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2 May 2011
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Selecting your Dish Antenna for Satellite TV Reception

It is important to invest a little bit of some thought here prior to choosing your satellite dish to avoid unnecessary expense later on; the type of satellite dish you use - and receiver - will eventually determine the kind of TV programming you will be able to receive.

Low Noise Block-down Converters: A few basics

Equally important is deciding on the number of LNBs. LNB's/LNBF are low noise 'block' down-converters. An LNBF is an LNB with an integrated feedhorn. Most LNB's in use today are actually LNBF's. The term 'low noise' relates to the quality of the amplification and mixing that takes place inside the LNB.

LNB's sit in front of the actual parabola of the dish, at the end of the arm projecting from the satellite 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; these are then sent to the satellite TV receiver or IRD (integrated receiver decoder), via RG-6 coax cable.

The number of LNB's determines the number of satellites a satellite dish can 'see' since a separate LNB is required to receive signals from satellites in different orbital positions. Satellite TV service providers use multiple satellites to deliver their content - implying that multiple LNBs are required to receive all television programming supported by a satellite TV service provider.

LNB's use an antenna probe inside the feedhorn to pick up the signal focused by the satellite dish. The probe has to be aligned mechanically in a vertical or horizontal direction (or left and right hand circular polarization for DBS satellites) in line with the polarization of the signal transmitted by the satellite transponders. This dual polarization is used by satellites to avoid interference between adjacent channels, and is achieved by assigning even and odd transponders on the satellite, different polarization.

LNBF's employ a dual antenna probe setup inside the throat of the feedhorn with one aligned vertically and the other horizontally (or left and right). Switching to the correct polarized probe is carried out electronically via a voltage sent up the coaxial cable by the receiver.

Different Types of Satellite Dishes

Currently, DirecTV offers eight type of dishes while DISH Network has ten. Dishes range in size from 18-inch to 36-inch x 22-inch. However, more than the shape or size, the real significant difference between the various types of dishes relates to the number of LNBs, and the number of supported outputs.

Typical satellite dishes can vary from the simple 18-inch dish with a single dual LNB (this is a two LNB configuration affixed at a small offset angle in a single housing), to five LNBs and four outputs, with each of these LNBs pointing to a different satellite orbit.

The number of outputs on the dish determines the number of digital satellite receivers that can be connected to that dish to watch different programs on different TVs simultaneously; in this respect, a quad output dish supports up to four different receivers.

If you want to hook up more receivers than your dish can accommodate, you will have to use a multi-switch to split up the satellite feed without compromising signal quality. Some multi-switches allow you to add over-the-air broadcasts or cable feeds, and send both signals to each viewing area via a single coax cable. In this case, you will need a diplexer for each viewing area to split up the signals again.

You cannot split a satellite TV signal through an ordinary RF splitter as used in terrestrial TV reception. As indicated earlier on, broadcast signals from satellites are split in two different polarizations, and these are differentiated at the LNB. If signals with different polarization were sent over the cable at the same time, they would interfere with each other.

A multi-switch works by taking the input from a dual LNB on the dish and then locks one of the LNB's to always look at the even transponders while the other LNB to always look at the odd transponders on the satellite. The switch then has multiple outputs to receivers. A receiver connected to a multi-switch sends a switching signal back up the coax cable to enable the switch to select the correct LNB it needs to look at.

In the case of multiple 'dual LNBs', the process is the same except that now, each of the LNBs will be looking at a different satellite.

MPEG-4 Compatible 'Slim line' Ka/Ku Band Dish
DirecTV Customers:

When choosing your satellite dish, do not buy the round dish if you are getting a new DirecTv system - only the slightly larger oval or rectangular antenna dishes will able to pick up all DirecTV standard and HD programming.

These satellite dishes come with 5 LNBs to receive both KU-band (101°, 110°, 119°) and KA-band (99° & 103°) satellite signals simultaneously.

MPEG-4 Compatible Ka/Ku Band Dish
For current DIRECTV customers only: If your satellite dish was installed prior to October 2005, you would not be able to receive all DirecTV programming.

If you don't remember when your dish was installed or if you're just not sure that it is a 5-LNB, take a look at your dish and see if it matches either one of the DirecTV satellite dish images shown here. If not, you will have to order a new dish.

These dishes are required to receive the new MPEG-4 local and national HD programming. These new dishes consist of a phase III dish with an integrated switch to handle both Ku, and Ka (99°/103°) satellite signals.

For more information on DirecTV dishes, please contact DirecTV or one if its retailers, including Best Buy.

Dish Network Customers:

Depending on the type of dish you have, you may need to install a second dish aimed at a different satellite to receive DISH Network HDTV service.

In general, if you are using a DISH 500, you will be able to receive simultaneous satellite signals from the 110° and 119° satellite slots. With the slightly smaller 18-inch DISH 300, you can only pick either one of these satellite slots.

To receive all available DISH Network channels, including all high definition local and national channels from a single satellite dish, you need an MPEG-4 compatible dish antenna such as the new DISH1000.2.

This is a triple LNBF dish with a dish face of 19"(H) x 24" (W) designed to receive programming from three orbital locations: 110°W, 119°W, and 129°W DBS.

For more information, please visit one of DISH Network retailers.

Dish Network DISH1000.2

Note: Deciding on the required number of LNBs, shape and size of your satellite dish, depends on a number of factors, including the area where you live, service provider, and programming package selected. This is something that is best decided after you speak with your digital satellite TV service provider.

