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    Slingbox incompatible with UK DVB-T (Freeview)

    mattbunce Newbie

      UPDATE: 1st November 2013

      After two years 'working' on this issue, Sling seem to have created a firmware update that addresses this problem. For now this firmware is only available as a private beta, but hopefully you'll see a general firmware release soon.



      I have been waiting to connect my Slingbox HD-PRO to my rooftop aerial for some time. Today I finally got around to doing it and shared the disappointment of many other users on this forum with the setup process failing whilst trying to scan for channels.


      To cut to the chase, the problem seems to be with the Slingbox tuning to any of the channels in the group COM4 (ITV2+1, ITV3, Quest, QVC, 5USA, and many more). This appears to be becuase of the number of services (TV + Radio + Data) that this multiplex provides. It seems that the Slingbox is unable to cope with more than 32 services on a single multiplex, despite the UK specification allowing 64.

      This cause of this issue seems to have been identified back in January 2012, yet Slingbox still haven't fixed the issue.


      Why have I reached this conclusion...

      When doing a full "Digital Antenna" scan with the aerial unplugged the Slingbox quickly progresses through the scan 2% at a time. However when the aerial is attached the scan always stops and eventually fails at 10% (for me, receiving Freeview from the Crystal Palace transmitter - this fact is important - read on).


      Some background to Freeview, or Terrestrial Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-T)

      DVB-T channels are transmitted in 'multiplexes' - These are digital data streams which occupy a channel of the radio frequency spectrum. The reason that DVB-T allows us to have more channels is that you can squeeze multiple channels in to a single multiplex. For example, all the BBC channels are transmitted on a single frequency. Everyone in the UK should be able to receive at least 3 multiplexes (These can be seen as PSB1, PSB2, and PSB3 on this multiplex listing page). These three multiplexes comprise what is know as "Freeview Lite" and are broadcast from over 1000 transmitters, including small local ones designed to 'fill in' the gaps in areas where reception is poor).


      Most (but not all) of the population is able to receive a full Freeview service from one of the 80 'full service' masts. These carry additional multiplexes (COM4, COM5 and COM6 from this multiplex listing page).


      The important bit... Because Freeview channels are broadcast in multiplex groups, the Slingbox (and your TV) only really tune in to up to 6 actually frequencies, and each of these frequencies will contain several channels - You might have noticed when you scan for channels on your TV they are found in groups of up to around 20 at a time.


      Knowing this, we can take a closer look at how the Slingbox is tuning it to specific frequencies. When the Slingbox doesn't find a DVB-T signal on a particular frequency it is able to skip quickly to the next frequency (you will observe this when you scan with the aerial disconnected). However when the aerial is attached and the Slingbox finds a DVB-T frequency the percentage indicator will pause just a little longer than normal - this is because the Slingbox is working out which channels are within the particular multiplex it has just found.


      How did I work out multiplex COM4 is the problem?

      I know that from the Crystal Palace transmitter the following multiplexes are broadcast:


      • Ch22 - COM5
      • Ch23 - PSB1
      • Ch25 - COM4
      • Ch26 - PSB2
      • Ch28 - COM6
      • Ch30 - PSB3 (which is HD channels and the Slingbox can't receive these, so it will always skip these)


      The eureka moment... When scanning for new channels I noticed that at 10% was the third time that the Slingbox took a while during it's 2% usual increments. This led me to believe that it was struggling with the third multiplex that it had found. I think we can assume it found it OK, but just didn't like something it found within the multiplex itself. Looking at the multiplex listing page, you can see that COM4 containts many more services than the other multiplexes and it seems that this is the cause of the Slingbox crashing. There are some reports than a while back COM4 did work for a brief period when fewer services were hosted within the multiplex. The critical number seems to be 32, more than that, the slingbox will fail. This is desipite Arqiva (The owners of some UK multiplexes) explaining that the UK digital TV standards allow for up to 64 services per multiplex.


      Why do I think I'm right?

      To test my theory, I did another channel scan and quickly unplugged my aerial when the progress bar reached 10% (so the Slingbox couldn't tune in to anything at that point). I then quickly plugged the aerial back in when it reached 12% and allowed the scan to continue.
      Following the scan I had perfect reception on all channels apart from those within multiplex COM4. This tells me that the Slingbox was able to tune to and store four multiplexes, but always crashes when trying to store COM4.


      So why does it fail at a different percentage for other people?

      The percentage of the scan represents the channel frequency the Slingbox is scanning. Because each of the 80 full service transmitters broadcast multiplex COM4 on different frequuencies (to avoid interferrence) you will see the scan fail at a different percentage, depending on your location and therefore the frequncy that is used by COM4.


      So why does it not fail for everyone?

      Remember I said earlier that not everyone gets the COM4 multiplex? This would explain why not everyone has these issues when it comes to tuning.
      Of course, with this in mind - If anyone has successfully retuned their Slingbox recently and it contains any of the COM4 channels, then I'll eat my hat and my theory is completely wrong. Otherwise... Slingbox - It's over to you. When are you going to fix this?




