VAST Satellite Television System for Travellers (v2)
VAST Satellite Television System for Travellers
The VAST satellite TV system will replace the existing Aurora system used by many travellers. But we have been waiting on answers to questions like :
When will VAST be available?
When will Aurora stop?
What equipment is needed for VAST?
What channels will I be able to receive from VAST?
What Satellite will VAST be broadcast from?
Clarification on these points was provided just a few weeks ago, but before we get into that – here is a little background.
BTW – VAST stands for “Viewer Access Satellite Television”
The Optus Aurora system has been in operation for a number of years. It is broadcast to the entire country from a satellite called Optus C1 (or more correctly C1/D3). The announcement of the replacement for Aurora was closely linked to the introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting and the discontinuation of the existing terrestrial analogue transmissions.
So why were changes to the satellite system tied to changes in the terrestrial TV broadcast system?
Well, it all relates to something known as “the digital cliff”. This refers to how digital TV transmissions are either received perfectly or not at all. In the old days of analogue TV if you lived in an outlying area or below a hill, you might receive a slightly snowy or ghosty picture – but you did get a picture. When it comes to digital, if the receiver cannot get enough signal strength to give you a perfect picture it will give you absolutely nothing. This means that some people who were getting their TV signal slightly imperfectly will not receive anything at all in the new digital world. Also there are number of small towns that have retransmissions stations that will not interface with the new digital system. It was recognised that it would be more economical to offer the equivalent of the new digital TV to these places via a satellite system. VAST was born!
How does VAST differ from the Aurora system?
Firstly VAST has the ability to deliver high definition pictures. This means much better quality picture IF you have a HD television and it is correctly cabled to the decoder. VAST uses Mpeg2/4 for the video compression – this is very different to the compression system used by Aurora. VAST uses a version of the Irdeto2 encryption system. Aurora uses both the Irdeto1 and Irdeto2 encryption system.
When will VAST happen?
VAST has been running since the beginning of 2010, however the plans to accommodate travellers were not made public until December 2010. The existing Aurora service is scheduled to stop at the end of 2013.
What equipment do I need to receive VAST?
Because VAST uses a different compression system to Aurora (to allow for HD broadcasts) you will need to purchase a new decoder. Right now your choices are limited to UEC VAST certified decoders. These are selling for about $270 and come with a smart card. The smart card is digitally locked to the decoder – it will not function in any other decoder. The decoder is also locked to the card – it will not accept any other card. The same dish and cable that you are currently using for Aurora will work fine with the new VAST decoder. If you want to see programs in high definition – the decoder needs to be connected to a HD television with an HD cable (either HDMI or component).
What channels will I be able to watch?
The final line-up of channels has not yet been announced. This is because the WA broadcasters are yet to provide their information. If you are a traveller you will get access to:
- SBS1 from each state
- SBS2 from each state
- SBS HD from each state
- ABC1 from each state
- ABC2 from each state
- ABC3 from each state
- ABC News 24 from each state
- Seven (SCTV)
- 7two (Central)
- 7mate (Central)
- Imparja North (WIN Programming)
- GO (North)
- 10 Central (North)
- 10 Eleven
- ONE (Central)
- ONE HD (Central)
- Regional News Guide
- The VAST Information Channel
The form to apply for access requests your PRIMARY AREA OF TRAVEL and asks for a state. It also notes that “Selecting a state will determine what services are enabled on your decoder.”
How do I apply to have my VAST smart card activated as a traveller?
When you receive your new VAST decoder, it will come with a smart card pre-activated for ABC and SBS channels only. To activate the other channels you need to complete an online form at http://www.mysattv.com.au/travellers.aspx . Completing this form will give you a 6 month activation, after which the system will remove all channels except the ABC’s and SBS’s. The good news is that you may request reactivation 4 weeks before it is due to expire and (hopefully) not suffer any down time.
So in a nutshell … if you are a traveller…
- You will have to replace your existing decoder some time before Aurora stops (currently the end of 2013).
- You will get a bunch of new channels .
- You will get HD (assuming you have a HD capable TV and cables).
- You will have to apply for access as a traveller and you will get 6 months access only. This can be renewed in 6 month lots forever (I assume).
- The new system uses the same satellite dish and cable and the dish points at the same satellite.
Do you have a VAST system? Why not tell us what you think of it. Use the “leave a reply” box at the bottom of this page – we would love to hear from you.
Have you got a question? Why not leave a reply below?
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