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Sunday, May 15, 2005

How to point your Satellite Dish

In order to enjoy maximum results from your satellite dish, you need to be sure it’s receiving the best possible signal. Where you point your satellite then, becomes an all-important step in getting great reception. But how does one point a satellite dish?

In truth, pointing your satellite dish isn’t as hard as you might think, but you will need to know a few things:

Azimuth which refers to the horizontal measurement of a direction from North to East. In terms of your satellite dish, it tells you how far left or right your satellite should go.

Your altitude or elevation, gives your satellite dish its heading, telling it how far above the horizon it needs to go.

And finally, the polarization. Also known as the “skew”, Polarization refers to the adjustment needed for the curvature of the Earth. This rotational adjustment compensates for the Earth’s curvature between the dish and the beam of the satellite.

The good news is that you can usually find this information with the help of your satellite provider. DISH Network for example features a Point Dish/Signal option in their on-screen menu to assist you in the adjustment of your dish. Using your zip code, you can determine the azimuth, elevation and skew. Pointing your dish is normally part of the installation process so plan to do your install when you have time to follow through.

Your skew should be set before you mount your dish. Using the adjustment number from your service provider, rotate the dish horn to match the recommended coordinates.

With your azimuth and elevation numbers in hand, grab your compass and go outside. Standing close to your dish but at least one foot away, rotate your compass until the needle points North, or zero degrees. Starting from this point, locate the azimuth number on the compass and turn to face that point without moving the compass itself. East is 90 degrees, South is 180 degrees and West is 270 degrees. If your azimuth number is 240 for example, you would face a direction that fell between South and West on your compass.

Now that you’ve found your direction, estimate the angle of elevation. With the ground representing zero, calculate the distance going upwards using the elevation number provided by your provider. Straight up would be 90 degrees so if your elevation number was 45, your elevation would be halfway between the ground and looking straight up into the sky. Got it? Good... There’s your satellite!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Analog vs Digital Satellite Transmissions

Remember the old days of analog TV, radio, etc. Most of us do unless you’re really young. And still today there are plenty of analog systems in use. Normal radio still uses analog transmission. But the digital age has begun and more and more we will use digital systems rather than analog systems.
Digital transmission systems have many advantages over analog transmission systems, like higher quality of audio and video. How come digital systems can transmit higher quality signals than analog systems? The truth is that they don’t. They just use some tricks to eliminate noise.
Analog Transmission Systems

When something like video and audio, is recorded by an analog system, the recording has a certain quality. This recording (when done professionally) has a very high quality. When the recording is transmitted it is modulated directly to a carrier wave, which is then transmitted through the air, cable, via satellite, etc. During this transmission, the carrier and the modulated signal will loose amplitude (power) and due to interference noise is introduced to the carrier and its modulated signal. The result will always be a received signal that has a lower quality than the transmitted signal. Hence, the modulated signal, the recording, will also be of lower quality than the original.
Analog transmission systems are unable to maintain the quality the original has.
Digital Transmission Systems
In the digital world the recording can be transmitted to another place without loosing any quality. An exact copy of the original recording is transmitted. So how come that digital transmission systems don’t loose quality when transmitting a signal?
Well..... Actually they do lose quality just like the analog transmission system does.
Surprised? No Problem. Most people don’t know that digital signals still need to be transmitted by analog transmission systems. The trick is that a digital system doesn’t record analog signals, but encodes analog signals into bits (zeros and ones). A sample is taken many times per second and the size of each sample is written down in bits. For instance a sample with the value of 9 would be 1001 and 11 would be 1011.

The digital transmission system needs to transmit those zeros and ones, and it does this by modulating the carrier wave. Low power for a 0 and high power for a 1 (This is the most simple way of modulating. There are much more sophisticated forms of modulation, but it would take a whole book to describe them all.)
So on the receiving end, it doesn’t matter anymore what the quality of the signal is, as long as it still is possible to identify the zeros and ones. Noise in the received signal is no problem. A “1” with noise is still a “1” and a “0” with noise is still a “0”. Of course the noise can not be too high, otherwise mistakes would be made and a zero would be received as one or a one would be received as a zero.

