/ Home & Energy, Technology

Poor weather means bad luck for Sky TV customers

Staying in on a stormy night to catch up on missed TV is one of life’s great pleasures. While the weather may mean you lose your live TV signal, have you ever had trouble with recorded programmes?

Last winter was one of the stormiest in the UK for at least 20 years and the wettest since 1910, according to the Met Office. And every gale and downpour of chubby rain stopped my Sky dish from receiving a signal.

So what? You might say. Unless an engineer is on standby over my dish with a brolly, what do I expect? Well, it’s not the dish cutting out that bothered me, it was being unable to access the programmes I’d recorded on my Sky box.

We still need a signal

At the time, Sky’s set-up meant that if you couldn’t receive a signal, it must mean you’d stopped subscribing to its services. Sky+ boxes store recordings, but still require a recent satellite signal to let you access them. And signal outages can last hours.

This meant that your cosy evening plan to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones could be ruined by any outbreak of winter weather. Seeing as it was windy and rainy rather a lot last year, I spent quite a few evenings changing my plans.

We’ve also found that 68% of Which? members with Sky TV have experienced reception problems during poor weather. Heavy rain affected 76%, but snowfall (36%), strong wind (33%), thick clouds or fog (13%) and even normal rain (6%) are also problematic.

We’ve seen improvements

This year, Sky upgraded its system so that Sky+HD boxes allow access for up to 12 hours without a signal. Older boxes can access recordings for up to an hour.

Unfortunately, I still have one of their older boxes and as with a typical British winter, it’s pretty likely that it’ll rain or gale for longer than an hour. However, it’s still a big improvement and a move in the right direction.

Are you with Sky and have had difficulties accessing your recorded programmes? Do you think it’s unfair that you can’t access recorded TV in bad weather?


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May I turn this conversation onto satellite broadband, a similar service I am investigating at the moment?

As background, I occasionally work from home and need a good broadband service to access my work files which are hosted on a Citrix server. I recently upgraded from ADSL to Fibre Broadband. However there is often a lengthy gap of up to 30 seconds between pressing a key and seeing a response on screen This effectively makes working from home impossible.

Although I live within the M25 I am told by Plusnet that the 2.1km wire from the ‘exchange’ to my house means that my Fibre Broadband upload speed of around 0.6 mbps is no better and possibly worse than the cheaper ADSL service which I had previously. Plusnet, have informed me that there is nothing it can do to improve these upload speeds. Ping speeds are equally bad.

On the assumption that that my only alternative is satellite broadband, I would be interested to hear anyone’s views on this service. Are they reliable and are they likely to improve my upload and ping speeds? I cant find any Which? reviews on satellite broadband service providers.

[As a separate question, perhaps for another conversation, am I right to be a little suspicious of the information I have received from Plusnet on Fibre Broadband and, if it is likely to be right, is this more expensive service being missold to those of us who don’t live in towns?]

The question on performance is difficult to diagnose remotely, but how does your fibre results compare to your ADSL results?

The information that you are 2.1km to your nearest exchange is irrelevant. If your area has BT fibre coverage, it means that the connections between the Exchange to the street Cabinets have all been replaced by fibre and are effectively lossless. So the degradation occurs on the copper connection from your home to the street Cabinet. Previously when you were on ADSL2, the degradation was all the way back to the Exchange because it was all over copper, so by switching from ADSL2 to FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet), you eliminate the copper losses from the Exchange to the Cabinet and should get much better ADSL speed and response.

So someone is telling porky pies or has no idea what they are talking about.

Don’t go for the satellite option. Satellite has massive, unavoidable delays which kill response times and will definitely be unsatisfactory. I suggest that you investigate the location of you nearest street Cabinet and calculate the distance. Then armed with this information escalate the fault with Plusnet.

Finally, if you go to the BT Broadband sales site, you can enter your phone number and postcode and it will give you an estimate of the speed you should get at your address. It usually is a reasonable (though not accurate) guide.

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Snow affects my reception and has done for several years. What is more worrying is that moderately hot weather also causes a reception loss. I have reported this to Sky but I don’t think they believe me. Once the sun goes down reception comes back. Also, strangely, it doesn’t affect “terrestrial” channels that come through my sky satellite system, but only “Sky” channel!!

The channels available on a Sky receiver don’t come from a single satellite but a handful in almost, but not exactly the same place in the sky. If you get poor signal on a group of channels when the weather is poor, your dish may be pointing to left or right edge of the cluster rather than the middle.

