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Sky UK Allegedly Trial Broadband TV Service Without Satellite UPDATE

Sunday, August 22nd, 2021 (8:11 am) - Score 20,880
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Sky (ISP Sky Broadband), which is owned by Comcast, has reportedly begun UK trials of their long-awaited alternative TV service, which would enable customers to receive the full array of television channels by harnessing an existing broadband connection instead of an ugly Satellite dish.

At present, if you want to receive all of Sky’s TV channels and content, then you need to get a Satellite dish installed. Admittedly, some new build homes with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines can also receive Sky’s TV channels over that same fibre, but this typically utilises a Fibre Integrated Reception System (FIRS) that still comprises a central satellite receiver and aerial array, to serve the whole new-build site.

The idea of delivering TV over broadband (IPTV) is of course nothing new. For example, both BT and TalkTalk have been doing this via the YouView platform for years, while Sky itself already has the broadband-centric NOW (NOW TV) platform that uses hardware from Roku to stream channels and on-demand content. But NOW TV only offers a smaller selection of popular channels and content.

However, Sky have been developing a full TV via broadband platform for some years (here), but so far they’ve only launched such a solution in Italy (Sky via Fibre) and Austria (Sky X). The company recently added Germany to that list too with their new Sky Q IP Box hardware, which requires a minimum broadband ISP download speed of 6Mbps (i.e. enough for basic HD streaming via a single viewing channel).

The good news is that Sky might finally be making some progress on such a product for the UK market too. A report in The Express highlights sources as having informed them that Sky’s TV via broadband service is now being trialled with selected customers in the UK too and that the launch may be “imminent,” but we recommend taking that with a pinch of salt as it was also fairly imminent back in 2017 (they targeted a 2018 launch).

We are checking with our own sources to see if such a product is truly “imminent“, but as it’s the weekend, then we don’t expect to get a reply until early next week. The obvious advantage of such a service is that it would give Sky TV access to a wider market (e.g. people who would like a good TV service, but don’t want a dish on their property).

Equally, today’s market is much more competitive (Netflix, Disney+ etc.) and Sky needs to stay in contention as the market evolves around it. The other challenge is that a successful IPTV platform needs to hit the ground running with all the right features, such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K (UltraHD) video quality as standard (competitors are already doing this).

The newspaper suggests that the Sky Q IP Box will support 4K, but you’ll need to pay an extra £5 per month or £11 if you want that to apply across other content (e.g. Netflix) at the same time. The UK box will also feature 1,000 hours of video “cloud recording” (PVR) functionality for live broadcast channels, which will enable customers to pause and rewind “live” TV channels.

However, the standard rental pricing for all this is expected to be very similar to Sky’s regular satellite TV package(s). The operator will have to be careful here, as they risk placing themselves into competition with their own NOW TV brand. As we say, take all of this with a pinch of salt until Sky confirms it, and we’ll hopefully get an update from our own sources soon.

UPDATE 23rd August 2021

Our own sources have been able to confirm that Sky are indeed working to launch a Sky Q IP Box style product in the UK, although at present there are no large customer trials ongoing. However, it is possible that Sky may be running a very small technical trial on a need-to-know basis (this would be normal), but equally this suggests to us that actual product availability is not “imminent.”

Major products tend to require larger customer trials, which often scale-up over a period of months, before a decision is made on the product launch. As such, we suspect that this product may still be at least around 6 months, but possibly more, away from UK launch.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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50 Responses
  1. MilesT says:

    The potential pricing for 4k/HDR for Netflix etc. will make also having a secondary device (premium Roku, Amazon etc., if not directly available on 4k smart tv) very quickly cost effective if not as convenient.

    I wonder if Sky will also offer a full service app on Roku/Nowtv platforms to expanded customer base quickly

    1. Chris says:

      If you want sky content in 4k and have Netflix then the extra payment gets you 4k on both platforms.

      As I understand it basic Netflix is not 4k, so either pay Netflix for 4k or pay sky and get 4k on both platforms.

      Currently paying £67 for all sky channels including Netflix in 4k plus have 2 additional q mini’s.

      Virgin is likely cheaper but picture quality has been terrible for decades on vm.

