This post was last updated on February 2nd, 2021 at 12:46 pm
This is the updated version of the original post that I published as far back as 2012. You shall have a noob guide on how to manually track a satellite dish and connect it with a decoder. And for the purpose of this post, I will be using a strong decoder which is one of the most popular standalone decoders. In addition, I will provide the frequency of at least 5 popular satellites. Although my illustration would be DStv Africa on Eutelsat 36B at 36.0°E. To start with, you may be interested to know the meaning of a satellite dish
A satellite dish is a dish-shaped type of parabolic antenna designed to receive microwaves from communications satellites, which transmit data transmissions or broadcasts, such as satellite television.
- List of Satellite TV Frequencies & Channels Receivable in all 50 African Countries
- A to Z Glossary of Satellite TV terminologies and their definition
- Hellobox B1 Bluetooth satfinder with compass
- Beginners guide on how the satellite TV works
- Exact steps to correctly adjust your satellite dish by yourself!
- Basic satellite receivers manual for everyone: helps you with the initial and basic setup of your receiver
- Definition of LNB Skew and LNB clock methodology for beginners
- Predetermine The Size of Dish to be used for any Satellite + Other Terms
Principle of operation
The parabolic shape of a dish reflects the signal to the dish’s focal point. Mounted on brackets at the dish’s focal point is a device called a feedhorn. This feedhorn is essentially the front-end of a waveguide that gathers the signals at or near the focal point and ‘conducts’ them to a low-noise block downconverter or LNB. The LNB converts the signals from electromagnetic or radio waves to electrical signals and shifts the signals from the downlinked C-band and/or Ku-band to the L-band range. Direct broadcast satellite dishes use an LNBF, which integrates the feedhorn with the LNB. (A new form of an omnidirectional satellite antenna, which does not use a directed parabolic dish and can be used on a mobile platform such as a vehicle was announced by the University of Waterloo in 2004.
The theoretical gain (directive gain) of a dish increases as the frequency increases. The actual gain depends on many factors including surface finish, the accuracy of shape, feed-horn matching. A typical value for a consumer type 60 cm satellite dish at 11.75 GHz is 37.50 dB.
With lower frequencies, C-band for example, dish designers have a wider choice of materials. The large size of dish required for lower frequencies led to the dishes being constructed from metal mesh on a metal framework. At higher frequencies, mesh type designs are rarer though some designs have used a solid dish with perforations.
A common misconception is that the LNBF (low-noise block/feed-horn), the device at the front of the dish, receives the signal directly from the atmosphere. For instance, one BBC News downlink shows a “red signal” being received by the LNBF directly instead of being beamed to the dish, which because of its parabolic shape will collect the signal into a smaller area and deliver it to the LNBF.
Modern dishes intended for home television use are generally 43 cm (18 in) to 80 cm (31 in) in diameter and are fixed in one position, for Ku-band reception from one orbital position. Prior to the existence of direct broadcast satellite services, home users would generally have a motorized C-band dish of up to 3 meters in diameter for reception of channels from different satellites. Overly small dishes can still cause problems, however, including rain fades and interference from adjacent satellites.
Types of Satellite Dishes/Antennas
A dish that is mounted on a pole and driven by a stepper motor or a servo can be controlled and rotated to face any satellite position in the sky. Motor-driven dishes are popular with enthusiasts. There are three competing standards: DiSEqC, USALS, and 36v positioners. Many receivers support all of these standards.
A special dish for up to 16 satellite positions (Ku-band).
Some designs enable simultaneous reception from multiple different satellite positions without re-positioning the dish. The vertical axis operates as an off-axis concave parabolic concave hyperbolic Cassegrain reflector, while the horizontal axis operates as a concave-convex Cassegrain. The spot from the main dish wanders across the secondary, which corrects astigmatism by its varying curvature. The elliptic aperture of the primary is designed to fit the deformed illumination by the horns. Due to double spill-over, this makes more sense for a large dish.
A common type of dish is the very small aperture terminal (VSAT). This provides two-way satellite internet communications for both consumers and private networks for organizations.
Other Types of Satellite TV Antennas/Dishes
- Individual dishes serving one dwelling: For example, Direct to Home (DTH).