So Digital Transmission Systems are better because they eliminate the effect of noise completely. You don’t look and listen to a received signal from an original recording, but you look and listen to a reproduced signal of the recording. The reproduction comes from an exact copy of the original recording.
The quality of what you see and hear now depends on your TV and Sound System. A high quality TV and Sounds System will give you high quality Video and Audio. The negative effects of the (still analog) transmission have been eliminated from the process.
Satellite TV makes use of Digital Transmission Systems. What you see at home will always be of Digital no (much less) noise Quality.

Choosing a Satellite TV Provider - Part 2


Satellite equipment - DirecTV - FREE DISH Network - FREE
Satellite Installation - DirecTV - FREE (up to 5 tv's) DISH Network - FREE (up to 4 tv's)
Picture Quality - DirecTV - Outstanding DISH Network - Outstanding
Pricing - DirecTV Total Choice Package $39.99 per month DISH Network America's Top 60 Package $24.99 per month

Programming Quantity - DirecTV offers programming packages up to 250 channels DISH Network has the capacity to offer up to 500 channels
Programming Quality - DirecTV has outstanding programming package options with a heavy emphasis on seasonal sports packages.
DISH Network also has outstanding programming package options with somewhat less of an emphasis on sports.
Customer Care - DirecTV - Outstanding with both online and 800 toll free support. DISH Network - Outstanding with both online and 800 toll free support.


Both DISH Network and DirecTV offer an outstanding television viewing experience.
The picture reception for both is far superior to that of cable tv. DISH Network's
entry level package is cheaper than DirecTV's; but then the Total Choice package comes
with alot more channels. DirecTV is stronger in the area of sports coverage, while
DISH Network places somewhat more of an emphasis on its premium movie packages and
foreign programming options. And both have outstanding customer care, both having
won the prestigious J.D. Power Award in recent years for providing the best overall service among
satellite and cable subscribers.

Our recommendation is that both DirecTV and DISH Network offer a superior television
viewing experience than cable tv. Both are alot cheaper than cable, offer superior picture
quality and free equipment and instalation. Both also offer superior customer care service
compared to local cable providers. If you're a big sports fan and just have to have
that certain premium sports package, then DirecTV is for you; but if you're not a huge sports fan
and cost is an issue, then you might want to go with DISH Network and it's entry level America's Top 60 at
just $24.99 a month. Also, remember that DirecTV will require a one year commitment, whereas
with the DISH Network there is no contract to sign, meaning you can cancel your service at
anytime and not have to pay a penalty.

Whichever satellite provider you choose, you can't go wrong. As a subscriber of the
DISH Network and a sales person that has several years experience in the satellite tv
industry (have sold both DirecTV & DISH Network)I highly recommend that you drop
cable, stop feeding the pig and switch to satellite tv service today. The vastly superior
picture quality alone that DBS satellite technology provides makes it worth the change.
It's like heaven watching tv with no more squiggly lines running across the tv screen!

Choosing a Satellite TV Provider

The satellite tv industry has made huge gains on the cable tv industry in the past several years. With the price of cable tv skyrocketing every year, many cable subscribers are making the switch over to satellite tv. Okay so you've decided to switch to satellite tv; but which satellite tv provider do you choose? A satellite tv provider is a company that owns and operates satellites in geostationary orbit around the earth. These satellites broadcast the satellite signal down to your satellite dish and from their the signal is transferred to your receiver (black box). The two largest satellite tv providers in the United Sates are DirecTV and DISH Network. The vast majority of satellite tv subscribers in the United States use one or the other so this article will concentrate on comparing the two satellite giants in an attempt to help you decide which of the two is best foryou.