    2. Pezza says:

      I believe they did offer the Sky Go app as a stand-alone so already did as you say, but the pricing was pretty expensive. All they would need to do is put Sky Go on other streaming devices other then games consoles and charge a sensible fee for it. But then how would they tackle recordings?

    3. Adrian says:

      And yet here in notts VM picture quality is way better than sky q.

      My sky signal is being turned off tomorrow and the terrible picture quality recently is one of the reasons I jumped ship.

  2. Xavier says:

    I have kept my HD boxes so far, have the full package but sky use has been relegated to live sports only these days… – the offers to switch to Q haven’t been attractive and until now is more likely I cancel the subscription than upgrade to Q…

    Having said that, it would be great if they let me use the subscription on my Apple TV – we have 2x4K boxes in the house, with all other subscriptions and by default get a lot more use these days

  3. Nicholas Ashfield says:

    With the Apple September keynote round the corner, Apple might confirm that Sky will finally support Apple TV as a TV Provider under settings.

  4. Peter says:

    They have Sky Q app for smart TV in Germany, so they might release one here too. Germany also have Sky Ticket (Now TV) as well.

  5. Dave says:

    It does make a lot of sense although I’d be worried about the latency for live sports, I’ve watched football on Sky Go whilst away and actually had the Fotmob goal notification well before seeing it on screen.

    1. Chris says:

      No different to watching sports on iplayer.

      Watched the euro’s on smart tab in the garden via built in iplayer in 4k. Wasn’t available over an aerial.

    2. Dave says:

      Exactly why I didn’t watch the Euro final in 4K – There would have been texts from friends commenting on action that I hadn’t yet seen. The iPlayer 4K stream must have been at least 20 seconds behind the digital terrestrial broadcast.

    3. John says:

      The iPlayer 4k stream for the Euros was over a minute behind on almost every game.
      20 seconds would have been great.

      I watched every game that was on BBC in 4k.

      Just don’t spend 90 minutes on your phone and the delay isn’t an issue.
      That will improve over time.

  6. Gigabit says:

    What about latency? One of the issues with say Amazon Prime for sport is that the latency is horrendous.

    1. CarlT says:

      If you’re the ISP as well as the content provider there are some really easy solutions. Much of the latency is buffering to protect against issues across the wider Internet.

    2. Winston Smith says:

      Low latency vieo encoders already exist.

      Google Stadia has 4k video encoding with a latency in the 10s of milliseconds. The bitrate is considerably higher though.

  7. Pezza says:

    I don’t mind the idea of this, but, as it’s is Sky they will probably insist you have a box of there’s, which you probably won’t own, and it’ll cost more to get 4K HDR on it, and you won’t have an all for other devices like the Smart TV or Fire TV or Apple TV or Nvidia Shield, because they all support the Now TV app.
    So Sky will once again misread the market for this idea and price themselves out of it, but they’ll also be generating healthy profits for themselves.

    I know of some people who have ditched Sky and cut the cable and are completely happy with it. I would if it want for others in the house insisting on having it to watch those endless Alibi repeats.

  8. CarlT says:

    Outstanding if true for many reasons. A major broadband provider focussing on OTT will really up the game.

    People happily munching multiples of 25+ Mbps all night during live events will push XGSPON+ along as network operators won’t want to be rearranging fibre networks to relieve capacity.

  9. anonymous says:

    Lets hope Sky will de-interlace their interlaced content properly (unlike Now TV service) so that the temporal motion is not lost resulting in inferior pictures to Satellite. Its unlikely they will deliver interlaced content “as-is” for TV to de-interlace, as it may well support access via an app on tablets/phones too where that usually doesn’t happen for various reasons.

    If its a choice between interlace presented via Satellite vs some dodgy re-encode to progressive format at same frame rate via IPTV feeds, then its satellite for me….

  10. anonymous says:

    For “CHRIS”:

    VM have upped their game. A number of the tv channels are now direct feed rather than off-air and then re-encoded. I don’t know the precise number, but its majority of UK based playout channels.

    In terms of encode delay resulting in different timings depending on the platform, the BBC and ITV are looking at that to see what can be done for live events.

  11. Chris Sayers says:

    Moving to a full IPTV system will undoubtedly be beneficial to the aesthetics of your home, their is a row of homes here where the sheer mass of dishes on the buildings are unsightley.

    Good news if everyone can get it on other ISP.

