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Upgrading Your Satellite Dish




How can I pick up TV channels from other satellites on my Astra dish?


Simple. You have two alternatives, either you move the dish, so that it points at other satellites, or you leave the dish where it is, and mount a second LNB, or a moveable LNB, that will pick up ‘side-lobe’ transmissions, from satellites next to the Astra ‘birds’.  A moveable or streerable dish can be quite expensive, but it will give you the greatest coverage. Incidentally, a 60 cm Astra dish is really big enough for most other satellites. To do the job properly you will need a dish that’s at least 1 to 1.5 metres in diameter, plus somewhere to put it, that has a clear and unobstructed view of the Southern sky. 


How much is that little lot likely to cost?


Motorised dish packages start at around £500, but you can up grade your present system by adding a large dish, polar mount and positioner for around £250, the control box for the dish will set you back another £100 or so, thought some receivers have them built-in.


How about upgrading my existing dish?


That’s a lot simpler, and cheaper, though you will only be able to pick up two or three extra satellites. If you’re only interested in specific channels from one satellite then the easiest option is to bolt on an extension arm for a second LNB, positioned to the right or left of the existing one. It may be necessary to re-align the dish onto the weaker satellite, so that the stronger Astra channels are on the side-lobe. You will also need to run a second cable, from the LNB to your set-top receiver. If it has twin LNB inputs you’re home and dry, if not you’ll have to buy a switch box, or manually swap the cables every time you want to change satellites. Extension arms and brackets, like the popular ‘Little Extra’ start at around £15, extra LNBs cost from about £30 upwards.


What’s the other alternative?


Move the LNB. There’s several gadgets on the market, that bolt to the LNB bracket on your dish. The LNB is then attached to a moveable arm, that shifts it from side to side. This will enable you to pick up several extra satellites, and you won’t need to buy an extra LNB. At least  one of these widgets doesn’t require any extra wiring. The motor derives its power from the LNB feeder cable, which also carries the control signals to move the arm.


How much do they cost, and are they difficult to fit?


The most popular LNB positioner is the IRTE Multisat, which retails for between £120 to £150. You might also need to upgrade your LNB if it’s an old type, in order to pick up some of the extra channels, if so add another £30 or so to the cost, and check your receiver has enough spare channel capacity to cope. How easy or difficult they are to install depends to a large extent on how comfortable you are working up a ladder. It involves a fair amount of fiddling around, though it shouldn’t be beyond the skills of an average handyperson, but if you’re in any doubt have it fitted by an expert. A job like this will typically cost between £25 to £40, depending on the amount of work involved.


What is there to watch on these other satellites?


The three most interesting satellites that you can pick up from a fixed dish -- in addition to the five Astra satellites -- are Eutelsat II F3 at 16 degrees East of South, Eutelsat II F1, and Eutelsat ‘Hot Bird, at 13 degrees East of South. Between them they carry around 60 television channels, and a similar number of audio-only ‘radio’ channels. Currently around one third of the TV broadcasts are scrambled, that includes the handful of porno channels, most of which are now unavailable in the UK due to restrictions on the sale of viewing cards and unscramblers. There’s a sprinkling of news, sports and general entertainment channels with English language soundtracks, the rest are foreign stations, many of them aimed at ex-patriot communities spread across Europe; they broadcast a mixture of news and general entertainment.



Ó R. Maybury 1996 1903


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