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Info Eutelsat to do a Eurobird for France
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Info Eutelsat to do a Eurobird for France - 09-April-2009, 09:40

Eutelsat to do a Eurobird for France

Chris Forrester

The French nation is quietly converting to digital terrestrial TV reception (Tlvision Numrique Terrestre, TNT). Free-to-air TNT satellite signals are available for Astra (at 19.2 deg East) as TNT Sat. But there are many French homes which have happily received analogue TV signals from an older France Telecom satellite, Stellat 5, launched in July 2002, and operating at 5 deg West. Eutelsat now occupies that position, and has major plans for the slot.

Stellat 5 was bought from France Telecom (via its Stellat Satellite Company) by Eutelsat for 180m in August 2002, and renamed Atlantic Bird 3 by Eutelsat. For history lovers the slot was previously occupied by Telecom 2C. Telecom 2C (launched in 1995 and with a lifetime expectancy of 10 years) is still operating, albeit in an inclined orbit at 3 deg East.

But the important fact is that Atlantic Bird 3 is the only place to go to view analogue transmissions of all the main French TV networks. TF1, France 2, 3 and 5, Arte and even Canal Plus. These channels have been available from the 5 deg West position for more than 20 years. Everyone now expects these channels to be closed in the next year or two and definitely by 2012 - as France switches to all-digital transmission which would then free up these current analogue channels.

Meanwhile, Eutelsat from June will launch Fransat, a free bouquet of at least 18 digital channels and containing all the main networks. The transition to digital of this key French neighbourhood in the analogue world is a logical step, said Eutelsat. It reflects the Digital France 2012 Plan and the new broadcasting law of 5 March 2009, which aim to offer a solution to homes in areas with poor terrestrial reception to access DTT channels without incurring the extra cost of adjusting their existing dish installation. Frances free analogue channels will remain available via Atlantic Bird 3. A useful addition to the bouquet will be Frances 4 main HDTV free-to-air networks (TF1, France 2, Arte and M6).

Eutelsat says at least 1.5m homes are viewing the Atlantic Bird 3 signals. They are hoping that they can now grow this universe, both in terms of absolute viewing homes but also in the number of channels available to that audience.
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