What is satellite TV and how does it work?

Believe it or not, the history of satellite television dates back to the Russian launch of Sputnik in the 1950s and the beginning of the space race. In the 1960s, the US government began using satellites for military and government communications, and the first commercial satellite called “Early Bird” entered orbit. It was the first satellite ever used to transmit telecommunications and broadcasting services.

In the 1990s, direct television became a lot more popular, and people could use satellites to stream the hottest TV shows straight to their living room. You can imagine how exciting that was. With the emergence of technology, new television service providers (including DIRECTV) and additional programming options have emerged, giving people more control over their home entertainment.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll notice television has come a long way since then. We have more viewing options, more channels and more content in general. After all, we can now watch TV and movies on the Internet with streaming services… but millions of Americans still subscribe to satellite TV.

Let’s talk about satellite TV, how it works in your home, and the types of satellites we use to bring you the best in entertainment today.

What is satellite TV?

Satellite television is a television service delivered to people via communications satellites.
One of the reasons people still enjoy receiving television from a satellite signal today is that it is reliable and versatile. Anyone who wants a wide variety of programs may prefer satellite TV over other options.

One of the advantages of satellite television is that it is generally available in areas where other types of television services do not work. For example, it’s a great choice if you live in a rural area without broadband or cable infrastructure, as you can easily access more TV and movie content from your home.

How does satellite TV work?

Communication satellites used for television broadcasting exist in geostationary orbit and transmit and receive television signals from television studios or broadcasting centers. From there, the signals go straight down to Earth.

Satellite TV providers install satellite dishes on your property and point them to the sky. Once the TV signals from orbiting satellites reach your satellite dish, they travel through a cable to the receiver, which decodes these signals and sends the picture to your TV. Cool, right?

For this to work, the satellite dish must point to the correct satellite without any obstructions (or the reception is not good).

Common types of satellite dishes

Satellite dishes have come a long way since their inception, and there are several different types on the market today. Let’s take a closer look at some of the options you may see and discuss the main benefits of each.

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Offset satellite antennas

Offset satellite dishes receive signals differently than traditional satellite dishes. In an offset parabola, the feed horn is in an offset position toward the edge (rather than toward the center). So when you look at an offset dish, it may look like it’s not pointing skyward at all.

DIRECTV uses offset satellite dishes for all customers. We deliver satellite services to millions of Americans every day so you can access the shows and movies you love. That’s why we’re also proud to say that DIRECTV has 99% signal reliability, along with our exclusive SignalSaver™ technology that keeps you watching in bad weather.

Main advantages:

  • weather resistant
  • A wider range of signals than traditional dishes
  • Easier installation thanks to a wide margin of error

Main course

Prime Focus dishes use a special design to capture and amplify satellite signals. Their feed horn is at the focal point of the dish, making the surface more efficient. They point directly at the satellites in space.

Main advantages:

  • Compact for easy installation
  • Low profile
  • Excellent signal and performance compared to traditional dishes

Solid dishes

A solid satellite dish is a single piece of solid material. The “solid” part of a solid dish is the parabolic reflector, which has no holes. These are some of the most common types of satellite dishes for the higher frequencies used by broadband or satellite services.

Main advantages:

  • Extremely durable due to its lack of seams or joints
  • Elegant and uniform appearance
  • Simplified maintenance thanks to a unique material

Grilled or perforated dishes

The dishes you see with small holes in the surface are mesh or perforated dishes. These contain perforations smaller than the wavelengths of satellite signals so that signals cannot leak through. The holes are the main selling point of these dishes as they help reduce the effect of wind on the dish.

Main advantages:

  • Excellent for high wind areas
  • Lighter weight

Motorized satellite dishes

Motorized satellite dishes are unique because they can tilt and receive signals from different satellites. Suppose you are looking at a station reported by an orbiting satellite and decide to switch to a station from another satellite. Instead of having to move the satellite manually, this dish does the work for you.

Main advantages:

  • Easily switch between orbiting satellites for more channels
  • Less likely to misalign

Want to try satellite TV? Check out our satellite TV packages to access hundreds of channels including local stations, national networks and your favorite sports.

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