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Satellite Dish Installation Guide

Installing a dish antenna yourself is not difficult. This guide shows you in an easy-to-follow approach, how to select your dish, choose the best location, install, and eventually fine tune your satellite antenna for the best reception.

Installing a Satellite TV System

A complete satellite TV system installation is a two-stage process:

Installation of the satellite dish itself and the Installation of an appropriate decoder to receive the television programming from your service provider.

However, prior to moving on with this two-stage satellite TV installation process, you need to select and purchase a satellite TV kit. This consists of the satellite dish and related mounting kit, high-grade RF coaxial cable, and the satellite TV receiver, or decoder.

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.

Feedhorn Installation Tips

Proper installation and adjustment of the feedhorn is critical to system performance. It is particularly important if you are installing a feedhorn that receives Ku-Band signals. In order to find the correct focal distance for tracking, the feedhorn must be at the correct distance from the center of the dish, properly oriented, centered and perpendicular to the plane of the antenna. Follow the alignment procedure outlined below:

1 - Set the scalar ring adjustment for the f/D ratio that is called for in the antenna

specifications. If you do not know the f/D ratio, you can calculate the focal distance and f/D ratio yourself using a formula.

2 - Rotate the feed to it's proper orientation using the "polar axis template". The polar axis is

a line that runs through the center of the dish pivot points. It is the axis around which the dish

will rotate. Another way to look at it is

it's highest point of travel (the zenith of the arc)

dish, the "polar axis" runs from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock. Proper orientation in these terms means that you point the arrow of the polar axis template at 12 o'clock (directly in line with the axis). If you do not have a template, you can get close by siting down the long side of the servo motor; pointing it at about 11 o'clock.

If your dish is positioned so that it is pointing at

when you stand directly in front of the

3 - Centering the feed in the dish is also critical to proper reception. This can be done by

measuring from the feedhorn to at least 3 different points around the rim of the dish (i.e. measure from the feed to the left side, right side and bottom). The 3 measurements should be equal. Use the adjustments in the feed support legs (or guy wires if you have a buttonhook

support) to make any necessary adjustments.

4 - The opening in the feedhorn (face) should be parallel to the face of the antenna (dish). The

easiest way to check this is to use an inclinometer or universal protractor. Check the angle at the center of the dish and across the throat of the feedhorn; the measurements should be the same.

The f/D ratio and scalar rings - why it is important to set properly Proper setting of f/D on the feedhorn allows the feedhorn to take advantage of all of the signal being reflected off of the dish, without receiving interfering ground noise or terrestrial interference.

The f/D ratio is the focal distance of the dish (f), divided by the diameter (D). When dealing with most prime focus antennas, the number should come out between .28 and .42. If you notice, most of those numbers are also on scale on the side of the feedhorn. You simply set the top edge of the scalar ring even with the line that corresponds to your correct f/D setting.

What this adjustment actually does is determines how wide of an angle the feedhorn can "see". If the dish is very deep(example: 10ft diameter dish that is 24 in. deep), having an f/D of .28 for example, then the focal distance is relatively short. When that is the case, the focal distance is often only a few inches greater than the depth of the dish. Therefore, the feed

needs to be able to "see" nearly straight to the side of the opening in the throat.

Conversely, if the dish is very shallow (example: 10ft diameter dish that is 11 in. deep), the f/D ratio would be closer to .42 and the focal distance would be much longer. In that case, the feed would need to have an narrower field of view so it would "see" the whole dish, yet not see past the edge of the dish.

Formulas for calculating focal distance and f/D ratios

To calculate the focal distance, you have to measure the diameter (D) and the depth (d) of the dish. Measurements should be in like units (you can't use feet for the diameter and inches for depth). For the example, we will say we have a dish that is 120 inches in diameter (D) and 18 inches deep (d).

focal distance (f) equals the diameter squared (D x D) divided by 16 times the depth (16 x d) or :

D x D = 120 x 120 = 14400 16 x d = 16 x 18 = 288 D x D/16 x d = 14400/288 = 50

focal distance f = 50 inches

After you have calculated the focal distance (f), you can use that figure to calculate the f/D ratio of your dish. In this case, using the same diameter (D) = 120; and the calculated focal distance (f) = 50

f / D = 50 / 120 = .416 f /D = .416 which you would round up to give you a setting of .42

The list below shows how far the throat is out from the scalar rings for different f/D settings.

EXAMPLE: A dish with a .42 f/D will have the throat about flush with the rings.

Inches --- f/D .12 ------- .42 .32 ------- .40 .52 ------- .38 .72 ------- .36 .92 ------- .34 1.12 ----- .32

Determining the Focal Point of a Satellite Dish Feedhorn Troubleshooting Tips How to recognize a

Determining the Focal Point of a Satellite Dish

Feedhorn Troubleshooting Tips

How to recognize a polarity problem

Polarity problems are usually very easy to recognize. They are usually indicated by the fact that every other channel is bad. You will notice that on some satellites, only the even numbered channels will come in, while on other satellites only the odd numbered channels will come in. This happens because the probe inside the feedhorn will not turn the 90 degrees that is required to change from a horizontally polarized channel to a vertically polarized channel. If your satellite system is several years old, the problem is most likely that the servo motor that drives the probe has failed. Here are some steps to take to find the problem:

1 - Use a volt meter to check the voltage at the back of your receiver to make sure that the

voltage is coming out of your receiver. The connector to check is usually labeled "Polarizer +5v" or Polarity +5v". Disconnect the wires that go to the dish and measure the +5 connector to GND. You should have approximately +5 to +6.5 volts dc. Receivers put out a constant +5 supply, so the voltage should be there as long as the receiver is turned ON. Other brands of receiver may only put out the +5 when the channel is being changed or when the polarity/skew is being adjusted.

2 - Check for dc voltage at the pulse connector. The pulse output is what tells the servo motor

how far to turn the probe. You will read from .2 to .9 (+)volts dc here. In most receivers, this voltage will only be present when the channel is being changed or when the polarity/skew is being adjusted.

3 - If the receiver is putting out the proper voltages on the pulse and +5v connectors, re-

connect the wires that go to the dish. Then, go out to the dish and remove the feedhorn cover.

Disconnect the 3 wires that are connected to the servo motor. Measure to verify that you are getting the pulse and +5 voltage on each respective wire. If you are NOT getting the same voltage as you had at the receiver, then you have a wiring problem. If you are getting the same voltage, reconnect the 3 wires, proceed to step 4.

4 - Have someone inside change channels on the satellite receiver. If you hear the servo

motor turning, but there is no apparent change in the position of the probe (remove the throat cover and look inside the throat to see the probe), remove the servo motor and pull up gently

on the amber colored drive shaft that couples to the servo motor. If the shaft pulls out, you will need to send the entire feed to repair.

5 - If the servo motor does not turn, and you have the correct voltages getting to the motor, that normally indicates that the motor is bad and needs to be replaced. You can usually purchase a servo motor at any satellite dealer.

If you find that the servo motor seems to be buzzing all of the time or if you are watching a program that seems to fade out intermittently and will come back by itself or if you change the channel up or down and back, the problem is also likely to be a bad servo motor. But try these steps to determine if the problem is more serious:

1 - Take the servo motor off of the feedhorn and hook it up directly to the back of your receiver. You must disconnect the wires going to the dish for this test to be valid.

2 - Watch the servo while you change channels, then let it sit for a couple of minutes. If it

turns when you change channels and does not drift or buzz when you are not changing channels, that tells you that the receiver and servo motor are working properly and the problem is likely to be noise being pick up by your unshielded pulse line. The only way to correct this problem is to make sure that the pulse line is shielded and the shield is grounded

at one end.

3 - If the servo motor behaves the same way when it is hooked up directly behind the receiver

as it did out at the dish, then it is most likely bad. You need to replace it. We hope this

information was helpful. If you can't solve your polarity problem after following the instructions and tips above, we recommend calling out your local satellite dealer to troubleshoot the system further.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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, you will be able to receive simultaneous satellite signals from the 110° and 119°

satellite slots. With the slightly smaller 18-inch, you can only pick either one of these satellite


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.

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.

