Sky is purportedly already testing out its new Sky IP Box in the UK ahead of its launch
Sky originally announced plans to beam its popular Sky Q service into living rooms without the need for a satellite dish back in 2017. And now, it seems a UK launch is finally imminent. According to a tipster speaking to Express.co.uk, trials of the new dish-free service – which uses a set-top box – are already underway in the UK.
During the initial announcement, then-CEO Jeremy Darroch said that streaming the complete Sky Q experience over a fibre broadband connection would enable over six million households across Europe, including two million in the UK alone, who don’t own – or don’t want to own – a satellite dish to access the critically-acclaimed service. But in the following four years, we haven’t heard a thing about the satellite-free version of Sky Q.
That all changed earlier this month when Sky launched a new set-top box, dubbed Sky Q IP Box, in Germany. With a minimum broadband speed of 6 Mbps, viewers can access a number of the same terrestrial channels, on-demand boxsets, and streaming apps found on the standard Sky Q box, which uses a satellite dish and Wi-Fi connection to bring live and catch-up services together into one menu. For comparison, Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps to watch in High Definition picture quality.
And now, it seems Sky is gearing up to launch a similar service in the UK. Speaking to Express.co.uk, our source claims Sky is testing the new kit with a number of customers nationwide right now. Feedback from the trial will allow Sky to determine minimum broadband speeds.
It’s possible the new set-top box, dubbed Sky IP, will only be available to those with a Sky Broadband connection, we’re told. This would allow Sky tighter control over the broadband speeds available to customers, for example, whether they need to be connected to full-fibre infrastructure.
Images from the Sky Deutschland online store could reveal the design of the new set-top box
In Germany, Sky says broadcasts over an internet connection will only be available in HD picture quality. This was confirmed by Sky Deutschland Director Proposition & Product Max Ehrhardt earlier this month. Sky Q does offer a number of blockbuster movies, sport fixtures and boxsets in Ultra HD (4K), however these are not broadcast using a satellite signal. Instead, you’ll need to have an active internet connection to your set-top box. It’s unclear why this isn’t currently available with the Sky Q IP Box in Germany, especially as Ehrhardt has confirmed the hardware is powerful enough to support 4K streams.
According to our source, Sky Q plans to launch its satellite dish-free service with support for Ultra HD quality. The pixel-packed format will cost an additional £5 a month, we’re told. To watch in Ultra HD with Sky Q, you’ll need to spend an extra £11 a month, although this also upgrades the picture quality of your Netflix subscription, allows you to watch on up to four devices simultaneously, and bundles more channels.
As well as saving you from the hassle of drilling holes in the side of your home to affix a satellite dish, or petitioning your landlord to install a new communal dish to the block of flats you’re living in (Sky Q requires an upgraded dish compared with those installed when Sky+ HD was the only option), it could also be a bit of a space saver. The new Sky IP Box is a similar size to the latest hardware from NOW (formerly NOW TV), we’re told.
In another departure from what we’ve seen from Sky in Germany, our source tells us the new Sky IP Box will include 1,000 hours of cloud recording. Viewers will be able to use features like Series Link, which are staples of Sky Q and Sky+ HD before it. In Germany, it seems Sky will be pushing users to rely on catch-up services available on the set-top box, rather than offering the ability to record.
This “cloud recording” will also enable Sky IP viewers to pause and rewind live television – something that’s also missing from the German equivalent.
In terms of pricing, don’t expect a dramatic difference between the satellite-less Sky Q and its dishy counterpart. We’re informed that contractual periods will be the same, with viewers likely to pay £26 a month for access to the complete suite of Sky TV channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Documentaries, and Sky Comedy. Popular paid-for channels like MTV, W, Comedy Central, and others will be included too. Sky Cinema and Sky Sports will cost extra.
As well as streaming and catch-up apps, the box coming to the UK could include ‘cloud recording’
Again, this seems to be a significant departure from what we’ve seen launch in Germany. There, subscriptions for the satellite-less service start from €12.50 (£10.70) per month and includes basic package Sky Entertainment. The minimum contract period runs for one year. After that, you can cancel your subscription with a month’s notice. Additional channels and options can be added for an extra monthly fee.
Just like the satellite-powered Sky Q box already available in the UK, we’re told the all-new Sky IP set-top box will include some of the biggest video on-demand services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube, DAZN, YouTube Kids, and Spotify. So it should offer a very similar experience. Searching for shows, movies, actors and directors will surface results from the TV Guide, on-demand shows from Sky and any of your existing subscriptions. This should prevent you paying to rent a film that’s included in your Disney+ subscription, for example.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on when we can expect to see Sky IP, or whatever branding Sky settles on, launch in the UK. Until then, those without a satellite dish are stuck with the choice between either forgoing Sky TV channels entirely or tuning in via NOW (formerly NOW TV) to watch the same shows. But while the latter does include access to most of your favourite boxsets and live channels – from Sky Atlantic to Sky Sports Premier League – it doesn’t offer quite the same wealth of channels or features as Sky Q, including Series Link and Ultra HD.
Of course, it’s worth adding that while we’re pretty confident the information from our source is accurate, nothing is confirmed until there’s an announcement from Sky. The satellite TV provider has already made it clear that it plans to bypass the dish, however, the UK might get something closer to the limited set-top box we’ve seen in Germany, rather than the product listed above, which offers a viewing experience almost indistinguishable from the existing Sky Q box.
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