With the almost exponential growth of the satellite tv industry, both DISH Network and DirecTV are now in a position where they can afford to offer the satellite equipment (dish and receivers) free to their subscribers. So for starters both DISH Network and DirecTV offer free satellite equiipment. Basically the only qualifiers are that you be a first time subscriber and that you have a credit card for monthly billing purposes. So if the equipment is free how do the two providers make any money? Well, you do have to pay for the monthly programming of course. The price of your monthly programming bill depends on which programming package you choose.

DISH Network's America Top 60 programmng package starts at $24.99 per month and local channels are available. DISH Network presently is not making new subscribers commit to a one year contract. You can end your subscription at any time with no financial penalty to pay. DirecTV's entry level programming package is called the Total Choice package and comes with local channels and is $39.99 per month. With the Total Choice package you get over 130 channels. DirecTV does require you to sign a one year subscription agreement. If you cancel your service before the year is up, then you have to pay a penalty fee to DirecTV.

As both satellite giants use the very lates technology in their satellites and receiving equipment, what differentiates the two is in the programming options that they provide to their subscribers. I would rate DirecTV somewhat ahead of the DISH Network in their sports packages, as they offer seasonal sports options like the N.F.L. Sunday Ticket that DirecTV has exclusive rights to. Both providers offer tons of premium movie packages to choose from including HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax. All these come with multiple channels per movie package. As DISH Network has more satellites in orbit than DirecTV does they have the capacity to offer up to 500 viewing channels, whereas with DirecTV, you can 'only' get 250 channels. Also, DISH Network offers alot more foreign programming packages than DirecTV does.

Both DISH Network and DirecTV offer 100% digital picture and CD quality sound in all of their programming. So again, they are tied in this important quality. This technology allows for a crystal clear perfect picture that cable tv simply cannot provide.

DISH Network, a subsidiary of EchoStar Communications, was founded in 1996 by Charles Ergan. While not quite as old as DirecTV, DISH Network was the fastest satellite provider to reach the 100,000 subscriber level doing so in just four short months. Presently, DISH Network has over Nine million satellite tv subscribers in the 50 United States and District of Columbia. DISH Network has many 'firsts' to its credit, including being the first company to offer a satellite tv reciever that had a built in DVR (digital video recorder).

DirecTV was begun in 1994 and is the largest satellite tv provider in the United States. When it first launched in 1994, Direct TV was the first satellite TV company to offer all digital-quality, multi-channel TV programming through the use of direct broadcast satellite (DBS) technology. DBS technology is now the standard for the satellite tv industry and we have the ingenuity of the DirecTV engineers to thank for it. While DirecTV does not have as large a bandwidth allocation as the DISH Network does, to counter this DirecTV has arranged to have to exclusive deals with programming companies to cater to the programming whims of their subscribers.

In the all important area of customer care, both DirecTV and DISH Network offer outstanding customer care and support. Both offer online Faqs sections and help sections to their websites. You can also call both toll free to get help with any problem you may be having. Pay-Per-View movies may be ordered either by using your remote control or calling the 800 toll free number for either provider.

Both DirecTV and DISH Network offer free professional installation as part of their free satellite tv promotions. One difference is that DirecTV will install your equipment for free in up to five rooms, where DISH Network presently only installs for free in up to four rooms of your home.

How a Satellite TV Antenna Works

Practically all broadcast systems use antennas to transmit and receive radio signals. These antennas are based on single metal pole to which the carrier signal is sent through a cable. First let’s talk about how this most simple type of antenna works:

Pole Antenna
A Pole antenna basically consists of one metal pole that transmits it signals around it as if it was the center of a sphere. In all directions the transmitted signal has the same power. The length of the antenna is determined by the frequency of the transmitted signal.
Radio waves, like light waves, always travel at the same speed, which is about 186.000 miles (300.000 km) per second. One wave length is determined by the frequency of the signal by the following formula:
Wavelength = speed of light / frequency
This results in higher frequencies having shorter wavelengths. A pole antenna doesn’t have to have the length of a complete antenna but can also have a length of about ½ , 1/8, or 1/16 of the wave length. This is done mostly for practical purposes (shorter antennas). Wave lengths for pole antennas can go as high as 1 to 2 Giga Hertz. A cell phone for instance works at frequencies of 950 Mega Hertz which is almost 1 Giga Hertz.