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.

exact location where best to install your satellite dish. There are a few issues that you

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, telephone lines, clotheslines, electrical wires, power lines, radio and television towers, etc. All are possible sources of interference. In other words, there must be no obstructions between the dish site and the satellites in the sky. Once you determines that the location is suitable, you will have to decide on a permanent or portable installation. Unless you fell you will be relocating in the near future or you are living on rental property, a permanent installation in concrete is the better way to go. 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.

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.

Once you have the dish mounted with the LNB attached at feedhorn and all cables (LNB and Polarotor) connected, I recommend that you place the receiver and a portable TV set near the dish for that you see a picture while make the adjusts. 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.

- 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.

- As described above, observe any obstacles 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. To read true azimuth, turn in the opposite direction of the magnetic variation (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:

1. 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.

2. Adjust the antenna reflector to azimuth angle obtained for the particular satellite. This

adjustment is the east-west movement of the reflector on the mount and is given in azimuth degrees. The satellite dish must be aligned with the azimuth magnetic value (use the magnetic compass for this) and fix the dish in this position for the time being.

3. Adjust the antenna reflector to elevation angle obtained for the particular satellite (use a

inclinometer for this). This adjustment is from the horizon to the sky and is given as elevation

in degrees from that point.

4. 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) or set your receiver for the channel that is most likely to have video (consult a satellite TV guide for this or set in a high channel number with video signal).


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.

6. 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.

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

8. 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. Your dish should now be aligned and and with a good picture in screen. Look the quality picture in others channels and if necessary repeat the adjustments.

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 !

Satellite Meter for Perfect Dish Alignment

These satellite finders are really useful little helpers when it comes down to perfectly aligning a satellite dish.

Meters are sensitive gauges the amount of signal coming from satellite. This sensitivity allows finding the sweet spot of the satellite dish. Here, we?ve got already a perfectly aligned dish, the meter is at the maximum. Even the slightest movement of the dish to either side of the perfect alignment reduces the signal level (and audio tone) of the meter. You can see that once the fine-tuning is finished, the signal level is again at the maximum.

Some people are trying to align their satellite dishes with the on-screen digibox signal bar which is way too slow, inaccurate and not sensitive enough for a good alignment. Save yourself the hassle and get one of these satellite finders the prices dropped down to almost


A good meter is the Winegard SF-1000 Satellite Signal Finder/Meter Keep in Mind: While installing

A good meter is the Winegard SF-1000 Satellite Signal Finder/Meter

Keep in Mind: While installing your satellite dish yourself can save you money, yet it possible to enjoy a totally FREE satellite dish installation by a professional if you qualify for one of the promotional offers from DirecTV, DISH Network or other service provider.

C Band Frequently Asked Questions

What is C-Band ?

C-Band is a range of satellite transmission frequencies (3700-4200 MHz) that TV and radio channels use to transmit to larger satellite dishes.

How many channels can be received with a C-Band satellite system ?

C-Band satellite systems provide more viewing choices than any other TV delivery system, including cable TV and the smaller dishes. More than 750 channels transmit on a regular basis and another 250 transmit on an occasional basis. The "1000 channel universe" is a reality with a full-size dish.

How big does the dish have to be to receive C-Band signals ?

The size of the satellite dish you should buy depends on where you live in the United States

or Canada. In the Central United States, you can use a dish that has a minimum diameter of

between six and eight feet for analog C-Band reception. On either coast, an eight to ten-foot dish is recommended for analog C-Band. For digital C-Band reception a ten-foot dish is


How much do C-Band satellite systems cost, and where can I buy one ?

C-Band satellite systems range in price, depending on if you purchase a new or used system. The average cost is $1,000 for a new system.

What brands of used C-Band satellite receivers should I look for ?

Used satellite receiver brands to look for are Uniden, Chaparral, Toshiba, General Instrument and Motorola.

What is a transponder ?

Satellite TV and radio channels are transmitted back to earth via a transponder on a satellite. C-Band satellites have 24 transponders.

Do all satellite TV channels require a subscription fee ?

No. More than 100 channels broadcast programming on a regular basis, and another 150 or more channels transmit wild feeds. Only C-Band satellite TV provides hundreds of free channels and wild feeds.

What are wild feeds ?

Wild feeds are unannounced, free (not scrambled, no subscription required) satellite transmissions of sporting events, news and hundreds of syndicated shows such as Seinfeld. Satellite ORBIT magazine "tracks" wild feeds and provides an extensive listing of them every month. See the "Wild Feeds" section of this magazine for an abbreviated listing of the most recent wild feeds. Satellite ORBIT publishes a complete listing each month.

What is VideoCipher II RS and DigiCipher II ?

VideoCipher II RS (or VCRS) is the scrambling system that nearly all subscription analog C- Band satellite TV channels use, while DigiCipher II is the scrambling system that most subscription digital C-Band satellite channels use. To receive VCII RS pay channels, a VCII RS descrambler module is needed inside of your analog satellite receiver. In order to receive digital C-Band programming, either a 4DTV satellite receiver or a Sidecar satellite receiver is needed.

How much do pay channels cost ?

Pay channels range in price. Multi-channel premium movie channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz range from $10 to $17 a month, and basic channels like ESPN and CNN can be purchased for $1 to $4 each per month. One of the greatest things about C-Band is that you can select just the channels that you are interested in subscribing to and only pay for those channels. This can save you a lot of money.

How do I order pay channels ?

Local satellite dealers can order programming for you, or you can call the programming companies directly.

What is the future of C-band ?

The future of C-Band is digital. 4DTV is a new type of receiver which can tune in four types

of satellite transmissions:

1) Free, unscrambled analog channels and wild feeds 2) VideoCipher II RS subscription services 3) Free DigiCipher II services 4) Subscription DigiCipher II channels. DigiCipher transmissions are digital (not analog) and take up less transponder space, allowing for much more programming to be transmitted on each satellite.

Ku Band Frequently Asked Questions


There are various types of services on Ku-band. Some of the services include NBC, news feeds, Satellite News Gathering mobile truck uplinks, educational networks, teleconferences, sports backhauls, various other backhauls, international programming, business networks, variety and entertainment programming for Canada, and not as important on Ku-band are niche channels, and Single Channel Per Carrier and FM Squared audio services. Ku-band charts in various references (books, magazines, satellite charts) are a good place to find out what is on Ku-band.


If you have an existing C-band system, you will need to check the mesh on your dish if you

have a mesh dish. You will also need to purchase a Ku-band LNB and a C/Ku-band feedhorn,

and have some coax for the Ku-band LNB.


A dish that is a one piece or very few pieces. It is better to have a 4 section dish than it is an 8

section or more. The smaller the number of sections, the better parabola shape you have and

also the harder it would be to warp the dish (because of the smaller number of seams where the sections come together).


The Horizon-to-Horizon dish mount is the better than a polar mount for Ku-band. Ku-band requires the system to be well aimed and to follow the arc, and the horizon-to-horizon mount follows the whole arc much better than a polar mount.


The tri or quad supports are best -- they'll keep the Ku-band feedhorn really stable so winds don't affect critical Ku-band reception. Abuttonhook feed can move in the wind and you can easily lose Ku-band reception. It is best to put guy-wires on the buttonhook feed for support

if you can't get a tri or quad support.


If you have a solid dish, you should be fine as far as compatibility. If you have a mesh dish, you will have to run a test to see if Ku-band could be done. The test is very simple. You need to measure the "holes" in the mesh. If they are 1/4" or larger, chances are your dish won't reflect Ku-band signals too well and you might want to consider getting a new mesh dish where the hole size is smaller.


You will need a receiver whose IF Block input frequency will match that of a Ku-band LNB. Once you have that matched, you will also need to have the ability to invert the picture polarity as well as tune the Ku-band LNB signal. There is no standard layout for the Ku-band satellites. One type of satellite will usually have a different uplink/downlink frequency format than another type (GSTAR vs. Telstar 400 series, for example).


No. You need to have a very parabolic dish. Warpage will cause signal mis-reflection and you won't be getting the best performance out of your system. To check your dish for warpage, you will need to get some string and some tape. Take one string and stretch it as tight as you can and anchor it to the dish edges with the tape. Make this string go "north" and "south" across the face of your dish. Do the same thing with the other string, yet go "east" and "west" across the face of the dish. Make sure both strings are tight. If the strings do not come together in the center, then your dish is warped and you will need to find some way to take the warp out for maximum performance. If the strings touch in the center, your dish looks very good as far as not being warped.


