Satellite fail: Terrestrial back-ups tackle end-of-life woes

Satellite TV is taken for granted for millions of viewers worldwide. But what happens when the satellite used for a major infrastructural back-up is having trouble?

The satellite back-up for Italy's digital terrestrial television service is being prepped for broadcast from Eutelsat 9B after its previous satellite home at 5°W was blighted by trouble.

The incumbent satellite there, Eutelsat 5 West A, is rapidly approaching the end of its life. It's already started to incline and won't be able to provide stable reception for much longer. Its replacement 5 West B, which was launched into orbit three months ago is having major trouble of its own following an incident shortly after launching.

Today, Eutelsat has confirmed that the satellite’s South solar array has been lost. The power loss means only 45% of the capacity of the satellite can be operated.

This means that it won't be possible to continue broadcasting as many services from 5°W.  To provide continuity of service for the back-up of digital terrestrial television in Italy, transponders on Eutelsat 9B's Italy beam have been activated.

In bad news for those viewers who unofficially watch the free-to-air streams via specialist satellite equipment, reception of the new back-up service is restricted to Italy and areas close to the country.  The long-term set-up for the back-up remains to be seen.

Official satellite reception of Italian TV via Eutelsat Hotbird 13°E is unaffected.

By focusing on moving services intended for infrastructure back-up rather than services intended for direct-to-home reception, it minimises the impact on households that would otherwise have to repoint their dishes. 5°W is used for the French Fransat service.

Meanwhile, the future of the UK's digital terrestrial TV back-up was onboard the same rocket that took Eutelsat 5 West B into space.

MEV-1 is a special device that is designed to dock on to an existing satellite, providing it with additional fuel to extend the satellite's functional life.

It's due to attach itself to Intelsat 901 ahead of its move to 27.5°W. There it will replace Intelsat 907, the current home of the UK television back-up to remote relay transmitters and other transatlantic communications.

Russian pay TV service gives up on satellite
Kartina TV, which launched last year on Astra 19.2°E, providing viewers in Europe with access to Russian and Ukrainian TV services is ditching satellite transmissions next month, in favour of providing an online services. Subscribers have reported receiving emails from the company citing a mid-February end of service on Astra 19.2°E.

It would be more bad news for Astra 19.2°E's operator SES, with a steady drop of services on 19.2 continuing. In the past three years, Astra 19.2°E has said goodbye to Dutch and Belgian services, the Turkish international channel TRT-Türk, a package containing the main three RAI channels from Italy, TeleMaroc, France 24 Arabic and soon Spain's TVE Internacional and the free-to-air international version of Canal 24Horas (the encrypted version for Movistar continues). Many of the affected services have opted to operate a single feed for Europe via Hotbird.

19.2°E's core offering of German channels has been strengthened though, with the two main German commercial broadcasters, RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 extending free-to-air SD TV carriage contracts.