Satellite TV or Parabolic Antenna
A satellite TV Antenna or parabolic antenna works on the same principle. The frequencies used by satellite transmissions are of much higher frequencies; 2 Giga Hertz or higher. Wavelengths get so short at these frequencies that it is not possible anymore to transmit using a pole antenna and transmit in all directions. The power needed would be very high because high frequencies are subject to much more resistance from the atmosphere.
Bundling all the transmitted power into a beam improves the power transmitted in one direction by a huge factor. Depending on the distance between the transmitter and the receiver the amplification compared to a normal pole antenna can be as high as 40 to 50 dB (which is as much as 10.000 to 100.000 times amplification).
In reality the beam is not completely straight, but gets wider over the distance. The angle is small, but in case of an antenna on a satellite that transmits all over the USA the angle is actually a little bigger so that the whole USA is covered.
The antenna at your roof or in your garden is pointed at the satellite and receives the signal and does the same thing; it bundles the radio waves into a point, thus amplifying the radio signal with 40 to 50 dB. (see illustration below).

Amplification in the whole path is extremely big. The transmitting antenna amplifies, the receiving antenna amplifies, the transmitter it self amplifies, and the receiver itself also amplifies the signal. A total amplification of over 120 dB (over times) is necessary because the atmosphere and also the long distance just decrease the signal power a lot.

Satellite TV Reception

You are sitting at home, watching TV, and while your show is entertaining you, outside the weather is getting worse. It starts raining, the wind is getting stronger, but your Satellite Antenna is doing its work as if it is a sunny quiet day.
This is the experience of most people that enjoy satellite TV; Smooth reception no matter what weather it is outside. (Of course a hurricane that can destroy your house may be capable of moving your satellite dish as well.)

Bad weather doesn’t do much to Satellite antenna reception, But sometimes your antenna can lose reception completely and generally there are some obvious reasons for it that you can solve your self very quickly:

No Satellite TV but Free Coffee
You come home from work, sit down in the couch switch on the TV and your Satellite TV Receiver and….. Nothing! Your son brings you a cup of coffee and asks how your day was.

When these 2 very rare events occur at the same time and your son is not playing with his basketball outside in the yard like he usually does, you better go check your antenna on the roof (or where ever your antenna is located.) If a very familiar basketball got stuck between the dish and the receiver, you know what to do!

Gardens, Trees and Satellite TV
It is the middle of summer, every day is a sunny day, your garden is doing great, you need to water the plants and trees practically every day, but it is worth it. They grow very fast, you get compliments from your neighbors all the time and you’re very happy. You don’t even get upset because your satellite tv seems to have problems every now and then. However, it is getting worse as the weeks pass and you don’t have a clue why. You look at your antenna, trying to follow the line of sight to the skies where somewhere, though invisible to the naked eye, the satellite is doing its work. But your eyes don’t get any further than one of your trees that has grown so much it is now in the line of sight to the satellite. 2 possible solutions; either cut the top out of the tree, or move your antenna so that it can “see” over or along the side of the tree.

Kites, Birthdays and Satellite TV
You got your son a kite for his birthday. The next day all Satellites seem to have fallen out of the sky.……. Well, you get the picture.
Of course the examples described above are not to be taken too serious. However, in very rare cases reception problems may occur. In case you hired an installation company for the installation of your Satellite TV system, it is best to call them if you have any problems. However, if you are able, do check if there are any problems that can can be cause by external factors. They may be easy to solve and save you the costs of the installation company visiting. Do not take any risks climbing on the roof to reach your antenna. Have qualified people take the risks for you. They are trained and use safety equipment to prevent injuries.

Types of Satellite TV Systems - TVRO and DBS

In the USA there are 2 types of satellite TV systems. The first is TVRO which stands for TeleVision Receive Only. The second is DBS which stands for Direct Broadcast Satellite.