For any upgrade to Ku-band, you will need another length of coax cable to go from your Ku- band LNB to your satellite receiver.


I prefer to use RG-6 since it has pretty good low loss figures at the 950-1450 frequencies that your Ku-band LNB will be sending to your receiver.


The best advice is to follow the instructions that come with the dual-band feedhorn. From the instructions I've seen (for a Chaparral and an ADL feedhorn), you want to first measure your dish's F/D (focal length over diameter) and slide the throat of the feedhorn through the scaler ring and tighten it down where the F/D ratio marked on the throat matches up with the marking on the scaler ring that it has to.


Once you have set the throat/scaler ring assembly to the right F/D ratio, you want to attach the feedhorn to the support (quad, tri, or buttonhook) and, without disturbing the F/D setting

you did in step 4a above, move the feedhorn in and out until the focal length is set. You want the focal length to equal the length from the center of the dish to about 1/8" inside the throat of the feedhorn. Tighten down the feedhorn to the support once you have set the focal length.


The final step in the process is to make sure you feedhorn is centered in aiming into the dish. There are various gadgets to do this (one being a laser pointer to tell you where the feedhorn is pointed to), but I have had great luck doing the F/D ratio and the focal adjustment correctly and then "eyeball"ing the centering part to make sure it looks like it is properly centered.


In many cases, you will have to retrack the dish. Ku-band has a smaller wavelength signal, and therefore it is not as forgiving for reception as a C-band signal is.

That provides a benefit. It is best to use the Ku-band when tracking a dish because of its unforgiveness. Once you track up a dish perfectly on Ku-band, you will also have very good tracking on C-band as well.

I prefer the three satellite method of tracking due to its simplicity. What you first do is peak your dish on the satellite due south of you. After that is done, you move you dish to a satellite that is as far east as you can see and peak up on that. Make a mark on the elevation adjustment screw. Move your dish back to the center satellite and peak up on it again. Next, move your dish to the extreme western Ku-band satellite you can get and peak on it. Make another mark. The final step involves you finding the center of the two marks and setting your elevation adjustment. That is a very good, easy-to-do method of tracking for do-it- yourselfers.


There are many various formats for the Ku-band satellites. Any good reference book or satellite channel chart will have a list of these satellite formats and the downlink frequencies.


No signal could mean (and the suggested solution):

1) You are not tracking the arc -- check the tracking of your dish 2) You are not on a Ku-band satellite -- move your dish east and west in search of a Ku-band satellite 3) Water in your feedhorn -- make sure there is no water in the feedhorn throat or waveguides -- water is a good signal blocker 4) Coax cable bad -- make sure the cable is continuous and not chopped or have rusted wires. Check and make sure the connectors are still on properly and are not rusted, loose, etc. 5) Improper focal length -- check your focal length 6) Your Ku-band LNB is bad. Borrow a friend's LNB or have someone hook up your LNB to see if it works on their system.


You have the wrong coax connected to your Ku-band input. With your C-band LNB connected to the Ku-band input, you'll get inverse video C-band signals that will show up on channels they are not supposed to be on. A switch of the C and Ku-band cables should get the cable to the right input and correct that problem.


A weak signal could result from the feedhorn not centered, the focal length wrong, you not

being right on the arc, you not being right on a Ku-band satellite, a cable that is slowly going

bad, water in the feedhorn, nests in the feedhorn among other factors.


The major problem with Ku-band reception with a perfect aligned system is rain fade and what I call "snow fade". Snow fade" is what I call the situation when snow accumulates on a dish and changes the focal point of the dish. The focal point affects Ku-band much more than C-band (since you have some tolerance in reception of C-band signals). Another problem is the wind -- you can be right on a Ku-band satellite and a gust of wind can come and move

your dish off of the satellite. Horizon-to-horizon mounts are better fighters of wind gusts than polar mount systems are. Another problem is spot-beaming, that is, concentrating a signal in a certain geographic region. A prime example of this phenomena is the NBC Pacific Time Zone feed on Satcom K2. While the western U.S. can get that NBC feed perfectly, if you are

in the Eastern United States (east of a line roughly north and south going through Dallas,

Texas), you won't get the NBC Pacific Time Zone feed.

Free to Air (FTA) Satellite System

A Free to Air Satellite receiver (abbreviated FTA receivers) refers to satellite receivers that

are designed to receive unencrypted FTA satellite transmissions. Using these satellite receivers, one can legally receive TV signals without subscription. The signal is typically encoded in an MPEG-2 video and may be restricted geographically. In some places around the world, people can receive encrypted Free to Air satellite channels through the UHF and VHF band. The channels transmitted through Free to Air satellite are received by utilizing a common MPEG-2 video compatible satellite receiver. Many people use FTA to receive thousands of satellite TV channels free of charge.

The equipment needed for you to enjoy the freebies are an FTA receiver (and here one has a choice between Pansat, Coolsat, Conaxsat, and many other great brand names) and a satellite dish within the specifics required by the satellite one wishes to point at. However, many satellites only require a standard DTV compliant dish that can be easily found in any satellite TV or electronic store. Both C-band and K-Band dishes work just fine. If you wish to receive channels from more than one satellite, you will also need to have an antenna motor and the LNBF.

In order to complete the installation of the system, you will need to have a coaxial cable

running from the dish and making its way to the FTA receiver which should be connected to the television. This is usually the most difficult part.

Though pointing the dish is not very difficult, many people would prefer to hire an experienced person to fix it on the roof of the house. It is important to make sure that the best FTA support services are obtained.

The user can then go to the options of the FTA receiver and select the satellite to point to. Regular firmware updates will ensure that the device works efficiently. The FTA keys will need to be entered manually, and so its important to be familiar with this process. Settings may vary among different satellite receivers.

Free to Air Satellite System

Free to air satellite systems can be defined as a satellite system primarily designed to receive "in the clear" or unscrambled satellite broadcasts. At the present time, there are literally hundreds of channels of news, sports, networks, special interest programming and ethnic channels and foreign language channels that are available without a subscription. The selection is also constantly changing, with new channels coming online and some old ones going offline or changing their broadcast schemes. In the past 5 years, most broadcasters have switched their broadcasts to digital, although there are still a number of analog broadcasts, mostly in the C band range that are available.


The concept of receiving free to air satellite signals dates back to the inception of satellite broadcasts in the mid 1970's and 1980's where large C/Ku band satellite systems were a popular way of tapping into hundreds of available channels from the sky. The downside to these systems were extremely large dish sizes and expensive equipment. These made satellite systems prohibitive for many people. However over the years, increasingly powerful commercial satellites and improvements in technology have brought prices and dish sizes down quite dramatically.

The mid 1990's saw the introduction of digital direct to home technology, which for the first time allowed main stream users to access a wide variety of channels not available via their local cable company, while enjoying incredible picture and sound quality, all from a dish far smaller than had ever been seen before. The small dish revolution nearly caused the extinction of the large dish industry, which simply could not compete on dish sizing, price or ease of installation.

The late 1990's saw the digital revolution spread to the large dish industry with services such as 4DTV which brought the same digital picture and sound as the small dish systems to large dish users, although a new and expensive decoder was required for reception.

The last several years has seen most broadcasters switch their broadcasts to digital, which allowed broadcasts to be compressed, allowing more channels per satellite transponder and also a superior picture and sound quality. As well, a common digital standard known as MPEG2-DVB has been adopted by many broadcasters, which allows all free to air satellite channels that use the DVB (Digital Video Broadcast) standard to be received from one satellite decoder.

Over the years, the free to air market has slowly begun to see a small comeback, primarily due to an abundance of programming not available anywhere else, such as international and

foreign language channels as well as improved picture and sound quality.

Required Components

There are a number of components necessary for free to air satellite reception, some are mandatory and others are optional.