- Collective dishes, shared by several dwellings: satellite master antenna television (SMATV) or communal antenna broadcast distribution (CABD).
- Automatic Tracking Satellite Dish
- Big ugly dish
The dish is a reflector antenna and almost anything that reflects radio frequencies can be used as a reflector antenna. This has led to dustbin lids, works, and other items being used as “dishes”. Coupled with low noise LNBs and the higher transmission power of DTH satellites, it is easier to get a usable signal on some of these “dishes”.
Satellite TV system setup: preparatory stage
Pre-requisites to manually track a satellite dish
- Before we proceed, it is important that you employ the service of a professional satellite installer if you run into trouble along the line.
- You need a free azimuth and elevation calculators. You can do this via dishpointer or on geosats.com
- Secondly, you need to pre-determine the satellite that interests you as well as the size of the dish needed to track it. I already prepared how you can use lygnsatmaps to determine this.
- Furthermore, you need a decent knowledge of LNBf skew. By definition, The polarisation is the LNB rotation with respect to ground. skew refers to the polarization angle of the electric field. The term ‘Dish Skew’ refers to the dish tilt necessary to get the satellite dish position such that the LNB will be in exact alignment with the electric field of the incoming satellite signals.To set the dish skew, stand behind the dish and rotate it clockwise until the scale on the dish reads the same angle as the required dish skew for your setup. If your dish has a reversed scale, the scale reading should be 180 minus the skew angle.. I will provide some images that would help you apply the clock methodology to LNBf skewing.
- Also, you need sufficient knowledge of your azimuth(left and right of the dish). Azimuth is the dish position in respect to the north. For example, the North is 0 deg or 360 deg, East is 90 deg, South is 180 deg, and West is 270 deg. Azimuth is in respect to your 4 cardinal points of East, west, north, and south
- Moving forward, after azimuth comes is your elevation. The elevation is often referred to as Up/Down of the Dish. This is the satellite signal beam inclination that reaches the dish. It is measured in degrees. To adjust it, you must have a look at the numbers on the rear side of the dish on your dish neck.
Before you can manually track a satellite dish, you need to consider other factors
Satellite installation/setup tips
- Apparently, 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.
- There is nothing like a one-off dish installation. Windstorm or rain can cause your dish to lose its alignment. Therefore choose a location that is easily accessible in case this happens. A suitable location is to attach the dish to a post which has been sunken in the ground.
- In addition, the chosen location should be unobstructed by trees, branches, buildings, telephone lines, clotheslines, electrical wires, power lines, network mast, etc. All are possible sources of interference. Summarily, there must be no obstructions between the dish site and the satellites in the sky.
- Once you determine that the location is suitable, you will have to decide on a permanent or portable installation. Unless you feel you will be relocating in the near future or you are living on the rental property, a permanent installation in concrete is the better way to go.
- Furthermore, it is Ideal that 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. The farther away your dish is from your TV set, the lower the signal quality.
- Always do a trial run on the ground for coaxial cable installation from the satellite dish to the place where it will enter your house. Also, make sure your coaxial cable 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.
Tools needed to manually track a satellite dish
You need the following tools before you think about how to manually track a satellite dish.
- A Wrench or 12/13, 10/11, and 13/14 flat spanner
- A good hammer
- You need a ladder if you will be climbing a rooftop
- Compass or a sat tracker that comes with a compass e.g hellobox B1
- Similarly, you may need a satfinder/satmeter especially if you know out to use one. If you don’t know how to use a satfinder, then use a decoder that you are familiar with. I will recommend strong 4669x or newer. Although strong 4663x attracts signal faster.
- Concrete/tornado nails like 6 pieces not longer than 3-inches
- A Drill for your strong wall
- Many don’t know that a marker is also important(especially when tracking a C-band prime focus dish)
- It is important that your installation is neat. So get at least a packet of cable clips with nails.
- A plier or a cutter: you will need this to cut the coaxial cable
- Include a screwdriver(this is needed for the LNBf fastening)
- A wrap of black sellotape.
- Miscellaneous tools: if you are doing a polar mount, you may need to do some digging and plastering. Hence, you can either call a bricklayer or get the tools to mount the pole. Please make sure the pole is plum.