TVRO – TeleVision Receive Only
TVRO was the first satellite system available for home viewing of satellite TV. It required a relatively big dish of 3 to 6 feet in diameter and worked in C-Band. Frequencies of around 4 G Hertz are called C-Band and require bigger dishes because the wave length of these frequencies is longer than in Ku-Band which requires a much smaller dish of about 18 inches. Ku-Band is at 12 to 14 G Hertz.
TVRO systems also need a movable dish because it needs to get all the channels of many satellites. C-Band satellites have much less channels available than Ku-Band satellites and therefore more satellites are needed to provide enough channels. Possibilities that exist with TVRO systems is that you can also receive free channels and independent feeds from for instance news companies. You could for instance receive the unedited material that is broadcasted from a news crew somewhere in the coverage area of the satellite. They transmit their materials to their headquarters using a C-Band satellite. Many of these types of feeds are not scrambled and are available to everyone with the proper equipment.
TVRO systems are often referred to as Big Dish TV, C-Band Satellite TV and BUD (Big Ugly Dish).

DBS - Direct Broadcast Satellite
Satellite TV via DBS is done in the Ku-Band. These satellites work on higher frequencies and can transmit higher power signals. This means that much smaller dishes can be used to receive the signal. A small dish of 18 inches is already enough to receive all satellite TV by Satellite TV. This makes it possible to have satellite TV from an apartment on the 10th floor, if you have a clear line of sight to the south.
DBS is for everyone. The satellite dish is so small that it is not an obstacle like with for instance the TVRO dishes of 3 to 6 feet. Once installed the dish needs no maintenance since it is aimed at just one satellite. Some dishes actually have 2 or more feeds which makes it possible to receive the signals from more than 1 satellite.
There are no free channels available on DBS satellites as these are often owned and used by the satellite TV provider it self, while TVRO satellites often are used by those who rent space on the satellite for a limited time. TVRO systems are meant for, for instance, transport of unedited materials between continents, but also within one continent.

DBS is meant for everyone with a simple, low cost installation of the system. Often the installation is for free as it really is very easy to do. The only thing that is needed is a bit of knowledge of where to find the satellite and the tools that make this even easier. A qualified installer will find the satellite and point it to maximum reception within minutes.

Satellite TV Providers - The First 50 Years

Satellite TV may seem quite new, but its history actually spans over a fifty year period.

The original concept of satellite television is often attributed to writer Arthur C. Clarke, who was the first to suggest a worldwide satellite communications system. Funding for satellite technology in the U.S. began in the 1950s, amidst the space race, and the Russian launching of the satellite Sputnik in 1957.

The first communication satellite was developed by a group of businesses and government entities in 1963. Syncom II orbited at 22,300 miles over the Atlantic; the first satellite communication was on July 26, 1963, between a U.S. Navy ship in Lagos, Nigeria and the U.S. Army naval station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Overloaded land based distribution methods had the telephone companies utilizing satellite communication way before the television industry even came into the picture. In fact, it was not until 1978 that satellite communication was officially used by the television industry.

In 1975, RWT's co-founder and BBC transmitter engineer Stephen Birkill built an experimental system for receiving Satellite Instructional Television Experiment TV (SITE) transmissions, beamed to Indian villages, from a NASA geostationary satellite.

Birkill extended his system, receiving TV pictures from Intelsat, Raduga, Molniya and others. In 1978, Birkill met up with Bob Cooper, a cable TV technical journalist and amateur radio enthusiast in the U.S., who invited him to a cable TV operators' conference and trade show, the CCOS-78. It was there that Birkill met with other satellite TV enthusiasts, who were interested, and ready to help develop, Birkill’s experiments.

In terest in Television Receive Only (TVRO) satellite technology burst forward. The American TVRO boom caught the attention of premium cable programmers, who began to realize the potential of satellite TV. Back in the mid-1970s, TV reception was the under the control of international operators, Intelsat and Intersputnik.