Clear line of sight to the satellites

In order to properly receive free to air satellite signals, you must have a clear view to the satellites. In North America, you need to have a relatively clear view to the southern sky. Obstacles such as tall buildings or trees or mountains will severely impair or make reception impossible. If you are only interested in signals from one or two satellites, you will more than likely be able to locate your dish in a location favorable to reception of the desired satellite. If however you wish to receive multiple satellites, you will need an unobstructed view. A do it yourself site survey with a compass and a satellite location chart or a professional satellite site survey will determine your eligibility for free to air reception.


In order to receive most Ku band signals in North America, you will require a minimum of a 30"(75cm) Ku band satellite dish antenna. For fringe area reception or reception of signals outside of a satellite footprint, or locations with an abundance of trees, you will need to upgrade to a larger dish size. Additionally, if you live in an area prone to heavily rain showers, you may want to consider a larger dish diameter as weather can adversely affect satellite signal quality. If you also wish to receive the low power C band signals, you will need a much larger (6-10') C band dish and a more elaborate setup. Your dish must be installed in a location where it will not be prone to excessive movement. Smaller dishes, such as 30" can be mounted to a building or roof. Larger dish sizes should probably be mounted to a firm pole in the ground, reinforced with concrete.


The LNBF or LNB is the device at the end of the dish arm that collects the signal, amplifies it and sends it to the receiver to be decoded. Ku band systems use an LNBF(Low Noise Block Amplifier with integrated Feed) and large C band systems use an LNB(Low Noise Block Amplifier) with an external feedhorn. Most dedicated Ku band systems use offset dishes, meaning the dish is designed in such a way that the LNBF is offset towards the bottom of the dish so as not to interfere with the signal. This allows a smaller dish size as opposed to large C band systems which locate the LNB at the focal point or center of the dish which tend to block out a portion of the incoming signal.

Quality of the LNBF/LNB is paramount. Ku band LNBF's are measures in DB(Decibals). A good quality Ku band LNBF will have a rating not above .6db. A superior one will be .5db or lower. C band LNB's are measured in degrees. A good quality C band LNB will have a rating of 17 degrees of below. There are also 2 distinct types of Ku band LNBF's. LNBF's designed for use with direct to home satellite services such as Directv or Dish Network which use circular polarization and are not compatible with free to air satellite signals. For all free to air signals, you will want a linear Ku band LNBF as conventional Ku satellites use linear(horizontal or vertical) polarization.

Actuator/Rotor Also known as a satellite dish positioner or dish mover, this is the electric


Also known as a satellite dish positioner or dish mover, this is the electric motor device that moves a dish from left to right (azimuth) and up and down (elevation) in order to receive programming from multiple satellites. If you only are interested in programming from a single satellite, you will more than likely not require one of these devices as your satellite dish will be fixed in one constant position. However if you wish to receive signals from multiple satellite, you will need a dish positioner. Most recent quality receivers now come with a feature known as DiSEqC (Digital Satellite Equipment Control), which can control a dish positioner directly. However if you have an older satellite receiver than does not support this feature, you will likely need to purchase a seperate dish positioner control if you wish to track multiple satellites.

Free to Air Satellite Receiver

This of course is the most important part of your system. There are currently several different digital broadcast formats, however most free to air broadcasts use the common MPEG2-DVB format. When selecting a satellite receiver, you will want to ensure that you are choosing a receiver that decodes the correct format. If you reside in Europe, many pay broadcasters such as Irdeto, Viaaccess, Nagravision, Mediaguard, Betacrypt also use the MPEG2-DVB format and you can receive these signals(upon subscription) if you select a receiver that supports a common interface module which is a removable module that allows for a smart card which is required for reception of various European pay services. Additionally, a number of foreign pay channels receivable in North America can be decoded using a common interface and a subscription. If you intend on using your DVB receiver for pay programming, you will need a smart card and a subscription, both of which are available from the satellite service provider. North American direct to home services cannot be received via a DVB receiver as they use proprietary equipment. Common interface modules are due to laws in several European countries that forbid sales of proprietary satellite receivers that are locked into a single service. However, for most North American free to air applications, you will need little more than a quality free to air receiver.

If you wish to record your programming, you may wish to invest in a free to air receiver with a integrated personal video recorder(pvr), allowing for dozens of hours of recorded programming. Additionally, there are a number of things to be taken into consideration when

choosing a satellite receiver. Some retail outlets offer European DVB satellite receivers. While these will work with North American signals, some are not pre-programmed with the locations of North American satellites as are most receivers designed for North American users and most come equipped with connections that are for the most part inapplicable here in North America, such as SCart connections and different coaxial connectors. As well, not all receivers are created equal, many have features that others do not.

For example, if you are interested in good sound quality, then you will want a receiver with a Dolby Digital or AC3 connection. Not all receivers are equipped with this. As well, you will likely want a receiver equipped with an S-Video or at the very least composite video and audio connections. Also if you are interested in looking for hard to find channels or "wild satellite feeds", then you may want to invest in a receiver that has a blind search function which will scan an entire satellite for all channels on all bands. As well, you will want to ensure that your receiver has a fairly fast processor, some can take 1.5-2 seconds to change between channels which can be painful, especially if you are used to DTH systems which are relatively fast.

Free to air satellite programming transmits using C-band (a frequency allocation used for a communications satellite that uses 5.925 to 6.425 GHz for uplinks and 3.7 to 4.2 GHz for downlinks). However, modern free-to-air satellite TVs use Ku-Band programming that uses frequencies of 14 to 14.5 GHz for uplinks and around 11.7 to 12.7 GHz for downlinks. Uplinks are signal paths from earth stations going to a satellite. On the other hand, downlinks are signal paths from a particular satellite going to earth.

Free to air satellite TVs enable you to pick up different unencrypted broadcasts via any appropriate receiver. You should not confuse free to air satellite TV with FTV (or free-to- view) because FTV programming also comes without charge, but is encrypted. This means that having free-to-view programming on your television can restrict various broadcasts, depending on your geographic location.

How to Receive Free to Air Satellite TV Channels

Unlike ordinary satellite TV programming that needs subscriptions from DirecTV, Dish Network or other satellite TV broadcast providers, free to air satellite TV channels can be received even without paying a monthly fee to broadcast providers. Free-to-air programming is commonly used for international broadcasting.

In order to receive free-to-air satellite TV channels, you need to have a satellite dish (either a K-band or C-band), a free-to-air satellite receiver or a suitable PC card, an LNBF (low noise block with an integrated feedhorn) and an antenna motor, if you desire to capture channels from different satellites, instead of through only one satellite.

Earlier systems used C-band satellite dishes, which are several feet in diameter, in receiving signals. However, modern dishes use Ku-band and other dishes that are under one meter for international DVB (or digital video broadcasting) standards. U.S satellites carry most signals from international DVB. Because of this, free to air satellite TV channels may be scattered within multiple satellites. When this happens, you need multiple "low noise blocks" in order to receive all the channels you wish.

Free to air satellite TV, regardless of the type of dish programming used, is a great alternative

when you are located in areas with poor over-the-air reception.

Frequently Asked Questions About Free To Air Channels

What are Free To Air (FTA) channels?

Free to Air channels are digital MPEG2 channels that are not scrambled and require no subscription or monthly payment. They are provided free of charge and are perfectly legal to receive with an FTA receiver. You can find a listing of these channels on

What hardware do I need to receive the FTA channels?

A digital satellite receiver and a dish with KU Band LNB.

Do you guarantee that these FTA channels will remain free?

Absolutely not. No one can guarantee free channels. You will receive those FTA channels as long as they remain free and not encrypted. We only offer FTA hardware (receiver, dish and LNB). We make no guarantee or claim about the programming.

Are there any Dish Network or DirecTV channels that are FTA?

Almost all of the channels provided by these companies are not FTA. The channels are encrypted and require an authorized receiver and monthly subscription. A few FTA channels are available on Dish Network such as the music channels on

Can I use an FTA receiver to receive premium channels like Dish Network or DirecTV?

Absolutely not. These channels require subscription and special receivers supplied by the service provider. Any tampering with your FTA receiver (whether by hardware or software modification) to try to receive the premium channels without paying is not only a violation of the law and unethical, but also will void the warrantee on your receiver and may hinder it unusable.

What size dish I need for the Free to air channels?