Dish Installation Process

Now that you have made the plunge and purchased a satellite dish, you need to get that satellite TV antenna up so you can receive all the channels!

The relatively small size of present day digital satellite TV dish antenna systems means that these may be practically fixed just about anywhere. In particular, these compact satellite dishes are especially suitable for city dwellers.

While you may choose to have your new satellite dish installed by a professional, yet the actual installation process is not difficult to do. The only real difficulty that may arise in the process is when aiming the dish to get the best signal from the satellites. This is a crucial step and it is this step which may warrant professional assistance. Remember that the satellite dish is your main link to those satellites floating around in space, so it has to be aimed properly to pick up the signals. Some self-installation kits may be of assistance in this respect.

Selecting the best location for your Satellite Dish

First, you have to decide on the exact location where best to install your satellite dish. There are a few issues that you need to take into account here.

Considerations shall include:

Remember that DSS satellites are in a geo-stationary orbit above the equator. Therefore, a satellite dish must point due South when your position is located north of the equator and North if you are located south of the equator.

Choose a location that is easily accessible in case you need to clean snow or debris out of your satellite dish, or to re-adjust the dish in case it has lost its alignment. A suitable location is to attach the dish to a post which has been sunken in the ground.

The chosen location should be unobstructed by trees, branches, buildings, etc. In addition, make sure that the growth of new foliage does not impede your system.

Ideally, the selected location should be such as to allow you to take a route that is as straight and as close to your television set as possible.

Pick a location that is away from power lines and other service utilities.

Finally, refer to the included instructions for any specific details.

Choose a method of installation that allows your system to withstand the elements year-round and still remain perfectly aligned and rigidly mounted. Remember that system movement can reduce signal reception to the point of complete loss.

Always do a trial run on the ground for coax cable installation from the satellite dish to the place where it will enter your house. Make sure it is long enough to reach both points. Attach the cable to the satellite dish and then run it across your yard and into the house through a drilled hole.

Attach the cable to your television set. Seal all outdoor electrical connections with weatherproof sealant, and bury the incoming receiving line below the frost line level.

Ground the unit and the incoming receiving line by following local electrical code standards; this is both a safety consideration as well as a potential code requirement. Place an inexpensive coax grounding block at the point where the antenna cable enters the house; then run a wire from the grounding block to your home's ground rod.

To determine the best location for your satellite dish, follow these few simple steps:

Determine which satellite carries your most frequently viewed programs and figure out its location on the solar arc. You can find this information at the OnSat Web site.

Locate the area outside your home that is nearest to your television set.

Turn and face south - or north if you are located south of the equator.

Look from east to west, following an arc that mimics the sun's path across the sky.

Observe any obstacles, such as trees or buildings that may obscure the line of sight along the arc. This is the most critical step prior to installation.


Typical TV satellite dish installations include 'pipe in ground' (the antenna is attached to a pipe that is placed in concrete), and 'outside wall' (the antenna is attached to a wall with fasteners that are designed to permanently embed themselves in the wall).

The majority of today's satellite receivers give out the particular satellite's orbit slot and the azimuth (the location of a satellite along the east/west arc) to view that spacecraft.

Satellite positions are given in orbit slot degree coordinates and are true, not magnetic locations. These slots will be based on an azimuth heading that must be viewed as true rather than a compass position. Since a compass will have a magnetic variation, ask your local airport for that variation. To read true azimuth, turn in the opposite direction of the variation the number of degrees the airport gives (e.g. 3 degrees west will turn back the compass dial 3 degrees east for you to base your azimuth reading from).

'Tuning' Your Satellite Dish

Once you have managed to install your new satellite dish, you will surely want to get the maximum number of channels. There is only one way forward - get that satellite TV antenna tuned for perfect reception!

The following steps will help you tune your satellite dish for best signal:

Ensure that your satellite antenna meets three conditions:

The line-of-sight view to the particular satellite is free of obstacles and obstructions.

The mast supporting the antenna is rigidly mounted and level.

The reflector part of the satellite antenna (the dish) is not warped.

Adjust the antenna reflector azimuth angle to the position given by the manufacturer for that particular satellite. This adjustment is the east-west movement of the reflector on the mount and is given in azimuth degrees.

Adjust the elevation-look angle to the position given by the manufacturer of the satellite of interest. This adjustment is from the horizon to the sky and is given as elevation in degrees from that point. These two degrees form the orbit degree slot, or window of the satellite to be received by your satellite dish.

Ensure that the antenna signal line is connected to the receiver and the receiver is turned on and positioned on a beacon channel (a beacon channel is a channel being transmitted from the satellite to allow you to peak your antenna to it).

Begin tuning by slowly moving the reflector first to the east in one-degree increments for a total of three degrees, then in the opposite direction (west) while monitoring the receiver's signal meter.

Peak the signal to the highest scale at this point. Ideally, this should be done using a signal 'strength' meter due to the greater signal sensitivity of the latter.

Lock the antenna azimuth adjustment on the mount once the signal level is maximized.

Perform the same procedure as in steps 4 through 6, using the elevation adjustment, first up and then down for peaking. Lock the satellite dish elevation at the point of maximum signal reception.

9. Ground the antenna and the signal line entrance into the residence to electrical code standards as detailed above.
The next step is to plug your receiver into a household outlet; then turn your television set on and make any necessary adjustments to the satellite system settings. Once ready, you can relax and enjoy your new system!!

Bapun Raz

Staff member
3 Nov 2010
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