Satellite TV Providers: DISH Network Satellite TV
The marvel of a satellite dish signal bringing hundreds of channels to isolated and central locations alike is pretty much taken for granted today. After all, satellite dish companies like DISH Network® have been around for more nearly two decades, and many American consumers have had at least one satellite television subscription during that time.
But what exactly makes it all possible? How, for instance, do the scientific facts of satellite dish reception affect DISH Network satellite TV reception specifically? From satellite TV companies’ fleets of geosynchronous satellites that bounce satellite dish signals from the ground back to Earth, to the satellite TV companies’ technicians, who perform thousands of satellite dish installations every day – satellite TV companies must maintain widespread infrastructures. And how these infrastructures operate—from their equipment to personnel—has everything to do with the quality of the satellite dish signals customers receive in their homes.
Out of general curiosity, then, we here at InternetLion.com decided to look into DISH Network satellite TV reception and satellite dish reception in general. Unbeknownst to us, DISH Network satellite TV actually utilizes certain special methods that make its satellite dish reception far better than its competitors’, and realizing this, we decided it was worth sharing in the following article.
DISH Network Satellite TV – How It Works
Leaving private satellite technology aside, commercial satellite TV is available through the U.S.’s two major subscription satellite TV providers: DISH Network and DIRECTV®. A satellite dish signal originates from several network transmitting facilities. Then, the two satellite TV companies receive the signals and rebroadcast them from extremely large dish antennae.
The ground stations that collect and rebroadcast satellite dish signals are called “hubs,” meaning that they act like central train stations if we imagine the programming and digital information they process to be trains. Hubs are also where information about programming and the satellite TV companies’ customers is stored, organized and later dispersed.
The satellite dish providers select the content they broadcast, which is comprised of hundreds of TV channels, music, radio, interactive games and more. And they program this information into computers within their hubs that interact with and store this data. And hubs are only the first stop in the long, yet instantaneous, journey satellite dish signals make for satellite TV providers every day. But perhaps the best way to understand how vast the amounts of content delivered by satellite TV providers’ hubs can be is to take a look at the huge variety of options offered in the DISH Network Programming section of our site.
Satellite TV Providers – Up, Up and Away
In contrast to cable TV, where signals travel along networks of highly conductive coaxial cable, satellite dish signals have to travel through the atmosphere. Because of this, satellite TV companies like DISH Network and DIRECTV each have to transmit them as high-power microwave signals to their respective fleets of geosynchronous satellites. These satellites are continuously sending and receiving digital signals, but satellite TV reception isn’t as simple as shooting microwaves at the sky...
Rather satellite TV reception is made possible by several devices, including the satellite TV companies’ dish antennae and their satellite dish receivers. When satellite TV providers’ satellite dish signals bounce from their satellites to Earth they are typically in one of two frequencies, Ka-band or Ku-band. What “Ka-band” and “Ku-band” mean is relatively irrelevant to this article, but if you’re interested you can check out the other InternetLion.com articles that we’ve posted on the subject. What is important is how these frequencies are so powerful that satellite dish providers’ satellite dish receivers cannot handle them on their own.
Instead, satellite dish receivers need a device to translate the Ka- and Ku-band satellite dish signals into something less powerful. Luckily, such devices do exist and you might have seen them if you’ve ever watched one of the major satellite TV providers performing a satellite dish installation: On the dish itself you might have noticed a box at the end of a little arm projecting from the bottom rim of the dish. The arm itself is called the “horn” and the boxy bit attached to it contains what are called “LNBs,” or “Low Noise Block-downconverters.”
LNBs aren’t any more integral to satellite TV reception than any of a dish’s several other parts, but they are probably one of the most interesting parts when it comes to satellite dish providers’ satellite dish installations. You see, like the satellites—which act as relay stations, receiving the transmissions, decoding them, and sending them back to earth—LNBs receive, decode and retransmit Ka-band and Ku-band signals into the standard digital signals satellite dish receivers can handle.
DIRECTV vs. DISH Network Satellite TV
LNBs and the satellites’ own “DBS,” or “direct broadcasting satellite” service, allow private home owners to get satellite TV reception in their homes from the various satellite dish providers. But not all satellite dish signals or LNBs in satellite dish providers’ satellite dish installations are created equal. Whereas DISH Network satellite TV’s satellite dish reception and satellite dish installation infrastructure relies solely on Ku-band satellite dish signals, DIRECTV broadcasts its HD content in Ka-band.
This not only means that DIRECTV satellite dish installations include more LNBs than DISH Network satellite TV satellite dish installations, but that of the two satellite TV providers’ satellite dish signals, DIRECTV’s experience more issues due to weather than those DISH Network satellite TV transmits. This is because Ka-band satellite dish signals are more affected by rain and other precipitation than Ku-band satellite dish signals, which is a simple scientific fact.
As a result of all this, the Internet is flooded with complaints about DIRECTV’s poor satellite dish reception in contrast to other satellite TV providers, like DISH Network. Take, for instance, a complaint DIRECTV customer Dave Phan lodged on SageTV.com: According to the post on the message board, Phan has had both DISH Network and DIRECTV and has experienced far less “rain fade” with DISH Network.
In fact, DISH Network’s only satellite to have a Ka-band payload is its EchoStar IX, and this payload remains unused. DIRECTV, meanwhile, tries to tell prospective customers that its five-LNB satellite dish makes its service better, but the truth is it needs this extra LNB to make sure its Ka-band signals can properly get from its satellites to its customers satellite dish receivers. Maybe this is one reason DIRECTV service costs more than DISH Network service?
We don’t know, but whatever the reason for DIRECTV’s higher costs, one thing remains true: DISH Network satellite TV service is the cheapest and most reliable in the subscription TV industry. Don’t believe us? Try out DISH Network for yourself. All the great perks that come along with DISH Network satellite TV service are just a click away on our DISH Network deals page. Click here to learn more about the benefits of switching to DISH Network today.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article was written when the satellite TV provider DISH was branded as DISH Network. As of 2/1/2012 DISH Network has changed their branding name to DISH. Article post date: 06/04/2009.