For the C-Band signal channels you will need a 10 ft dish. For KU-band channels you will need a 30 inch (76 cm) dish or larger.

Where can I find out what channels are available free to air? There are many

Where can I find out what channels are available free to air?

There are many free to air channels available in North America on satellites such as Galaxy 10R, AMC4, Telstar 5, AMC3, etc. There are from the USA and from around the world. See for a complete listing of what is available. Anything with an F designation is FREE TO AIR.

How do I find the satellite?

The satellite you want to use will be determined by the programming you want to view. Telstar 5 is a very popular satellite for ethnic channels. Locate your satellite using our Dish Alignment Widget with Google Maps and align your dish to that satellite.

Glossary of Satellite Terms

| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Actuator The mechanism that drives and controls the antenna as it scans the sky for satellites.

Amplitude Modulation (AM) The baseband signal is caused to vary the amplitude or height of the carrier wave to create the desired information content.


A device used to boost the strength of an electronic signal.


A form of transmitting information characterized by continuously variable quantities, as

opposed to digital transmission, which is characterized by discrete bits of information in numerical steps. An analog signal is responsive to changes in light, sound, heat and pressure.

Analog-to-Digital Conversion (ADC) Process of converting analog signals to a digital representation. DAC represents the reverse translation.

ANIK The Canadian domestic satellite system that transmits Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CSC) network feeds throughout the country. This system also carries long distance voice and data services throughout Canada as well as some transborder service to the U.S. and Mexico.


A device for transmitting and receiving radio waves. Depending on their use and operating

frequency, antennas can take the form of a single piece of wire, a di-pole a grid such as a yagi array, a horn, a helix, a sophisticated parabolic-shaped dish, or a phase array of active

electronic elements of virtually any flat or convoluted surface.

Antenna Depth "d" Antenna depth is the depth of the parabolic antenna. To make this, anchor two nylon lines making two diameter in perpendicular angles. Measure the antenna depth from that crossing until the antenna base.

Antenna Diameter "D" Antena diameter is the length of the diameter of the parabolic antenna and is indispensable to measure in center line.

Antenna Efficiency "EF" Antena eficiency is an mesure of how much of the signal is effectively collected by parabolic antenna. The eficiency is determinate by exactness of the antenna surface and inperfections in your surface will go degenerate the signal received from satellite.

Antenna Temperature Antena temperature is how much of terrestial noise is detected by it. An antenna detect more noise when your elevation reduce.


A cross sectional area of the antenna which is exposed to the satellite signal.

Apogee The point in an elliptical satellite orbit which is farthest from the surface of the earth. Geosynchronous satellites which maintain circular orbits around the earth are first launched into highly elliptical orbits with apogees of 22,237 miles. When the communication satellite reaches the appropriate apogee, a rocket motor is fired to place the satellite into its permanent circular orbit of 22,237 miles.

Apogee Kick Motor (AKM) Rocket motor fired to circulate orbit and deploy satellite into geostationary orbit.

Attenuation The loss in power of electromagnetic signals between transmission and reception points.

Attitude Control The orientation of the satellite in relationship to the earth and the sun.

Audio Subcarrier The carrier between 5 MHz and 8 MHz containing audio (or voice) information inside of a video carrier.

Automatic Frequency Control (AFC)

A circuit which automatically controls the frequency of a signal.

Automatic Gain Control (AGC)


circuit which automatically controls the gain of an amplifier so that the output signal level


virtually constant for varying input signal levels.

AZ/EL Mount Antenna mount that requires two separate adjustments to move from one satellite to another;

Azimuth The angle of rotation (horizontal) that a ground based parabolic antenna must be rotated through to point to a specific satellite in a geosynchronous orbit. The azimuth angle for any particular satellite can be determined for any point on the surface of the earth giver the latitude and longitude of that point. It is defined with respect to due north as a matter of easy convenience.



A method of transmitting and scrambling television signals. In such transmissions MAC

(Multiplexed Analog Component) signals are time-multiplexed with a digital burst containing digitized sound, video synchronizing, authorization, and information.


A terrestrial communications channel linking an earth station to a local switching network or

population center.

Backoff The process of reducing the input and output power levels of a traveling wave tube to obtain more linear operation.

Band Pass Filter An active or passive circuit which allows signals within the desired frequency band to pass through but impedes signals outside this pass band from getting through.

Bandwidth "BW"

A measure of spectrum (frequency) use or capacity. For instance, a voice transmission by

telephone requires a bandwidth of about 3000 cycles per second (3KHz). A TV channel occupies a bandwidth of 6 million cycles per second (6 MHz) in terrestrial Systems. In satellite based systems a larger bandwidth of 17.5 to 72 MHz is used to spread or "dither" the

television signal in order to prevent interference.

Baseband The basic direct output signal in an intermediate frequency based obtained directly from a television camera, satellite television receiver, or video tape recorder. Baseband signals can be viewed only on studio monitors. To display the baseband signal on a conventional television set a "modulator" is required to convert the baseband signal to one of the VHF or UHF television channels which the television set can be tuned to receive.

Baud The rate of data transmission based on the number of signal elements or symbols transmitted per second. Today most digital signals are characterized in bits per second.

Beacon Low-power carrier transmitted by a satellite which supplies the controlling engineers on the ground with a means of monitoring telemetry data, tracking the satellite, or conducting propagation experiments. This tracking beacon is usually a horn or omni antenna.

Beamwidth The angle or conical shape of the beam the antenna projects. Large antennas have narrower beamwidths and can pinpoint satellites in space or dense traffic areas on the earth more precisely. Tighter beamwidths thus deliver higher levels of power and thus greater communications performance.

Bird Slang for a communications satellite located in geosynchronous orbit.


A single digital unit of information

Bit Error Rate The fraction of a sequence of message bits that are in error. A bit error rate of 10-6 means that there is an average of one error per million bits.

Bit Rate The speed of a digital transmission, measured in bits per second.

Blanking An ordinary television signal consists of 30 separate still pictures or frames sent every second. They occur so rapidly, the human eye blurs them together to form an illusion of moving pictures. This is the basis for television and motion picture systems. The blanking interval is that portion of the television signal which occurs after one picture frame is sent and before the next one is transmitted. During this period of time special data signals can be sent which will not be picked up on an ordinary television receiver.

Block Down Converter

A device used to convert the 3.7 to 4.2 KHz signal down to UHF or lower frequencies (1

GHz and lower).

Boresight The area of highest gain in the center of the pattern of a directional antenna.

Business Television Corporate communications tool involving video transmissions of information via satellite. Common uses of business television are for meetings, product introductions and training.


C Band This is the band between 4 and 8 GHz with the 6 and 4 GHz band being used for satellite communications. Specifically, the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz satellite communication band is used as the down link frequencies in tandem with the 5.925 to 6,425 GHz band that serves as the uplink.

Carrier to Noise Ratio (C/N) The ratio of the received carrier power and the noise power in a given bandwidth, expressed

in dB. This figure is directly related to G/T and S/N; and in a video signal the higher the C/N,

the better the received picture.

Carrier The basic radio, television, or telephony center of frequency transmit signal. The carrier in an analog signal. is modulated by manipulating its amplitude (making it louder or softer) or its frequency (shifting it up or down) in relation to the incoming signal. Satellite carriers operating in the analog mode are usually frequency modulated.

Carrier Frequency The main frequency on which a voice, data, or video signal is sent. Microwave and satellite communications transmitters operate in the band from 1 to 14 GHz (a GHz is one billion cycles per second).

Cassegrain Antenna The antenna principle that utilizes a subreflector at the focal point which reflects energy to or from a feed located at the apex of the main reflector.

CDMA Code division multiple access. Refers to a multiple-access scheme where stations use spread- spectrum modulations and orthogonal codes to avoid interfering with one another.


A frequency band in which a specific broadcast signal is transmitted. Channel frequencies are

specified in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission. Television

signals require a 6 MHz frequency band to carry all the necessary picture detail.

Circular Polarization Unlike many domestic satellites which utilize vertical or horizontal polarization, the international Intelsat satellites transmit their signals in a rotating corkscrew-like pattern as

they are down-linked to earth. On some satellites, both right-hand rotating and left-hand rotating signals can be transmitted simultaneously on the same frequency; thereby doubling the capacity of the satellite to carry communications channels.