    1. CarlT says:

      That’s more of a challenge – over their own network Sky can ensure usage of regular Internet doesn’t impinge on the broadcast bandwidth. Allowing use over other ISPs complicates as Sky cannot control how data is transmitted from the network operator to the customer.

      As long as customer expectations are set correctly and/or Sky require a large amount of bandwidth over and above what their streams may consume it should be okay.

      There’s the commercial side there too, though. If they want to be an IPTV provider it makes sense for them to bundle TV and the broadband carrying it.

    2. Roger_Gooner says:

      Sky is heavily dependant on Openreach for its broadband but does have some control as it’s an LLU operator. There can be no doubt that in some areas the quality of broadband will be marginal for HD streaming let alone for UHD. In order to manage its broadband to the best of its ability I can see Sky doing what BT TV and TalkTalk TV do, i.e. insist that the customers also take their broadband.

    3. sebbb says:

      To @CarlIT in Italy you need to have one of the certified ISPs to subscribe, on the ISP side Sky requires 2x10G interconnection with their AS in Milan DC, mainly the big ones have no problems but the smaller/local ISPs often don’t have availability.

  12. Bob2002 says:

    Had one of Sky’s most expensive packages pretty much free for a year under a special deal … was a case of “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”. Typical TV and movie channels just pump out unoriginal garbage and that isn’t going to change if it’s streamed.

  13. Jonny says:

    Good news, I hope they can get the latency down to a similar level as a satellite broadcast.

  14. Andrew Jones says:

    NOW is at this point uncompetitive anyway. Losing Fox was bad enough. I was paying them £9.99 a month for the entertainment package AND £3 for the ability to watch in HD and surround sound. That £3 a month has now gone up to £5 a month AND it is required in order to be able to watch on more than one device at a time. So NOW essentially costs £15 a month now, and has less content than it did before they implemented this change. I cancelled it and picked up Disney+ instead at £8 a month. It feels like Sky want NOW to fail, which would make sense of they were basically going to replace it with a more competitive service.

  15. Neil says:

    i was wondering at what point sky’s NowTV comes out of beta. is the end in sight (literally)

    how long is Freesat on borrowed time for if demand for sat drops due to viability and as they have recently merged with Freeview, are they going to offer their service via IP (own box or on existing sticks)

    1. Alex E says:

      There are many people in rural and coastal areas where Freeview is at best Freeview Light if at all. These people often suffer with poor broadband too.

      Freesat is the answer for these people.

    2. Ben says:

      Indeed — I suspect Freesat actually has a longer lifespan than Freeview.

    3. Roger_Gooner says:

      The government has recently empowered OFCOM to carry out updates for all five national multiplexes for DTT platforms until 2034. This means that Freeview will be available until at least 2034.

  16. Mike says:

    I’d expect a hefty discount if Sky is saving on the satellite stuff and I am having to give up bandwidth.

    1. Paul says:

      Don’t hold your breath on that one!

    2. Ben says:

      How much does “the satellite stuff” cost Sky per subscriber?

    3. CarlT says:

      You aren’t giving up anything any more than you give up bandwidth to Netflix. You’ll ‘tune’ into an OTT service and receive it.

      Costs to Sky will not drop by much. Bandwidth costs money. Content delivery costs money. The satellite transponder costs are spread over the entire customer base so not that much per customer: content/programming costs are way higher.

      Cost savings will be made longer term but investment is required in the shorter term and no savings realised until all the satellite customers are migrated, the transponder contracts end and the uplinks retired.

    4. Roger_Gooner says:

      When Sky eventually puts its all-IP service on sale I’m expecting similar prices to the satellite-based ones. No sensible provider wants a huge number of customers for the brand new launch of a complicated service, and I do believe that Sky will be sensible about this and so not heavily discount launch prices. I also believe that Sky has in any case plenty of potential customers who will subscribe at current prices, including those in the six million premises where a dish is not permitted or practical and those who aren’t enthused about a dish fixed to their house and TV potentially affected by bad weather (including myself).