      Message was edited by: mattbunce

        • 1. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
          mattbunce Newbie

          Just to add...


          • My Slingbox firmware is up to date
          • I have tried a hard reset
          • The Slingbox is connected to my router via a CAT5 cable
          • I have tried from several laptops and desktops connected via CAT5 cables
          • I am not using any firewalls
          • I've tried using different browsers and updating the Slingbox plugin
          • All other input sources work fine, and as I said in my first post, most DVB-T channels also work


          So please don't suggest any of the above!

          • 2. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?

            Hi Matt


            Excellent work, I think your theory is spot on


            I live in the High Wycombe area and use the Crystal Palace transmitter and it fails at 10%



            SLingbox - please fix


            (Somehow I don't think 5* will change the name of their station)



            • 3. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
              mattbunce Newbie

              Hi 69clkx69


              Snap! - I am also in High Wycombe and pointing towards Crystal Palace


              Just to double check - are you able to test out my 'remove cable at 10%, reattach at 12%' trick to see if you get all but COM4 channels?



              • 4. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?

                Hi Matt


                I shall try that this eveing and let you know how it goes



                • 5. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                  gridgway Newbie

                  Excellent work Matt there Matt, I am in Epsom and fail at 10% with an HD-Pro.


                  I think thought that there may be an alternative theory


                  We found previously that the problem was described as too many services on a multiplex with 32 being the max (or maybe 31).  It looks like COM4 breaks this boundary and the other multiplexes don't.  So that may be it rather than the presence of the * in the channel name.  Although your theory does indeed make sense and your determination of the multiplex is excellent!!


                  With the max-services hypothesis, I have been wondering why Sling have not fixed it.  I have concluded that the reason they haven't fixed it must be an architectural problem.  So a data structure with 32 "slots" for the services on each Mux.  Otherwise it would be a simple fix.


                  But that's all conjecture on my part.  I presume we have no way to get info on the software or hardware design?  It's all proprietary right?


                  Good work though Matt.



                  • 6. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                    mattbunce Newbie

                    Ahhh - A great point, I hadn't considered that. It could well be that COM4 has more services than other multiplexes


                    The DVB-T standards are pretty techy, but I can't imagine the COM4 mux breaks the DVB-T international standard. So if the Slingbox struggles to register this number of services, it strikes me that this is something that Sling needs to fix immediately or accept a return of the box under the sales of goods act (not fit for purpose).



                    • 7. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                      marlbrook Newbie

                      I am sure you are on the right track, but there are other puzzling/worrying factors.


                      This exact problem first started with the Slingbox PRO. The PRO HD was not affected. We should wonder why has it now migrated to the HD version?

                      I know this is true. After my PRO would not tune, I bought a PRO HD and it did tune with no problems at all, until a few seeks ago. Now both hang at the same point.


                      The other IMPORTANT point to note is that the original thread has been marked as SOLVED for ages.  Of course it is not and has never been solved on either machine, but SlingMedia saw the opportunity of ignoring this thread because somebody suggested a partial (and to my mind unacceptable) workaround by pulling out the aerial during scanning.


                      Other contributors, PLEASE be warned. Do not post workarounds unless they are 100% effective, otherwise SlingMedia use them to say the problem is solved and ignore further posts. Believe me if someone comes up with a way of getting just one channel recognised, SlingMedia will take this as a complete fix, ignoring the fact that all the other channels are missing.


                      A more suspicious person might think that the problem now migrating to the PRO HD boxes too could be very convenient to the Manufacturer, requiring customers to have to buy new boxes yet again, just to be able to continue using the services they 'thought' they had purchased. You might of course think that, I could not possibly comment.


                      I posted a warning on Amazon some time ago, pointing out this issue, advising people not to buy unless it is fixed.


                      Readers would be well advised to post similar warnings on as many sites as they can find. SlingMedia have proved thay have NO concern whatsoever for their customers by ignoring this issue. They might reconsider if they find their sales are falling due to bad but accurate publicity on the Net.

                      • 8. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                        mattbunce Newbie

                        Hi Marlbrook


                        That is a good observation. I think the fact that it seems that the problem has migrated to the PRO-HD is more to do with how the multiplexes have changed over time, rather than the hardware/firmware developing a fault. It seems in the past there were fewer services on COM4 which would explain why the PRO-HD would have worked at some points in the past and why the original thread may have been marked as solved.


                        Either way, for Slingmedia to sell this device in the UK and promote the fact that it has a digital tuner, they should ensure it meets the standards required in that country. Remember how the iPad 3 was launched as a 4G device, but then this was ruled illegal becuase although it containued 4G technolgoy (LTE), it was incompatible with the 4G technology in use within the UK. As a result, Apple had to stop marketing the device as 4G.

                        • 9. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                          AndyK Newbie

                          Fails for me at 56% TV ariel pointing at Mendip, if its of any help.


                          I don't bother with the inbuild tuner.