A video processing circuit that removes the energy dispersal signal component from the

video waveform.

Clarke Orbit That circular orbit in space 22,237 miles from the surface of the earth at which geosynchronous satellites are placed. This orbit was first postulated by the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in Wireless World magazine in 1945. Satellites placed in these orbits, although traveling around the earth at thousands of miles an hour, appear to be stationary when viewed from a point on the earth, since the earth is rotating upon its axis at the same angular rate that the satellite is traveling around the earth.

C/No Carrier-to-noise ratio measured either at the Radio Frequency (RF) or Intermediate Frequency (IF)

Codec Coder/decoder system for digital transmission.

Co-Location Ability of multiple satellites to share the same approximate geostationary orbital assignment frequently due to the fact that different frequency bands are used.

Color Subcarrler

A subcarrier that is added to the main video signal to convey the color information. In NTSC

systems, the color subcarrier is centered on a frequency of 3.579545 MHz, referenced to the

main video carrier.

Common Carrier Any organization which operates communications circuits used by other people. Common carriers include the telephone companies as well as the owners of the communications satellites, RCA, Comsat, Direct Net Telecommunications, AT&T and others. Common carriers are required to file fixed tariffs for specific services.


A noise-reduction technique that applies single compression at the transmitter and

complementary expansion at the receiver.

Composite Baseband The unclamped and unfiltered output of the satellite receiver's demodulator circuit, containg the video information as well as all transmitted subcarriers.

Conus Contiguous United States. In short, all the states in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska.

Cross Modulation

A form of signal distortion in which modulation from one or more RF carrier(s) is imposed

on another carrier.

C/T Carrier-to-noise-temperature ratio.


DAMA Demand-Assigned Multiple Access - A highly efficient means of instantaneously assigning telephony channels in a transponder according to immediate traffic demands.

DBS Direct broadcast satellite. Refers to service that uses satellites to broadcast multiple channels

of television programming directly to home mounted small-dish antennas.

dBi The dB power relative to an isotropic source.

dBW The ratio of the power to one Watt expressed in decibels.

Decibel (dB) The standard unit used to express the ratio of two power levels. It is used in communications

to express either a gain or loss in power between the input and output devices.

Declination The offset angle of an antenna from the axis of its polar mount as measured in the meridian plane between the equatorial plane and the antenna main beam.


A television set-top device which enables the home subscriber to convert an electronically

scrambled television picture into a viewable signal. This should not be confused with a digital

coder/decoder known as a CODEC which is used in conjunction with digital transmissions.

Deemphasis Reinstatement of a uniform baseband frequency response following demodulation.

Delay The time it takes for a signal to go from the sending station through the satellite to the receiving station. This transmission delay for a single hop satellite connection is very close on one-quarter of a second.


A satellite receiver circuit which extracts or "demodulates" the "wanted "signals from the

received carrier.

Deviation The modulation level of an FM signal determined by the amount of frequency shift from the frequency of the main carrier.

Digital Conversion of information into bits of data for transmission through wire, fiber optic cable, satellite, or over air techniques. Method allows simultaneous transmission of voice, data or video.

Digital Speech Interpolation DSI - A means of transmitting telephony. Two and One half to three times more efficiently based on the principle that people are talking only about 40% of the time.

Downconvert To reduce the frequency of a signal, typically from RF to IF.

Downlink The signal that comes down from a satellite to an earth station.

Dual Spin Spacecraft design whereby the main body of the satellite is spun to provide altitude stabilization, and the antenna assembly is despun by means of a motor and bearing system in order to continually direct the antenna earthward. This dual-spin configuration thus serves to create a spin stabilized satellite.

Duplex A term meaning two-way communications: simuntaneous reception and transmission using different frequencies.


Earth Station The term used to describe the combination or antenna, low-noise amplifier (LNA), down- converter, and receiver electronics. used to receive a signal transmitted by a satellite. Earth Station antennas vary in size from the.2 foot to 12 foot (65 centimeters to 3.7 meters) diameter size used for TV reception to as large as 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter sometimes used for international communications. The typical antenna used for INTELSAT communication is today 13 to 18 meters or 40 to 60 feet.

Echo Canceller An electronic circuit which attenuates or eliminates the echo effect on satellite telephony links. Echo cancellers are largely replacing obsolete echo suppressors.

Echo Effect A time-delayed electronic reflection of a speaker's voice. This is largely eliminated by modern digital echo cancellers.

Edge of Coverage Limit of a satellite's defined service area. In many cases, the EOC is defined as being 3 dB

down from the signal level at beam center. However, reception may still be possible beyond the -3dB point.

EIRP Effective Isotropic Radiated Power - This term describes the strength of the signal leaving the satellite antenna or the transmitting earth station antenna, and is used in determining the C/N and S/N. The transmit power value in units of dBW is expressed by the product of the transponder output power and the gain of the satellite transmit antenna.

Elevation The upward tilt to a satellite antenna measured in degrees required to aim the antenna at the communications satellite. When aimed at the horizon, the elevation angle is zero. If it were tilted to a point directly overhead, the satellite antenna would have an elevation of 90 degrees.


A device used to electronically alter a signal so that it can only be viewed on a receiver

equipped with a special decoder.

EOL End of Life of a satellite.

Equatorial Orbit An orbit with a plane parallel to the earth's equator.

ESC Engineering Service Circuit - The 300-3,400 Hertz voice plus teletype (S+DX) channel used for earth station-to-earth station and earth station-to-operations center communications for the purpose of system maintenance, coordination and general system information dissemination.

In analog (FDM/FM) systems there are two S+DX channels available for this purpose in the

4,000-12,000 Hertz portion of the baseband. In digital systems there are one or two channels available which are usually convened to a 32 or 64 Kbps digital signal and combined with the earth station traffic digital bit stream. Modern ESC equipment interfaces with any mix of analog and digital satellite carriers, as well as backhaul terrestrial links to the local switching



F/D Ratio of antenna focal length to antenna diameter. A higher ratio means a shallower dish. f/D

is a pure number

FDMA Frequency division multiple access. Refers to the use of multiple carriers within the same transponder where each uplink has been assigned frequency slot and bandwidth. This is usually employed in conjunction with Frequency Modulation.

Feed This term has at least two key meanings within the field of satellite communications. It is used to describe the transmission of video programming from a distribution center. It is also

used to describe the feed system of an antenna. The feed system may consist of a subreflector plus a feedhorn or a feedhorn only.


A satellite TV receiving antenna component that collects the signal reflected from the main

surface reflector and channels this signal into the low-noise amplifier (LNA)

FI Intermediate Frequency. This refers to the low frequency RF level to which the satellite signal is converted before processing inside a receiver, typically 70 MHz.

FM Frequency Modulation - A modulation method whereby the baseband signal varies the frequency of the carrier wave.

FM Threshold That point at which the input signal power is just strong enough to enable the receiver demodulator circuitry successfully to detect and recover a good quality television picture from the incoming video carrier. Using threshold extension techniques, a typical satellite TV receiver will successfully provide good pictures with an incoming carrier noise ratio of 7db. Below the threshold a type of random noise called "sparkles" begins to appear in the video picture. In a digital transmission, however, signal is sudden and dramatically lost when performance drops under the threshold.

Focal Length Distance from the center feed to the center of the dish.

Focal Point Focal Point is the point where the feedhorn is placed. Focal Point is the distance betwen the antenna base and the input signal point of the feedhorn measured in inches.


A map of the signal strength showing the EIRP contours of equal signal strengths as they

cover the earth's surface. Different satellite transponders on the same satellite will often have

different footprints of the signal strength. The accuracy of EIRP footprints or contour data can improve with the operational age of the satellite. The actual EIRP levels of the satellite, however, tends to decrease slowly as the spacecraft ages.

Forward Error Correction (FEC) Adds unique codes to the digital signal at the source so errors can be detected and corrected

at the receiver.

Frequency The number of times that an alternating current goes through its complete cycle in one second

of time. One cycle per second is also referred to as one hertz; 1000 cycles per second, one

kilohertz; 1,000,000 cycles per second, one megahertz: and 1,000,000,000 cycles per second,

one gigahertz.

