What is Satellite Television?

The most common alternative to cable television is Satellite TV service from companies such as DISH and DirecTV. Unlike cable TV, which requires direct access to the cable companies infrastructure,  a satellite TV connection connects to services using a home satellite dish, which is transmitting and receiving digital data from communication satellites orbiting the earth. This method of data delivery is fast, reliable and most importantly, less expensive than cable transmission. Cable companies rely on millions of miles of copper coax cable and expensive repeaters to connect to homes, and that adds up to big costs and unwieldy infrastructure. Satellite customers not only pay less, they can also get TV service almost anywhere in the US.

According to Nielsen there were 116.4 million homes in the US were expected to watch TV during the 2015-16 season. In 2016 there is an estimated 33 million satellite television subscribers. Many people are “cutting the cord” on traditional cable providers. Many are switching to satellite tv. Satellite providers such as DISH Network have advantages over traditional cable providers such as increased capacity for recording and storage of saved programs; multiple simultaneous viewing options including the ability to record one show while watching another show; pause and replay live TV; fast-forward through commercials; and HD quality local channels, all at a lower price than analog TV are highlights of satellite television’s superiority. DISH Network has the Hopper which can record up to 2000 hours of TV.

History of Satellites

The first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Since then over 6,600 satellites have been launched into space, with approximately 1,000 remaining. The term “satellite dish” was coined in 1978 during the beginning of the satellite television industry, and came to refer to dish antennas that send and/or receive signals from communications satellites. Television started to broadcast with satellite on March 1, 1978 and from this point all of the major television networks adopted this style of communications as the main means of distribution to network affiliates through 1984.

Programmers such as HBO broadcast on C-band. The C-band dish was extremely large and was placed in the yard rather as it was to large to be placed elsewhere and at this time they were also extremely expensive. Satellite dishes in the 1980s averaged 10 to 16 feet across. Today’s dishes are now roughly 18 inches across. Satellite TV started with an “open skies” policy but providers were not able to make any money. By approximately 1984 Congress passed the Cable Act, which allowed cable companies to use the encryption in order to make people viewing these channels to subscribe to cable. The encryption that was in use could be cracked and by the 90’s the companies began using digital transmissions.

Dish Network began their satellite TV programming in March of 1996. Today the Dish Network Company has grown and provides digital television programming and HDTV.

Satellite Technology

Satellite TV is a television technology that is wirelessly delivered to TV sets across the world. Companies make use of satellites in the Earth’s atmosphere to broadcast programming via a network of radio signals, communications satellites, broadcast centers, and outdoor antennas. The signals are received via an outdoor parabolic reflector antenna referred to as a satellite dish and a low-noise block downconverter (LNB). Receivers can be external set-top boxes or a built-in television tuner. Most satellite TV customers get their programming through a direct broadcast satellite (DBS) provider, such as DISH Network. The provider selects programs and broadcasts them to subscribers as a set package. The provider’s goal is to bring dozens or even hundreds of channels to your TV in a form that approximates the competition, cable TV. 
There are five major components involved in a direct to home (DTH) or direct broadcasting (DBS) satellite system: the programming source, the broadcast center, the satellite, the satellite dish, and the receiver.

  • Programming sources are the networks or channels that offer TV shows and movies for the enjoyment of subscribers. Some popular examples of programming sources are ESPN, HBO, FX, Fox News, etc.
  • The broadcast center is the central node of the system. The TV provider receives the signals from various programming sources and sends the broadcast signal to satellites in orbit in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • A satellite is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. The satellite receives the signal from the broadcast center and beams the signal to the satellite dish.
  • A satellite dish is a parabolic shaped dish that reflects the signal from the satellite to the focal point of the dish. The satellite dish is generally mounted on or outside of the dwelling. Satellite dishes must be pointed to the Southern sky because of the angle the satellite is in the atmosphere. A dish can be 18 inches across or 9 feet across.
  • The receiver is a set-top box that is wired to the satellite dish. The set-top box converts the signal from the satellite into content form that can be viewed on your television.

These signals are typically on C Band, Ku Band, or Ka Band. The band of a signal describes, in broad terms, the frequency of the signal. Noawadays most signals are broadcast digitally in high-definition. Early satellite television was broadcast in C-band radio — radio in the 3.7-gigahertz (GHz) to 6.4-GHz frequency range. Digital broadcast satellite transmits programming in the Ku frequency range (11.7 GHz to 14.5 GHz ).

How Installation Works

Satellite providers such as DISH Network provide free installation of satellite dishes. Installation of the satellite dish is a two part process. The dish must be installed first. Dishes are no longer huge eyes sores that sit in the middle of your yard. As long as you have a clear view of the Southern sky you can have a satellite TV dish installed next day. Then the appropriate decoder must be installed to receive the television programming from your service provider. Installation kits for satellite TV include the mounting kit, high-grade RF coaxial cable, and the satellite TV receiver, or decoder.

Depending on the type of fish you have, you may need to install a second dish aimed at a different satellite to receive DISH Network HDTV. Generally, you will be able to receive simultaneous satellite signals from the 100° and 119° satellite slots. To receive high definition local and national channel from a single dish, you will need an MPEG-4 dish antenna. This is a triple LNBF dish designed to receive programming from three orbital locations. LNBs sit in front of the actual parabola of the dish. Their purpose is to receive, amplify and down convert the required blocks of microwave frequencies to lower 950MHz to 1.45GHz L-band frequency signals. The number of LNB’s determines the number of satellites a satellite dish can see.

It is important that your dish be installed correctly. DISH Network boasts an signal reliability of 99.9%, even in poor weather conditions. Snowstorms can be an issue if snow builds up on the dish itself which prevents the signal from being received properly to the LNB.  If you are losing signal during light rain or snow, your satellite dish needs to be adjusted. Providers such as DISH Network can install same or next-day. They also offer installations on Saturdays and Sundays so you do not have to miss work. Installation is free for up to six rooms. Installation is available for many different types of residences including apartments. DISH will work with your HOA restrictions too.

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