                          • 10. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                            marlbrook Newbie

                            That is a distinct possibility, but the interesting point is that the PRO-HD was supplied with firmware that could cope with Freeview updates right up to the last month or so, and that the PRO could not (as from December 2011), .


                            SlingMedia must have realised a change was necessary to take that into account, and taken some appropriate steps. So they knew the problem existed. It may be they did not go far enough but they knew where to look and what was needed then. Once they had realised their software was not adequate to cope with the Freeview changes in 2011/2012 they produced a fix in the PRO-HD, but did not bother to go far enough to ensure that it was future-proof. One wonders if that was accidental or done to ensure the PRO-HD would become obsolete.  If their latest boxes tune all Freeview channels then the inference is fairly clear as to their motivation.


                            The material point is they never acknowledged  the problem when it manifested itself in the PRO box, and made no attempts to provide customers with a fix then.  That leaves me with no confidence they will be bothered about fixing the PRO-HD issue now, unless they are forced to do so. Your efforts to pin-point the issue are excellent and no doubt very well intentioned, but SlingMedia knew what was necessary to modify the PRO-HD so that it could tune Freeview channels after the PRO disaster. They never bothered to supply a fix for the PRO box then, and unless suitable pressure is put on them it is unlikely they will bother with fixing the PRO-HD.


                            I see with horror they have already marked this thread as 'partially fixed'.


                            The PRO box debacle has clearly demonstrated that SlingMedia have no interest or compulsion to fix this or similar issues. The product is (or was) fantastic, but SlingMedia show no will to provide customer service.


                            I applaud your thread and all the contributions, but unless SlingMedia have a complete change of direction I fear it will come to nothing. Loyalty to existing customers has not produced that.


                            For that reason I again request that we all take some active steps to bring this to the attention of potential new customers. If everyone who has this problem, whether on the PRO or PRO-HD box took a few minutes to post the details on other Forums and Sites, then SlingMedia just might get the message. If they do not care about you once they have your money, then post the facts and hit their sales. This is just as relevant to their latest boxes even if they work correctly now, nobody can have any confidence that they will be supported either.


                            Posting here has had no positive results from the Company. All existing cutomers deserve positive action on this issue. Receiving Freeview is a key point in marketing SlingBoxes. If you want this issue sorted we have few options left .... anyone who has posted here knows how to post elsewhere.... so find some suitable sites and just do it.


                            SlingMedia have not put this right after a year or more. Take some action now. I have.

                            • 11. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                              mattbunce Newbie

                              Hi Marlbrook - I share your frustration.


                              Just to put your mind at rest, this topic may have changed to 'partially solved' because I highlighted the answe from gridgway as being helpful.


                              As much as it would appear that Slingmedia are deliberately crippling the device, I have faith that the issues we are experiencing are due to a lack of throght, rather than a deliberate intention to cause problems. In particular the latest devices they have brought out don't even include a DVB-T tuner, so I don't see how we'd be encouraged to move to one of these devices.


                              I agree that we should not stand by and watch Slingbox put their feet up on this issue. For me personally, I've been looking forward to getting Freeview to work so I can watch it remotely, without having to interrupt my housemates when they are watching satelite. Therefore, if this is not corrected in the near future then I'd expect at least a 50% refund or I will simply return the item under the Sales of Good Act.

                              • 12. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                                mattbunce Newbie

                                Thanks Andy


                                I've worked out that if you divide the failing percentage by 2 and then add 20 you end up with the channel number that has failed to tune.


                                So for you 56/2 + 20 = 48 and guess what - Channel 48 is COM4 on the Mendip transmitter.


                                This must be proof for the Slingbox team to realise their product is faulty.



                                • 13. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                                  marlbrook Newbie

                                  For the time being I am going back to my PRO box, as it has both 'S' and Composite inputs. I use the 'S' for Sky, and can connect an external Freeview tuner via 'Composite'. It was a bit fiddly to get the codes to control it, but I managed eventually.


                                  I will monitor your progress. I hope your optimism is rewarded, but after a year of positive inaction from SlingMedia sadly I do not share it, wish I could.


                                  Perhaps I would have a little more faith if someone from SlingMedia posted something encouraging on this thread. They never did on the original one re Freeview tuning, which as you are aware is still being updated by disgruntled customers, the latest being just a few days ago, so it has been going since December 2011 right up to August 2013. Makes one wonder if anyone from Slingview monitor the posts. I am sure they do, just not interested enough to dare to reply.


                                  After all, the only problem with running a business is customers once you have their money. Fair does to SlingMedia, they solved that one with a simple solution, as Julius Caeser might have put it "veni, cepi, ignori"

                                  ("I came, I took (their money), I ignored them")


                                  Good luck,  Jeff

                                  • 14. Re: Tuning in to Freeview - A possible solution?
                                    mattbunce Newbie

                                    This is a little off-topic Marlbrook, but you might want to take a look at this HDMI > HD Component converter. This would allow you to stream true HD images from your Sky box, rather than just using S-Video. Assuming you already have a TV attached via HDMI, you can also purchase a HDMI splitter, to allow you to connect your TV and the component converter simultaneously.



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