Frequency Coordination

A process to eliminate frequency interference between different satellite systems or between

terrestrial microwave systems and satellites. In the U.S. this activity relies upon a computerized service utilizing an extensive database to analyze potential microwave interference problems that arise between organizations using the same microwave band. As the same C-band frequency spectrum is used by telephone networks and CATV companies when they are contemplating the installation of an earth station, they will often obtain a frequency coordination study to determine if any problems will exist.

Frequency modulated

A system where the instantaneous radio frequency varies in proportion to the instantaneous

amplitude of the modulating signal.

Frequency re-use

A technique that allows two separate TV channels to be broadcast simultaneously on the

same transponder by alternating their polarizations (i.e., one channel is horizontally polarized

and the other vertically polarized).



A measure of amplification expressed in dB.

Geostationary Refers to a geosynchronous satellite angle with zero inclination. so the satellite appears to hover over one spot on the earth's equator.

Geosynchronous The Clarke circular orbit above the equator. For a planet the size and mass of the earth, this point is 22,237 miles above the surface.

Gigahertz (GHz) One billion cycles per second. Signals operating above 3 Gigahertz are known as microwaves. above 30 GHz they are know as millimeter waves. As one moves above the millimeter waves signals begin to take on the characteristics of Iightwaves.

Global Beam An antenna down-link pattern used by the Intelsat satellites, which effectively covers one- third of the globe. Global beams are aimed at the center of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans by the respective Intelsat satellites, enabling all nations on each side of the ocean to receive the signal. Because they transmit to such a wide area, global beam transponders have significantly lower EIRP outputs at the surface of the Earth as compared to a US domestic satellite system which covers just the continental United States. Therefore, earth stations receiving global beam signals need antennas much larger in size (typically 10 meters and above (i.e.30 feet and up). Gregorian Dual-reflector antenna system employing a paraboloidal main reflector and a concave ellipsoidal subreflector.


A figure of merit of an antenna and low noise amplifier combination expressed in dB. "G" is

the net gain of the system and "T" is the noise temperature of the system. The higher the

number, the better the system. Also called of Merit Factor.

Guard Channel Television channels are separated in the frequency spectrum by spacing them several megahertz apart. This unused space serves to prevent the adjacent television channels from interfering with each other.


Half Transponder


method of transmitting two TV signals through a single transponder through the reduction


each TV signal's deviation and power level. Half-transponder TV carriers each operate

typically 4 dB to 7 dB below single-carrier saturation power.

Headend Electronic control center - generally located at the antenna site of a CATV system - usually including antennas, preamplifiers, frequency converters, demodulators and other related equipment which amplify, filter and convert incoming broadcast TV signals to cable system channels.

Hertz (Hz) The name given to the basic measure of radio frequency characteristics. An electromagnetic wave completes a full oscillation from its positive to its negative pole and back again in what

is known as a cycle. A single Hertz is thus equal to one cycle per second.

Hub The master station through which all communications to, from and between micro terminals must flow. in the future satellites with on-board processing will allow hubs to be eliminated


MESH networks are able to connect all points in a network together.


IBS INTELSAT Business Services.

Inclination The angle between the orbital plane of a satellite and the equatorial plane of the earth.

INMARSAT The International Maritime Satellite Organization operates a network of satellites for international transmissions for all types of international mobile services including maritime, aeronautical, and land mobile.

INTELSAT The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization operates a network of satellites for international transmissions.

Interference Energy which tends to interfere with the reception of the desired signals, such as fading from airline flights, RF interference from adjacent channels, or ghosting from reflecting objects such as mountains and buildings.

ISDN - Integrated Services Digital Network

A CCITT standard for integrated transmission of voice, video and data. Bandwidths include:

Basic Rate Interface - BR (144 Kbps - 2 B & 1 D channel) and Primary Rate - PRI (1.544 and

2.048 Mbps).

Isotropic Antenna

A hypothetical omnidirectional point-source antenna that serves as an engineering reference

for the measurement of antenna gain.


International Telecommunication Union.



ISO Joint Picture Expert Group standard for the compression of still pictures.


Ka Band The frequency range from 18 to 31 GHz.


Kilobits per second. Refers to transmission speed of 1,000 bits per second.

Kelvin (K) The temperature measurement scale used in the scientific community. Zero K represents absolute zero, and corresponds to minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 273 Celsius. Is also the amount of thermal noise generated by an LNB. The lower the Noise Temperature (in K degree), the better the performance of the LNB. Thermal noise characteristics of LNB are measured in Kelvins.

Kilohertz (kHz) Refers to a unit of frequency equal to 1,000 Hertz.


A type of high-power amplifier which uses a special beam tube.

Ku Band The frequency range from 10.9 to 17 GHz.



The frequency range from 0.5 to 1.5 GHz. Also used to refer to the 950 to 1450MHz used for

mobile communications.

Leased Line

A dedicated circuit typically supplied by the telephone company.

Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) This is the preamplifier between the antenna and the earth station receiver. For maximum effectiveness, it must be located as near the antenna as possible, and is usually attached directly to the antenna receive port. The LNA is especially designed to contribute the least amount of thermal noise to the received signal.

Low Noise Block Downconverter (LNB) A combination Low Noise Amplifier and downconverter built into one device attached to the feed. The LNB converts the entire 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band down to a lower band 950 to 1450 MHz.

LNB Temperature LNB (Low noise block) temperature is how much of noise is generated by his eletronic circuit. An LNB of low noise is required for an system of good quality. The tipical values is 25 Kelvin degree.


MAC (A, B, C, D2) Multiplexed analog component color video transmission system. Subtypes refer to the various methods used to transmit audio and data signals.

Margin The amount of signal in dB by which the satellite system exceeds the minimum levels required for operation.

Master Antenna Television (MATV) An antenna system that serves a concentration of television sets such as in apartment buildings, hotels or motels.

Megahertz (MHz) Refers to a frequency equal to one million Hertz, or cycles per second.

Merit Factor The same that G/T.

Microwave Line-of sight, point-to-point transmission of signals at high frequency. Many CATV systems receive some television signals from a distant antenna location with the antenna and the system connected by microwave relay. Microwaves are also used for data, voice, and indeed all types of information transmission. The growth of fiber optic networks have tended to curtail the growth and use of microwave relays.

Microwave Interference Interference which occurs when an earth station aimed at a distant satellite picks up a second, often stronger signal, from a local telephone terrestrial microwave relay transmitter. Microwave interference can also be produced by nearby radar transmitters as well as the sun itself. Relocating the antenna by only several feet will often completely eliminate the microwave interference.


The process of manipulating the frequency or amplitude of a carrier in relation to an

incoming video, voice or data signal.


A device which modulates a carrier. Modulators are found as components in broadcasting

transmitters and in satellite transponders. Modulators are also used by CATV companies to place a baseband video television signal onto a desired VHF or UHF channel. Home video tape recorders also have built-in modulators which enable the recorded video information to

be played back using a television receiver tuned to VHF channel 3 or 4.


Techniques that allow a number of simultaneous transmissions over a single circuit.



Any unwanted and unmodulated energy that is always present to some extent within any


Noise Figure (NF)

A term which is a figure of merit of a device, such as an LNA or receiver, expressed in dB,

which compares the device with a perfect device.

Noise Temperature The amount of thermal noise present in a device or system, expressed in K degree. The lower the noise temperature, the better.

NTSC - National Television Standards Committee

A video standard established by the United States (RCA/NBC} and adopted by numerous

other countries. This is a 525-line video with 3.58-MHz chroma subcarrier and 60 cycles per



Orbital Period The time that it takes a satellite to complete one circumnavigation of its orbit.


Packet Switching Data transmission method that divides messages into standard-sized packets for greater efficiency of routing and transport through a network.

PAL - Phase Alternation System The German developed TV standard based upon 50 cycles.per second and 625 lines.

Parabolic Antenna The most frequently found satellite TV antenna, it takes its name from the shape of the dish described mathematically as a parabola. The function of the parabolic shape is to focus the

weak microwave signal hitting the surface of the dish into a single focal point in front of the dish. It is at this point that the feedhorn is usually located. There are two basic types of parabolic dish antennas : The prime focus feed and the Cassegrain feed.