On March 1, 1978, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) introduced Public Television Satellite Service. Satellite communication technology caught on, and was used as a distribution method with the broadcasters from 1978 through 1984, with early signals broadcast from HBO, TBS, and CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network, later The Family Channel). TVRO system prices dropped, and the trade organization, Society for Private Commercial Earth Stations (SPACE), and the first dealerships were established.

Broadcasters realized that everyone had the potential to receive satellite signals for free, and they were not happy. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was governed by its open skies' policy, believing that users had as much right to receive satellite signals as broadcasters had the right to transmit them.

In 1980, the FCC established the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), a new service that consisted of a broadcast satellite in geostationary orbit, facilities for transmitting signals to the satellite, and the equipment needed for people to access the signals. In turn, broadcasters developed methods of scrambling their signals, forcing consumers to purchase a decoder, or a direct to home (DTH) satellite receiver, from a satellite program provider.

From 1981 to 1985, the big dish satellite market soared. Rural areas gained the capacity to receive television programming that was not capable of being received by standard methods.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association of America (SBCA) was founded in 1986 as a merger between SPACE and the Direct Broadcast Satellite Association. But by this point, American communication companies had soured on the prospect of satellite TV. Broadcast cable was very successful at this time, and the satellite industry received a lot of negative press coverage. Fifty percent of all satellite retailers closed their businesses.

Business eventually recovered, but the illegal theft of pay television signals was still a problem. Ultimately, encryption has proven to be the ultimate salvation of the satellite industry as it has made the transition from a hardware to software entertainment-driven business.

Early successful attempts to launch satellites for the mass consumer market were led by Japan and Hong Kong in 1986 and 1990, respectively. In 1994, the first successful attempts in America were led by a group of major cable companies, known collectively as Primestar.

Later that year, satellite tv provider Direct TV was established, and in 1996, the DISH Network, a subsidiary of Echostar, also entered the satellite TV industry. DISH Network’s low prices forced competing DBS providers to also lower their prices. And an explosion in the popularity of digital satellite TV ensued.

Cable vs Satellite TV

By: Jim Teler
Do you want to get more channels while saving money but not sure if you should go with digital cable or satellite TV? Then this article is meant directly for you! The commercials seen on TV and the ad’s displayed all over the internet can be overwhelming at best. Below we will hope to help make your choice simplified for you!

Cost Difference between Digital Cable VS Satellite TV:

Most cable companies include local franchise fees along with local broadcasting fees on your monthly bill. Digital cable varies starting at $30-$40 per month and up depending on the package you choose it can go up as high as $90 per month.

While Satellite packages usually offer betters deals based on how much money is spent per channel. Some satellite companies offer a price point between of $25 for over fifty channels. With most satellite companies pricing may be a little higher per month unless committing to twelve months of programming up front. A twelve month satellite commitment will usually ensure lower cost up front and most even free installation of the satellite dish.

Programming differences between Digital Cable VS Satellite TV:

Most Satellite TV systems can support over 250 channels of programming. All channels are of digital quality. One downside is satellite offers less local channels and may not have local channels in some areas. Most satellite companies also offer HD TV services that are compatible to your satellite TV service.

Digital cable on the other hand can support over 300 channels of programming of digital quality. Digital Cable has more local channels available in most major cities. Most cable companies now offer Video on Demand (a library of movies and TV shows that you can order at your leisure). HDTV services are becoming more popular amongst cable companies now and not just thru satellite TV as in the past.

Difference of Equipment:

Satellite equipment typically includes a satellite dish that is installed outside the home that is visible to everyone. A satellite receiver is also essential per TV. Most satellite receivers today also come with a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) which the cable company has not yet been able to offer as of now. Most satellite companies run specials on free installation and equipment when you agree to a 12 month contract.

Digital cable also requires one receiver per TV but that is all the equipment needed. Should you disconnect your service the receivers will be turned into the cable company where as with Satellite TV you own the dish.

In closing:
In the end the prices are comparable but it depends on which system will best suit your television needs and what you are more comfortable with. Both Digital TV and Satellite TV both have their disadvantages and advantages, you make the call!