  17. adslmax says:

    Don’t care as I never like Sky greedy tv company. I ditched sky+HD many years ago. Now happy owned Zgemma H9 Twin 4K UHD 2x DVB-S2X with 500GB SSD on it. For recording, live pause, fast forward and rewind and streaming to any pc, laptop, mobile for playback recorded and watch live boardcaster from satellite freesat. Can recording both chaneels at the same time while watching playback. Can recorded all full HD 1080p copy to PC to kept movies or sports. Brilliant awesome for £84 (SSD are WD Blue pay extra can put the back slot in)

    This box will not work if you have SkyQ LNB dish (you need old LNB from Sky+ HD to get this working)

    A million times much better than Sky+ HD box.

  18. NC says:

    I for one really hope this new IPTV product is released ASAP! I also hope it isn’t exclusive to Sky broadband customers too.

    I left Virgin due to their unreliable broadband/TV and I would love to have an IPTV option. Such a shame BT/Vodafone/Talktalk don’t provide one.

    Very happy with my Vodafone FTTC 80/20 package for £21 a month – download speeds on WiFi about 70-71mb. I wouldn’t accept a ghastly Sky dish on my property so this is my only alternative. Very happy to pay for this instead.

    Come on Sky!

    1. Jonny says:

      I accept this is a bit of a tangent but you don’t actually need to have the dish on your house – it just needs to be able to ‘see’ the satellite. So there’s no reason the dish can’t be at ground level in a flower bed as long as you keep the plants trimmed around it, and then have the coaxial cables carried in a duct back to the house.

      Obviously this depends on what is possible in each property, and it will cost a lot more than a free Sky installation, but it’s worth considering.

  19. Rob says:

    I’d go for this in a heartbeat. Whilst I don’t have FTTP living in a flat, I can’t have a Sky dish installed either. Hopefully it works on a traditional Fibre to the Cabinet service.

  20. I pee TV says:

    Wonder who will launch first then?

    As Virgin accepted applications for an active trial product away back in March/April with this same kind of offering.

    Part of the reason for the Freeview/Freesat sale/handover was the interest in IPTV so the future it seems is finally coming.

  21. Vince says:

    I’ll keep the “ugly” dish thanks. Rather than have absolutely everything dependent on one system.

  22. Ray Woodward says:

    I would suspect that the roll out of a SkyQ IP system would be dependent on the expansion of high speed internet (FTTP) across the UK.

    So I wouldn’t hold your breath …

    1. CarlT says:

      Indeed no need to hold breath, just wait for the rollouts to get to you as they’re proceeding at pace from several network builders.

    2. sebbb says:

      I wouldn’t say that, in Italy you can subscribe on FTTC as well, but in Italy we have 100/20 as standard and on enabled cabinets with 35b there’s 200/20… I will never understand the reason why Openreach would limit downstream to 80Mb.

  23. Dis Gruntled says:

    Currently, the signal for DH8 on 4G all mobile providers except EE are terrible, 1 bar on mine (Virgin), no 5G yet and not sure we’ll ever see it or 6G!. Not sure if there is an issue or just overuse of the antennas, everyone on mobile devices etc.?

  24. Ray Woodward says:

    On a slighyly related note, I see that Sky have (finally) gotten round to restoring IPV6 after last weeks DNS horse hockey …

  25. joshe says:

    https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/1479822/Sky-Q-Without-Satellite-Dish-Tested-In-UK-Launch-Coming-Soon-Price-Release

    Express state that multiroom will only be £10 and HD included with UHD costing £5, so it is slightly cheaper than Sky Q via satellite.

    1. adslmax says:

      When internet are down, you can’t watch it. BAD MOVE Sky.

  26. GS says:

    apparently its going to use the Xfinity X1 box

    1. joshe says:

      I was expecting it to use Germany’s IPTV box as it does support 4K already but according to those on the sky forums theit are going to be using a pre existing box from 2017.

  27. SomeoneElse says:

    I was asked to complete a survey recently on streaming services & TV buying habits. I was asked my thoughts on a potential future product: a TV with Sky Q over IP built in.

    The subscription plan was for the TV & Sky Q. The implication was you’d unlikely own the TV, instead ‘upgrading’ hardware now and again.

    As soon as I saw it I thought “so this is their answer to Sky over the internet in the UK”. It looked pricey and pointless and needless to say I gave the concept very low marks.

    They’ve had the ability to provide SkyQ over IP in the UK for close to 5 years now and they haven’t. There will be a catch, perhaps this survey indicated what the catch is!

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