Path Loss The loss of signal strength incurred between the poit of transmission and the point of reception.

Phase-Locked Loop (PLL)

A type of electronic circuit used to demodulate satellite signals.


A technique used by the satellite designer to increase the capacity of the satellite transmission

channels by reusing the satellite transponder frequencies. In linear cross polarization schemes, half of the transponders beam their signals to earth in a vertically polarized mode; the other half horizontally polarize their down links. Although the two sets of frequencies

overlap, they are 90 degree out of phase, and will not interfere with each other. To successfully receive and decode these signals on earth, the earth station must be outfitted with

a properly polarized feedhorn to select the vertically or horizontally polarized signals as desired.

In some installations, the feedhorn has the capability of receiving the vertical and horizontal

transponder signals simultaneously, and routing them into separate LNAs for delivery to two

or more satellite television receivers. Unlike most domestic satellites, the Intelsat series use a

technique known as left-hand and right-hand circular polarization.

Polarization Rotator

A device that can be manually or automatically adjusted to select one of two orthogonal


Polar Mount Antenna mechanism permitting steering in both elevation and azimuth through rotation about

a single axis. While an astronomer's polar mount has its axis parallel to that of the earth,

satellite earth stations utilize a modified polar mount geometry that incorporates a declination


Polar Orbit An orbit with its plane aligned in parallel with the polar axis of the earth

Power Received "EIRP" The power received EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) is how much of the signal irradiated by satellite is received on surface of the earth effectively (measure in dBW).

Prime Focus The type of feed in a parabolic dish antenna which is positioned above the dish as the antenna's focal point. As differentiated from a Cassegrain feed.

PTT - Post Telephone and Telegraph Administration Refers to operating agencies directly or indirectly controlled by governments in charge of telecommunications services in most countries of the world.

Pulse Code Modulation

A time division modulation technique in which analog signals are sampled and quantized at

periodic intervals into digital signals. The values observed are typically represented by a

coded arrangement of 8 bits of which one may be for parity.


QPSK - Quadrature Phase Shift Keying System of modulating a satellite signal.


Rain Outage Loss of signal at Ku or Ka Band frequencies due to absorption and increased sky-noise temperature caused by heavy rainfall.

Receiver (Rx) An electronic device which enables a particular satellite signal to be separated from all others being received by an earth station, and converts the signal format into a format for video, voice or data.

Receiver Sensitivity Expressed in dBm this tells how much power the detector must receive to achieve a specific baseband performance, such as a specified bit error rate or signal to noise ratio.


The antenna's main curved dish, which collects and focuses signals onto either the secondary

reflector or the feed.



A sophisticated electronic communications relay station orbiting 22,237 miles above the

equator moving in a fixed orbit at the same speed and direction of the earth (about 7,000 mph

east to west).

Scalar Feed

A type of horn antenna feed which uses a series of concentric rings to capture signals that

have been reflected toward the focal point of a parabolic antenna.


A device used to electronically alter a signal so that it can only be viewed or heard on a

receiver equipped with a special decoder.


A color television. system developed by the French and used in the USSR. Secam operates

with 625 lines per picture frame and 50 cycles per second, but is incompatible in operation

with the European PAL system or the U.S. NTSC system.

Sidelobe The response of an antenna to unwanted signals originating from sources other than the intended transmitter. This type of interference can greatly reduce antenna efficiency.

Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N) The ratio of the signal power to the noise power in a specified bandwidth, expressed in dB. A video S/N of 54 to 56 dB is considered to be an excellent S/N, that is, of broadcast quality. A video S/N of 48 to 52 dB is considered to be a good S/N at the headend for Cable TV.

Single-Channel-Per-Carrier (SCPC)

A method used to transmit a large number of signals over a single satellite transponder.

Skew An adjustment that compensates for slight variance in angle between identical senses of polarity generated by two or more satellites.

Slant Range The length of the path between a communications satellite and an associated earth station.

Slot That longitudinal position in the geosynchronous orbit into which a communications satellite

is "parked". Above the United States, communications satellites are typically positioned in

slots which are based at two to three degree intervals.


A form of noise picked up by a television receiver caused by a weak signal. Snow is

characterized by alternate dark and light dots appearing randomly on the picture tube. To eliminate snow, a more sensitive receive antenna must be used, or better amplification must

be provided in the receiver (or both).

Solar Outage Solar outages occur when an antenna is looking at a satellite, and the sun passes behind or near the satellite and within the field of view of the antenna. This field of view is usually wider than the beamwidth. Solar outages can be exactly predicted as to the timing for each site.

Spectrum The range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used in transmission of voice, data and television.

Spillover Satellite signal that falls on locations outside the beam pattern's defined edge of coverage.

Spin Stabilization

A form of satellite stabilization and attitude control which is achieved through spinning the

exterior of the spacecraft about its axis at a fixed rate.


A passive device (one with no active electronic components) which distributes a television

signal carried on a cable in two or more paths and sends it to a number of receivers simultaneously.

Spot Beam

A focused antenna pattern sent to a limited geographical area. Spot beams are used by

domestic satellites to deliver certain transponder signals to geographically well defined areas

such as Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Spread Spectrum The transmission of a signal using a much wider bandwidth and power than would normally be required. Spread spectrum also involves the use of narrower signals that are frequency hopped through various parts of the transponder. Both techniques produce low levels of interference Between the users. They also provide security in that the signals appear as though they were random noise to unauthorized earth stations. Both military and civil satellite applications have developed for spread spectrum transmissions.

SSPA Solid state power amplifier. A VSLI solid state device that is gradually replacing Traveling Wave Tubes in satellite communications systems because they are lighter weight and are more reliable.

Stationkeeping Minor orbital adjustments that are conducted to maintain the satellite's orbital assignment within the allocated "box" within the geostationary arc.


A second signal "piggybacked" onto a main signal to carry additional information. In satellite

television transmission, the video picture is transmitted over the main carrier. The corresponding audio is sent via an FM subcarrier. Some satellite transponders carry as many

as four special audio or data subcarriers whose signals may or may not be related to the main programming.

Synchronization (Sync) The process of orienting the transmitter and receiver circuits in the proper manner in order that they can be synchronized . Home television sets are synchronized by an incoming sync signal with the television cameras in the studios 60 times per second. The horizontal and vertical hold controls on the television set are used to set the receiver circuits to the approximate sync frequencies of incoming television picture and the sync pulses in the signal then fine tune the circuits to the exact frequency and phase.



The transmission bit rate of 1.544 millions bits per second. This is also equivalent to the ISDN Primary Rate Interface for the U.S. The European T1 or E1 transmission rate is 2.048 million bits per second.

T3 Channel (DS-3)

In North America, a digital channel which communicates at 45.304 Mbps.


Time division multiple access. Refers to a form of multiple access where a single carrier is the shared by many users. Signals from earth stations reaching the satellite consecutively are

processed in time segments without overlapping.

TI - Terrestrial Interference Interference to satellite reception caused by ground based microwave transmitting stations.


An electronic device consisting of oscillator, modulator and other circuits which produce a

radio or television electromagnetic wave signal for radiation into the atmosphere by an antenna.


A combination receiver, frequency converter, and transmitter package, physically part of a

communications satellite. Transponders have a typical output of five to ten watts, operate over a frequency band with a 36 to 72 megahertz bandwidth in the L, C, Ku, and sometimes Ka Bands or in effect typically in the microwave spectrum, except for mobile satellite communications. Communications satellites typically have between 12 and 24 onboard transponders although the INTELSAT VI at the extreme end has 50.


Television Receive Only terminals that use antenna reflectors and associated electronic

equipment to receive and process television and audio communications via satellite. Typically small home systems.


The process of adjusting an electronic receiver circuit to optimize its performance.


Traveling wave tube amplifier.



The earth station used to transmit signals to a satellite



Voltage Standing Wave Ratio. A measurement of mismatch in a cable, waveguide, or antenna



Very small aperture terminal. Refers to small earth stations, usually in the 1.2 to 2.4 meter

range. Small aperture terminals under 0.5 meters are sometimes referred to Ultra Small Aperture Terminals (USAT's)