(Pocket-lint) - Sky UK first announced plans to make Sky Q available without the need for a satellite dish back in 2017. Instead of requiring a satellite dish, it was planned that the channels would be delivered through a set-top-box over your broadband connection.
However, despite a lot of internal development and a launch elsewhere in Europe, it currently seems those plans are on hold in the UK - read on for more details.
Of course, if you want to see Sky channels without a dish currently, you can use Now TV or get channel packages like Sky Sports through other services.
Why is Sky without a dish a good idea?
The benefit of a new service is that it would give homes that currently can't have satellite dishes access to Sky. This could be for myriad reasons. Some people don't want a dish on the outside of their home. Others can't due to listed building constraints, short-term rental agreements or management companies that won't let you install them.
Although Now TV would remain as Sky's "dip-in-and-out" service – probably because it's well-known among consumers - it means Sky could offer shorter-term deals for those who need flexibility but want access to all of Sky's programmes. However, it now very much seems like Now TV has been beefed up to fill any potential gap in the market.
What would Sky without a dish have been called?
Since announcing its UK plans in 2017, Sky launched Sky via Fibre in Italy and Sky X in Austria, neither of which require a dish. Sky X seemed like a good bet for the name of any UK internet-based service too and, judging by what's on offer in Austria – which we'll explain more about in a moment – it would have slotted in between Sky Q and Now TV.
Will Sky X launch in the UK?
At the time that Sky first announced plans back in 2017, it said: "The service is expected to launch in the UK in 2018." Initially, this delay was probably due to Sky's acquisition by Comcast in 2018.
Back in 2019 Sky provided us with a statement for this feature, but sadly it doesn't provide any further insight on a launch date. "There is scope for [Sky without a dish] to be rolled out across all key markets in future, although we don't have any further information on details or timings at this time."
However, in mid-2020 we were given more detail on why Sky isn't launching Sky X in the UK for now.
"We have been working on it," explained Sky's group chief product officer, Fraser Stirling, to Pocket-lint during a briefing on new Sky Q features. "[But] I'll be 100 per cent honest, it's a very powerful thing to have a hybrid platform like we do."
In other words, we won't be getting Sky X in the short term. "We will move more and more of our services - like in how the product works - to be levered over IP," he added.
"That will include some channels. You will find linear content, VOD content, and other experiences that are going to be IP based, with a really solid backbone: that hybrid delivery part, which is satellite. [It] is going to play a key part of our future for quite some time."
Part of the sidelining of Sky X could be Sky simply wanting to drive revenue by getting Sky Q in as many homes as possible first.
How much would it cost?
Although it's difficult to compare services between countries, Sky Austria offers Sky X from €20 a month for a basic package rising to €35 a month for movies and sports. There's no long term tie and the box costs a one-off charge of €50 or €20 depending on the package.
We expect that a Sky X service would cost a little more in the UK to reflect the premium sport pricing and the surely lower cost of Now TV. As a comparison, a Sky Cinema pass will cost Now TV users £12 a month currently while Sky Sports costs £33.99 a month.
What equipment will you need?
Sky offers a Sky X Streaming Box in Austria. It doesn't have a satellite connection or the capabilities to record. Instead, it's pretty much a Sky Q mini box which is network-connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. It can stream 1080p HD content.
Sky X in Austria also works via LG and Samsung smart TV apps (on 2015 TVs or later) in addition to a mobile app which can stream services, as well as access on-demand content just like the Sky Go app does.
Sky is experienced at using the internet to distribute content – after all, existing Sky boxes use the internet for on-demand content. It will also no doubt have learned from the experiences of BT TV, TalkTalk TV and EE TV in terms of distributing online TV services in the UK.
Within your home, the Sky Q box also uses your home network to offer multi-room to Sky Q Mini boxes. It's perfectly possible that you could get Sky X through an existing Sky Q box, although whether Sky would enable you to do that is anyone's guess.
What broadband will you need?
Sky Q doesn't require you to have broadband from Sky and we'd expect that to be the same for Sky X. Sky recommends an internet connection of at least 12Mbps for HD programming.
We think it's unlikely that Sky would offer 4K programming through the service for now but of course that would depend on when it might launch. For comparison, BT currently recommends its BT TV customers have a minimum download speed of 44Mbps for 4K.
Sky Q vs Sky X vs Now TV: What could be the difference?
If Sky X in the UK mirrors the Austrian service, Sky X won't be able to record programmes although, of course, you will be able to get them on demand. Recordings will remain the domain of more expensive Sky packages. Multi-room will also require Sky Q with Sky Q mini boxes as it does now.
One of the other major differences is in terms of the resolution available. We think it's likely Sky X would only be capable of 1080p Full HD if it's released in the short term, while Sky Q would remain be the only way to get 4K Ultra HD. Of course, as time passes it's more likely that a Sky X service would be 4K capable as well.
Once again, note that there's a point of differentiation with Now TV which remains in 720p for now as standard - although you can now pay £3 a month for Full HD Now TV. That payment, called Now TV Boost, also enables you to add an extra streaming device - 3 devices instead of 2.