Required dish Components/Parts to Manually track a Satellite Dish
- Satellite dish(es) with either a wall or pole mount
- A very good LNBf: this depends on your dish. For a c-band dish, you need a C-band Lnb. For ku band/ offset dish, get a quality LNBf
- Coaxial cable
- 4 stainless steel fixings
- ‘F’ connector X 2
- Digital satellite receiver of your choice. Here it could be an FTA receiver or one from a PayTV of your choice.
- 4 hexagonal screws.
- Get ready money for an active subscription in case you are installing a pay-TV satellite.
How to Manually Assemble Your Satellite Dish
It is pretty easy to assemble a satellite dish. This is the case because most installation kits come with an installation manual. The process of assembling a satellite dish is a process whereby you harmonize all the satellite dish components to form a single whole. In this change, you attach and fasten every component of your Dish/antenna. However, I will give you a pictorial representation of an assembled dish.
How to install a Ku band/offset dish Manually
Firstly, Once you have the dish mounted with the LNB attached at feedhorn and all cables (LNB and Polarotor) connected, place the receiver and a portable TV(E.g DVD laptop) set near the dish so that you see the picture while you make the adjustment.
Secondly, attach the cable to your television set. Seal all outdoor electrical connections with weatherproof sealant.
the third step, Ground the unit and the incoming receiving line by following a local electrical code standard this is a safety consideration. Place an inexpensive coaxial 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.
Determine the best location for your satellite dish
- Know which satellite carries your most frequently viewed programs.
- Locate the area outside your home that is nearest to your television set. It is not a nice idea that your dish is too far away.
- 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.
- observe any obstacles that may obscure the line of sight along the arc. This is the most critical step prior to installation.
Satellite Dish Installation Process
Today, dish sizes are relatively small. Aside from this, the big C- band dish is losing popularity at home. By virtue of the size of a modern dish, it may be practically fixed just about anywhere. In particular, these compact satellite dishes are especially suitable for city dwellers.
While many opt to have their new satellite dish installed by a professional, the actual installation process is not difficult; all you need are basic DIY skills.
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 that 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; a self-installation kit may be of assistance here.
General tips on how to Install Satellite TV System
A satellite TV system installation is a two-stage process:
1] Installation of the satellite dish;
2] Installation of the satellite decoder to receive the TV programming from your service provider.
Prior to moving on with the installation process, you have to 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 satellite decoder.
In addition to the above, you need to know the transponders of the satellite you want to point to. Below is the list of some popular satellite tv frequencies in Africa.
1.SATELLITE: Eutelsat w3a
SYMBOL RATE: 30.000
2. SATELLITE: Eutelsat 36B @ 36ºE
FREQUENCY: 12.245, 11.900, or 11.747
SYMBOL RATE: 27.500
3. You can get other popular satellite tv frequencies here
General tips on how to manually or Finetune your satellite Dish for maximum channels reception
- Firstly, adjust the antenna reflector azimuth angle to match that particular satellite. This adjustment is the east-west movement(side to side) of the reflector on the vertical mount and is given in azimuth degrees.
- Secondly, Adjust the elevation angle(up/down); this adjustment is from the horizon to the sky and is given as elevation in degrees above the horizontal plane.
- If you are tracking more than one satellite, you also need to set the dish skew as further detailed in the skew definition above.
- Ensure that the antenna signal line/cable is connected to the receiver and the receiver is turned on and positioned on an active channel.
- Begin tuning by slowly moving the reflector(Dish) 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. Peak the signal to the highest scale at this point. Ideally, this should be done using an inexpensive satellite finder or signal ‘strength’ meter as the Triplett 3275; these allow for a more precise adjustment thanks to their greater signal sensitivity.
- Lock the antenna azimuth adjustment on the mount once the signal level is at its peak.
- 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.
- Ground the antenna and the signal line entrance into the residence to electrical code standards as detailed earlier on in this guide.
- Finally, plug your receiver into a household outlet; turn your television set on, and make any necessary adjustments to the satellite system settings. Once ready, you can relax and enjoy your new satellite TV system!
How to manually point your Dish to DStv Eutelsat 36B at 36ºE satellite in Africa
Disconnect the LNB-in from your strong decoder (or digital satellite meter) and connect it to the DSTV decoder. Select English from the language options, E36A-B from the next window, and Universal for LNB type. Hit scan to install and complete the channels set up.
