Sky Q uses a completely new architecture STB that will, in time, wholly replace Sky HD/Sky+ boxes.

This is not simply an upgrade. It is a wholesale change in the way Sky delivers content to customers and how those customers view and use that content. With big changes come big opportunities for installers.

While Sky is directly targeting its premium domestic customers from its 10million active subscribers, there are over half as many potential Sky Q customers again that the company will not be in a hurry to address.

These potential customers, living in the UK’s 5.6million flats and apartments across 360,000 individual buildings, present a massive Sky Q opportunity for independent installers. Even in residential houses, new LNB technology, replacing magic eyes and IR extenders, upgrading wall plates and cables, or addressing 4G interference issues will all offer additional work prospects.

So what exactly is Sky Q?

Sky Q offers what Sky calls ‘fluid viewing’ or the ability to wirelessly stream live or recorded content into up to four additional rooms in the home. The system also allows users to record up to four channels while viewing a fifth, view content on a tablet or take content mobile via the Sky Q App.

There is more on-demand content available to Sky Q customers with up to 300+ channels and over 50HD channels available as well as 3D on demand.

The Sky Q equipment comprises of main STBs, mini (slave) STBs and networked hubs that all communicate over wired network, Wi-Fi or powerline technology, automatically choosing the best connection available. The flagship Sky Q Silver STB has no less than 12 tuners – one for direct viewing, four for recording, four for feeding Sky Q Mini Boxes, two for tablet streaming and one for PIP.

With this technology comes a complete overhaul of the EPG and the ability to pause a program on one TV and pick it up from where you left off on another.

Importantly, Sky has announced that by the Summer it will be broadcasting UHD channels and the Sky Q Silver STB will be the only STB with the ability to receive these UHD channels – but this immediately puts Sky on the agenda for those customers with 4K TVs wanting UHD picture quality.

Currently UHD is exclusive to Amazon, Netflix and BT… but not for much longer! Alltrade specialises in signal distribution and has the knowledge and expertise to assist with any questions over 4K distribution.

The number of units is scaled for the customer’s chosen package (see here for details). This equipment is on loan to the customer, and hence fully serviced by Sky, as part of the Sky Q subscription package, which is up to £88.50 pcm for a full package.

Installation from Sky will also cost the subscriber between £99 and £299. So you can see why Sky is targeting existing premium customers.

The Wideband LNB (used in domestic installations only)

Technically the key difference is in the signal transfer from the dish. Sky Q no longer uses dual vertical and horizontal band feeds on each of the two cables but moves to a ‘Wideband’ LNB.

This puts the whole of the horizontal band on one feed and the whole of the vertical band on the other, removing the need for the 22kHz switching tone.

These LNB’s operate between 290MHz to 2340MHz, which uses the entire current UHF band! For viewers that were relying on a UHF feed integrated onto their old LNB, these customers will now need to be supplied a separate extra cable for UHF.

Moreover, as the new LNBs now operate across part of the spectrum potentially susceptible to 4G interference, the down leads might have to be upgraded to a quality CAI approved cable or even to triple or even quad shielded cable.

Magic eye remote extenders will not be integrated onto Sky Q STBs so customers with existing magic eyes or IR extenders may need a new IR repeating equipment installed to maintain their functionality if they are using other products as well as the Sky Q.

Should the customer be using older style Triplex/Quad outlet plates to split signals, these do not have the bandwidth for Sky Q so there will be a requirement to swap to, for example, Euro modules with an extra run of cable as you can no longer diplex signals. There are clearly going to be a number of these types of issues with Sky Q that open the door for work beyond Sky’s basic installation service.

Introducing the dSCR’s (larger residential and commercial)

Johannsson, Triax and Global all now have products that have been approved by Sky for use with existing systems in both larger residential homes and commercial blocks of flats.

All are available from stock from Alltrade today. The basic idea is a dSCR which utilises SCR technology allows the ‘stacking’ of signals down one cable.

The dSCR uses a Quattro LNB to receive its signals and either replaces or is an addition to a basic multiswitch and is available in a 4, 8 or 16 outlet configuration.

Enabling ‘MDU’ (flats and apartments)

There is a bigger opportunity in MDU installations of Sky Q. Sky does address blocks of flats in the UK as Sky Homes was set up in 1998.

This department of Sky has the remit to ‘enable’ multi-tenant buildings to be able to receive Sky and of the 360,000 estimated blocks of flats the independent ASHA’s are covering the entire UK, and the target is to enable 20,000 of these blocks per year.

Many of the blocks will be under maintenance contracts and therefore these ASHAs will have no access to some of these buildings, thus opening the door for Sky Q installation work on behalf of the building’s management firms.

The upgrading of these MDUs for Sky Q can cause problems to the existing system as the process in this instance involves adding splitters to enable the connection of the new dSCR multiswitch, as the dSCR’s need to be added in parallel.

Adding splitters creates more losses, which the system design might not have allowed for. There are many manufacturers of IRS products so every system is likely to be different and may require an individual solution, Alltrade are best available to assist in the technicalities of any system whether it be an older style system or the latest Fibre IRS for example due to their expertise in this area of design and planning.

Need to know more?

Sky Q is far from being ‘wrapped up’ by Sky itself and the opportunity to find additional business from Sky Q’s residential and MDU installation is huge.

For more details of how you can make the most of Sky Q in your business contact your nearest Alltrade branch. Alltrade recently presented Sky Q seminars at each of their five trade counter locations to over 300 installers.

Stay tuned for news on seminars taking place Essential Install live! South on July 6 and 7 2016.