New AFN decoders line the shelves at the Exchange Tuesday morning, Dec. 12, 2017, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

New AFN decoders line the shelves at the Exchange Tuesday morning, Dec. 12, 2017, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — American Forces Network’s transition to high-definition television in Europe has been rocky so far for many off-base residents, but AFN officials say they think they've found a solution.

Since AFN made the switch overnight Monday, subscribers have left numerous comments for AFN online, voicing frustration and describing difficulties they’ve had in trying to get a signal with one of two decoders compatible with the upgrade and needed in off-base households to view AFN.

Some complained about long queues at the AFN help desk, where viewers are encouraged to email or call for troubleshooting advice.

Mark Hoge, a civilian employee working in the Kaiserslautern area, said after three days and at least four phone calls to the help desk this week, each with an average one-hour wait time, he still can’t get AFN on his Cisco 9865 decoder.

“Each time we go over and check all the reconfiguration settings,” he said. “They ‘ping’ my decoder for a reset and tell me to wait for anywhere from a few minutes, up to 12 hours … and still no programs.”

Hoge said the problem for most subscribers with the older decoder is, “we are receiving the new signal; signal strength and quality are good, but for whatever reasons, the decoders are not receiving the authorization to view the content. The only display we see is ‘channel not authorized.’ ”

Both Hoge and Daniel Acker, also a civilian employee in Kaiserslautern, said they were frustrated by not knowing about the channel change, to 102-109, on the Cisco decoders.

Acker said he spent more than two hours on the phone two days this week trying to get through to the AFN help desk, “only to find out that I simply needed to change the channel to 102-109.

“I am still receiving the signal and picture on one of my decoders but not on the second decoder,” he said.

AFN officials said earlier this week that the channel lineup on the older Cisco 9865 decoders needs to be changed from 1-9 to 102-109. The new programming also has a single HD sports channel instead of two; previously, the HD sports channel and a standard-definition one both offered the same content.

Those with the new AFN7500HD decoder reported not being able to lock onto a signal despite following AFN’s detailed setup instructions. AFN Europe posted a message on its Facebook page earlier this week, saying it had “identified an issue with the transmission on the satellite AFN uses to deliver service to the region. This issue affects the ability to successfully set up the decoder.”

The problem was caused “by a decoder box manufacturing setting which was not detectable until the AFN7500HD was set up and used,” said George Smith, a spokesman at the AFN Broadcast Center in California, in an email to Stars and Stripes. “AFN regrets the inconvenience and difficulties viewers have been having locking in a signal on their new AFN7500HD decoder.”

But the good news, Smith said, is that AFN engineers have a solution to the glitch affecting the new decoders and the network “is spreading the word on the fix.” The new settings guides for the AFN7500HD decoders are available for download at, Smith said.

AFN Europe posted the new settings on Facebook Thursday; they include a new frequency setting that appeared to work for some: “7500 Box had to change frequency to 12654 MHZ, 1.5 hours on hold, very nice customer service, services came on after registration,” one subscriber commented after getting assistance from the AFN help desk.

Here are the updated decoder setup guidelines from AFN:

If you are an AFN viewer in Europe, have an AFN7500HD decoder and receive a “No Signal” error message when setting it up, use the following settings:

1. Select Eutelsat 9B and “Manual,” then “Continue.”

2. On the transponder parameters, enter the following:

Modulation: DVB-S2 8PSK Frequency: 12654 MHz Polarization: Vertical Symbol Rate: 27.500 MsymGo to myafn for step-by-step instructions on how to lock in a signal with your AFN7500HD:

If you need additional help locking in a signal for either your AFN7500HD or CISCO 9865 decoder, contact the 24-hour trouble desk:

AFN Broadcast Center Technologists

DSN: (312) 348-1339 Commercial: (951) 413-2339sathelpdma@mail.milIf you have a Cisco decoder and can’t lock on to a signal, go to AFN Kaiserslautern’s or AFN Europe’s Facebook page to follow detailed charts posted there for setup.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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