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There are a number of competing systems in use, with early adopters having used C-band satellite dishes of several feet in diameter to receive signals which were originally analogue microwaves, and then digital microwave using the 3.9-4.2 GHz band. Today, in the 11.7-12.2 GHz Ku band, which enables the use of under one-meter dishes, with most often the DVB-S standard, FTA can be used from apartment balconies.

The most common North American sources for free-to-air DVB satellite television are:

NHK World HD on Intelsat 9 (58W)
Retro Television Network on AMC 9 (83W)
NASA TV Multi-channel (NASA HD, NASA Public, NASA Media, NASA Education), TVU Music channel and This TV on AMC 3 (87W)
ABC News Now on Galaxy 28 (89W)
Eternal Word Television Network on Galaxy 17 (91W)
My Family TV on Galaxy 3C (95W).
AMGTV and BYU Television on Galaxy 19 (97W)
English and foreign language broadcasters RT (TV network), MHz Worldview, Ebru TV, IRINN, Al Jazeera English and more up-linked by GlobeCast World TV on Galaxy 19 (97W)
Christian broadcasters The Word Network, Emmanuel TV, Daystar Television Network, JCTV, Trinity Broadcasting Network, The Church Channel, 3ABN, The Hope Channel, Amazing Facts Television, God's Learning Channel and more promoted by Glorystar & Spiritcast Satellite Systems TV on Galaxy 19 (97W)
Pentagon Channel on AMC 1 (103W)
Jewish Life Television and University of Washington TV on Galaxy 18 (123W)
Montana Public Broadcasting Service and other PBS Satellite Services on AMC 21 (125W)
Classic Arts Showcase on Galaxy 17 (91W) and Eternal Word Television Network HD on Galaxy 15 (133W)
Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, and Hockey wildfeeds on various satellites
Most of these signals are carried by US satellites. There is little or no free Canadian DVB-S content available to users of medium-size dishes as much of the available Ku-band satellite bandwidth is occupied by pay-TV operators Shaw Direct and Bell TV, although the large style dish (over 3 feet/90 cm) does have a few choices. FTA signals may be scattered across multiple satellites, requiring a motor or multiple LNBs to receive everything.

The largest groups of end-users for Ku-band free-to-air signals were initially the ethnic-language communities, as often free ethnic-language programming would be sponsored by Multilingual American Communities and their broadcasters. Depending on language and origin of the individual signals, North American ethnic-language TV is a mix of pay-TV, free-to-air and DBS operations. Today, many American broadcasters send a multitude of programming channels in many languages, spanning many new channels, so they can get National support, which ultimately leads to carriage by cable systems, to additionally support the high costs of broadcasting signals in this way.

Nonetheless, free-to-air satellite TV is a viable addition to any home video system, not only for the reception of specialized content but also for use in locations where terrestrial ATSC over-the-air reception is incomplete and additional channels are desired.

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