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The Astra satellite 28.2°E is in reality a cluster of 4 colocated satellites (Astra a, b, c and d). They carry far more services than just Sky and Freesat. But the Sky and Freesat satellite transmitting dish (up on the satellite) are aimed to provide a signal footprint that covers the UK.

Most of the UK should be able to receive a quality signal using a standard 45 cm dish. If you lose signal except under exceptional circumstances (such as massive electrical storms in your area) I would suspect something wrong with your installation.

Get a reliable (recommended) aerial installer to come and check it out. It could be that the dish has moved a little out of alignment, water ingress in the LNB/coax or there’s just a kink or fault in the coax cable run. Satellite signals are comparatively weak compared to terrestrial broadcast signals, so the dish antenna has 100+ times the gain of the average yagi antenna. It also has a much tighter beamwidth – which is why it needs to be accurately aligned. Larger dishes have even narrower beamwidth, so need sturdier mounting and really accurate alignment. And the coax connecting the receiver to the LNB (Low Noise Blockdown converter) are all part of the aerial tuning, so are just as important as the dish itself.

Unless there is an obvious local problem such as a trees or buildings blocking your line of site or some industrial process causing interference, every home in the UK should be able to get reliable, quality pictures for Freesat and Sky.

We have had repeated problems with the sky signal. At the slightest breath of wind (not an exaggeration) the programmes are interrupted. There is a thin tall tree with minimal thin branches about 9 metres away from the dish in its line of sight. Can this be the cause? Sky are on last chance saloon to fix this with an engineer arriving tomorrow. If it’s not fixed this time once and for all we are moving to Virgin. (Interesting to note for all readers: Sky wanted to charge for the engineer visit. When I said I wasn’t happy I was put on hold for 2 mins then offered it at a discount of £20. When I said I wasn’t going to pay anything otherwise I would leave sky, I was again put on hold for 2 mins and then given a free call out). Totally fed up with trying to resolve our issues with sky and am starting to think that satellite systems are just not up to the job so cable is the only way forward. Will soon know.

Yes it could be the trees. Satellite signals are weak. The dish gain may be high, but it needs a good signal to amplify. You may have to lop the tree or relocate the dish.


Have you got time to send one more email?

Briefly and politely summarise your story to Mr Barney Francis, CEO Sky UK. Email barney.francis@bskyb.com Then request his help.

I hope that you will find that Sky suddenly become more responsive to the point of amazement.

Good luck,………..Topher

john tottman says:
5 January 2015

My Sky dish is on a 6 foot pole connected to a bracket bolted to the side of my house. It loses the signal in wind or rain or even when a bird flies past to close. We have had an engineer look at it and he said it should not have been erected like that and it will cost to rectify it. .As the original installer is no longer trading (I wonder why?) we cannot get him to rectify it.

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Mike.W says:
15 January 2015

Sigh, I see that SKY is taking the brunt of poor service and technology. They are not alone, Virgin Media has now deteriorated to the standard of reception and service that SKY provides if not worse. During bad weather some stations just pixilate. but worst of all it can take 30sec and some times longer just to switch on and switch off the TIVO box and when requesting on demand it can take up to a minute let alone recording programmes that you never asked for but what is most annoying is the different levels of volume of different channels that are recorded. Is my box faulty? No, they changed it. Same old performance Broadband is better than most but their servers must be struggling to cope. Mail seems to go haywire just when you need it. Virgin Media has changed hands now its really pathetic compared to the good old days. Come back Richard.


We the customers of Sky have known this for more than 15+ years!


Note – over the air digital also drops out and so does DAB radio.

Strangely – Analogue never did, which proves the adage ‘Keep it simple Stupid’

scruffydog says:
14 March 2015

I have bought a second hand Sky+ HD box with old card and want to know if I can just connect it up and get HD channels. I am still subscribing to SKY. Do I need the card from the HD box or my card from my SKY+ box?

Hi scruffydog, thanks for your message – I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had some problems with your Sky+ HD box. In your position, I’d definitely get in touch with Sky directly about this matter:


I have been receiving satellite TV since 2009, I’ve not been using Sky but Freesat which uses the same satellite, the only “upgrade” that I specified at the time of its profesional installation was a Northern UK spec dish which is larger; I have a four feed LNB.
Throughout this time I’ve always used Humax, I started with just a receiver and currently I have a Humax HDR-1000S 1TB PVR, I’ve have only two losses of signal and on both occasions program loss was of a short duration with no ongoing problems. On both occasions loss of signal was down to multi-layered cloud from near the surface to the tropopause in association with heavy rain; I’m a retired meteorologist..