of TVE Internacional and Canal 24 Horas across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. TVE Internacional screens a selection of programmes from TVE's domestic channels for global audiences, while Canal 24 Horas is a 24-hour news channel. Six radio stations from the public broadcaster are also being distributed via Hotbird.

First transmissions were spotted this week, and both channels, plus radio stations can be found on Hotbird frequency 12303, vertically polarised, S/R 27500, FEC, 3/4, Mode: DVB-S2.

Until now, RTVE domestic and international TV and radio services have only been broadcast via Astra 19.2E, as that's where Telefonica broadcasts its domestic pay TV service Movistar to homes in Spain.

Meanwhile, Italy's RAI is moving away from standard definition broadcasts via satellite. In 2020, free-to-air HD broadcasts of its main channels will begin on Hotbird.

In the spring, as RAI's main channels cease broadcasts in standard definition, the current free-to-air programming on the SD channels will become available on the HD counterparts to all Hotbird users, and to cable and IPTV operators wanting to carry RAI channels outside of Italy.

As is currently the case, programmes that can't be broadcast free-to-air outside of Italy due to broadcasting rights reasons will be encrypted, restricting access to users of Italian satellite platforms.

To facilitate the changes, which will also include the arrival of SD regional services, RAI's channels will undergo frequency changes in 2020.

Germany's DW and pan-European channel Euronews [English version] both offer HD services via Hotbird that aren't currently available elsewhere.

>>The knowledge
Hotbird 13°E
A group of satellites operated by Eutelsat and used by numerous broadcasters across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for direct-to-home reception and feeds to cable and IPTV networks.

Platform operators using the Hotbird satellites including France's Bis TV, Poland's Cyfrowy Polsat plus Tivu Sat and Sky Italia from Italy. Hotbird is used to transmit the Swiss national broadcaster's channels and where French-language services for Belgium can be found.

International broadcasters including Al Jazeera (Qatar), BBC World Service (UK), BVN (Netherlands and Flanders), CGTN (China), DW (Germany) and RTPi (Portugal) use Hotbird to distribute TV and/or radio services across the continent.

In the UK, dish sizes from 60cm can be used to receive Hotbird, with the promise of new satellites offering an even stronger signal in western Europe in the years to come. Some Polish householders in the UK even use a re-purposed Sky zone 2 dish pointing at Hotbird.