MYSATTV and myVAST are one stop centres for information on Viewer Access Satellite Television or V.A.S.T. Satellite TV for caravans and motorhomes. Unlike Foxtel, V.A.S.T. is free to air viewing. You will need to buy the decoder box, cabling, satellite dish and dish mount. Once set up, the box is connected to your TV via the HDMI cable. Select HDMI on your TV and you can begin the process of locating the satellite on the Set Up screen. What you can expect to view is very much the same programming as you would view at home on normal FTA TV.
Choice of V.A.S.T. systems
Cost of a V.A.S.T. system can range from around $300-$400 for a small portable system to $4000-$5000 for automatic fitted systems. The advantages of an auto system is the automatic detection and locking on of the satellite signal. It also stores away in situ when not in use. The disadvantage other than cost, is you must ensure that your vehicle is parked where the dish has a clear northern/eastern window to the satellite. This means you can’t park under trees for shade unless the high northern view is unimpeded. This is where a portable set up come into its own. No matter where you park, you can nearly always find that northern window. Again, there must be a clear window to the satellite.
Setting up a portable satellite TV system
Portable satellite TV systems can be frustrating to set up. However, once you’ve got the knack, it takes very little time at all. The satellites you need to be pointing at are C1 and D3. Knowing where to point the dish,(usually a tad right of north), the angle of the LNB and staying in ‘line of sight’ are the tricks. Satellite TV reception requires a clear line of sight between the dish and the satellite. Anything between them will be cause for grief. Trees, buildings, land forms and even heavy cloud will all contribute to ‘operator meltdown’ – that is the person trying to locate the satellite as well as the system! Various signal finders are available but the one most accessed is found on the Wikicamps app. Unfortunately, these do have their limitations.
A recent setup event while in Katherine NT resulted in frustration and angst because signal could not be located. Talking to a local electronics specialist helped to identify the problem – the signal finder. The device we were using was one that came with the VAST box. It had worked fine around the east coast regions where the signal is stronger, but had difficulty locating the sat signal as we travelled further west. The problem was partly overcome with the purchase of a new and larger dish which marginally improve the reception. This was proven by the finder recognising, but not locking onto the signal. Further discussions with our friendly electronics specialist and he suggested that what was needed was a superior quality signal finder. $140 later and within 2 minutes, signal was located, locked on and we were up and running.
Over the following few months, we were able to assist other travellers with signal detection. In all cases the better quality finder has succeeded over the cheaper lower quality finders that many travelers carry.
Our lesson learnt, and one we are happy to pass on, is that to reduce setup stress, don’t skimp on quality equipment. In the long run, it could cost you more by having to replace with an item you should have purchased from the beginning.
Sometimes your reception can rate as low as 53% and is still adequate for good picture. Other times you could hit the jackpot and rate as high as 85%+. Take what you can. It maybe the best you’ll get for that camp-site.
On the up side, once you are connected you can enjoy most of the usual programs you view at home. Some decoder units also have functionality as a PVR (Personal Video Recorder). These units either have a HDD or SSD built in or access a portable HDD/SSD to store recorded programs for your enjoyment when you want.
So how do I get Satellite TV?
After you have located a supplier and purchased your preferred unit, you are required to register as a traveller by filling out the paperwork and forwarding to the nominated address. If you can’t wait for snail mail, simply go on to either mysattv or myVAST websites. On these sites you can register your V.A.S.T. box, have questions answered, re-register when required, and inform them of your change of location.
When you register, you are asked for the state of registration. This will determine the regional transmission you receive. When you change state, you are able to contact VAST to notify change of location. Ensure you have your VAST card number handy. If you do need to contact them, their contact details are on the mysattv and myVAST websites.
As a traveller, you only receive a Temporary Reception Certificate. You’ll need to re-register each 6 months. It pays to mark it on a calendar, or on you phone. You will need internet to do it. The re-registration process only take a couple of minutes. You can re-register within 30 days prior to your renewal date.
Now you are all set up and you have acquired the satellite, your system software may need updating. No panic. Your software will update automatically from the satellite. There’s no need to hook up to the internet. System updates happen regularly, and can also occur while your box is plugged in, turned but not in use. The next time you go to use it there may be some time where there appears nothing is happening. Be patient. The box is installing these updates.
An explanation about ‘Rehit’. There will be times when you don’t use your V.A.S.T. box for many months and you’ll need to send a signal out to let the system know you are back. ‘Rehit’ does just that. In short, it wakes up the signal so that your box can receive again. If you have acquired the satellite but have not reception, go to Rehit . You may experience a delay in picture if there is a software update as well. Keep your card number handy so you don’t have to keep pulling your VAST card out of the decoder when you do the rehit.