This past weekend I had a satellite dish installed in my home. (Not nearly as large as the picture to the left, so don’t panic!) This is not a DirectTV-type system, but a system that is configured to point at one of the free-to-air content satellites currently circling our globe. In layman’s terms, that means I’m getting hundreds of TV and radio channels from around the world — FOR FREE! That’s right, no monthly service charge; no extra $2.95 surcharge for having a remote control; no “because we feel like it” tax applied to a monthly bill. Once it’s installed you never have to pay for service.

Okay, so that’s 99% true, but I needed a cool way to rope you all in and get you to read the entire post. There are subscriber channels available that you can pay for if you want, but they aren’t required. (You can see now why I’m blogging about Thailand and not peddling ShamWow! to millions of customers who absolutely MUST have a better way to clean up the 2-liter Coke stains off their carpets.)

The setup is minimal and does not cost a lot of money at all. You will need a satellite dish, receiver, and LNB module. You can purchase these items as a package for $170 – $300 depending on what you want. Installation is relatively simple, but unless you know how to point the dish at the correct satellite I recommend you have an installer come out and do it for you. Not only did I have no clue how to configure the dish, but I’m also deathly afraid of heights, so there was no way in hell I was going up on my roof!

To receive Thai television programming your satellite dish needs to be pointed at the Galaxy 19 satellite (also known as the Galaxy 25 or Telstar 5 satellite in some cases). No other satellite offers Thai programming, so when you are purchasing your satellite package you don’t have to buy one with a motor to move the dish; a fixed unit will suffice since you won’t need to have the dish point to other satellites. You also need to make sure that the placement of your dish offers a clean line-of-site to the satellite. If you live in a highly-wooded area you might have some problems, so it’s best to consult with an installation professional.

The installation of the dish and receiver was very simple; setting up the channels was a little bit more challenging and took a few hours to get right. There are 6-8 free-to-air Thai TV channels depending on the day. Apparently, FTA television can be unreliable in the sense that some stations have a tendency to disappear for no reason, and crop up again at another point in time. My understanding is that this is happening less and less as technology improves, but it’s worth mentioning. In other words, there is no absolute guarantee that you’re going to get all of the channels all of the time. Once my satellite guy and I configured my receiver to point at all of the appropriate transponders, we are able to pick up six TV stations:

  1. DMC – a 24-hour Thai Buddhism channel
  2. MKTV – offers Thai, Lao, and Cambodian programming
  3. NatTV – seems to have a lot of herbal products for sale in a QVC-type manner, but they do have regular programming, too.
  4. IDTV – Indochina TV. The name doesn’t do the channel justice, as it only offers Thai programming.
  5. Hitz & Health
  6. TGN – by far my favorite of the bunch. Everything from news to music videos to Lakorn (Thai soap operas) to variety and comedy shows are included.

I was also able to find two Thai subscription channels — Lakorn Thai and News1. Unfortunately, I have thus far been unable to find out who to contact about purchasing a subscription to access them. My receiver’s manufacturer, GlobeScape, doesn’t have access to them (go figure). I’ll be sure to let you all know if I figure out who to contact, but for the time being I’m quite happy with the variety and selection of the free channels, so I don’t really have an overwhelming compulsion to figure it out.

If you’re looking for a quick and cheap way to stay on top of what’s going on in Thailand and keeping your eyes and ears tuned to the language, I highly recommend a satellite system. There are thousands of satellite installation companies throughout the U.S. (and I’m sure the world) and I can only assume that they are all familiar with these setups and can help you. You may also want to check out for satellite systems and more information.