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A Scientific Atlanta-made decoder that allows eligible Americans to receive American Forces Network programming, will be replaced by a smaller, less-expensive model.
A Scientific Atlanta-made decoder that allows eligible Americans to receive American Forces Network programming, will be replaced by a smaller, less-expensive model. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A new American Forces Network satellite decoder that is about half the price of the current one will be for sale at some military exchanges in Europe by the end of the month.

The newer box will cost $279, with the first batch scheduled for six Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores in Germany and one store in England, said Debbie Byerly, an AAFES spokeswoman in Europe. The exchange in Kuwait also has ordered the cheaper decoders.

The new models are smaller than the current version but offer the same functions and services.

Arrival of a cheaper decoder is good news to those who planned to buy one, but bad news for those who bought the more expensive model. Current decoders for sale at military exchanges run between $535 and $565. If you add a satellite dish, the cost would exceed $600 to watch AFN programming at home.

Those who bought the more expensive version and hoped to sell it when they returned to the United States will probably have a difficult time recouping the money spent on the boxes.

Used decoders have been advertised in base newspapers in Germany and the Stars and Stripes Classified section for as much as $450 each. With cheaper decoders on exchange shelves and some commands buying the decoders and giving them to servicemembers in parts of Italy for free, asking prices should drop dramatically.

Wendy Turner, a Defense Department schools teacher in Katterbach, spent close to $900 to put two decoders in her house. She bought a new one at the exchange and a used decoder for $300. She was willing to pay $350 for a decoder with or without a dish and had figured she got a decent deal until she heard about the newer decoders about to the hit the stores.

“I think it’s a lot of money for getting U.S. news and programming,” Turner said of the old decoders. “It’s ridiculous.”

The new units arrived at an AAFES warehouse in Virginia in October, Byerly said. The six stores in Germany will share the new units with other stores until all the base exchanges have received the new one. The rest of the stores plan to begin ordering them this week.

Those who bought the more expensive boxes might not be totally out of luck.

Army and Air Force exchanges do not plan to lower the prices of the old decoders in stock before the new decoders are on the shelves. But under the standard policy for returns, customers may take back the decoder for a full refund 90 days from the date of purchase with a receipt.

Where to get your satellite decoders

New American Forces Network satellite TV decoders have been ordered for several Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores. AAFES expects to receive the first order by the end of this month; other stores will begin ordering new decoders this week. Here are the stores that will receive the first order:

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