Note: If you are using a digital signal meter, the scan option won’t be necessary. All you need do is, connect the LNB-in to the meter and enter the frequency, polarization, and symbol rate values while aligning the dish for best signal quality.
How to Manually track MBC on Eutelsat 7E
1. After tracking DStv from the tips above, use DStv as your starting position to get Eutelsat 7E
2. Hold your dish in place and input Sirius 4 frequency 12605 V 29950. Standing in front of your dish, adjust your dish’s elevation(UP/DOWN) while you move slowly to the left of the DStv dish. When you get Sirius 4 hold your dish at that point and input(MBC freq) this 12728 V 30000. Next, bring your dish down slightly and bring it back to your right a little. Just work around Sirius 4 for w3a.
How to set up Your Digital satellite Receiver after installing the Dish
- Plug the receiver into both a power source and your TV. Once you’ve attached the coaxial cable to the receiver, you can use the receiver’s HDMI cable or AV cable to attach to your TV’s. You’ll also need to use the receiver’s power cable to connect to an electrical outlet.
- Now, Turn on the receiver if necessary. Your receiver should turn on when plugged in, but there may be an On/Off switch on the side or the back of the receiver.
- Switch to the receiver’s channel. Turn on your TV, then switch to the input into which you plugged the receiver.
- Next, allow the receiver to perform its installation if necessary. DStv will perform the installation wizard by default. FTA decoders won’t do the same.
- Open the receiver’s menu. On your receiver’s remote, find and press the Menu button. You should see a pop-up menu appear on-screen.
- Find your dish’s antenna setup menu. You’ll usually have to use your remote’s arrow buttons to find the “Install” or “Dish” option, but consult your receiver’s manual if you can’t find the setup section of the menu.
- Select a satellite. In the “Satellite” section of the menu, use the arrows to scroll left or right until you find your satellite’s name.
- Select an LNB frequency. In the “LNB” section of the menu, use the arrows to select 10750 as the LNB number. This is the most commonly used LNB frequency for satellite networks. If you’re using a C-band network, you’ll select 5150 here instead.
- Scan for channels. Find the “Scan” or “Single Satellite Scan” section of the menu, set the “FTA Only” section to Yes if possible, and start the scan by selecting Yes, OK, or Start. Your dish will begin searching for available satellite TV channels. In addition, you can select a manual scan, auto scan, TP scan or blindscan if you are installing an FTA decoder. once it finishes, you’ll be able to watch TV as usual on your dish’s channel.
Satellite Dishes LNBfs
LNB’s sit in front of the actual parabola of the satellite dish, at the end of the arm, projecting from the dish itself. 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 (more information on RF coaxial cables is available on our site here.)
The number of LNBs 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, hence the need for multiple LNBs to receive the full range of satellite TV programming.
How to set up a DiSEqC switch for multiple dishes on a single decoder
Some months back, I put up and article on how to set up a DiSEqC switch on any free to air standalone decoder. It will result in unnecessary repetition to discuss all of that over again here. If you are interested in learning how to combine multiple satellite dishes on one decoders, please read my tutorial here.
Finally, expect my next post on how to finetune your C- band dish. In addition, I will give the nitty-gritty of what it takes to motorize a dish. Also, in another separate article, maybe how to combine a Ku LNB and c band LNB on the same dish will come handy. Make sure you don’t miss these.
Bonus tip: how to use your DStv decoder to track DStv channels
For obvious reason, many installers find it difficult to use DStv decoders to track DStv channels. What we do in most cases is to use a strong decoder or a satfinder to track the position and connect it to the DStv receiver afterward.
I don’t actually use this very often but you can monitor your signal quality and strength of your DStv using a DStv decoder. By extension, you can use this information to re-align your DStv dish of finetuning it. What you need do is this-
- Firstly, make sure your TV is in your line of view. You may need to take it outside in most cases. I personally don’t trust people looking at the signal for me. That is why I prefer using a satellite signal meter.
- Turn on the entire system and press the Help button on your remote control.
- Scroll down to general information and then Tuner Status to your right.
- Click on the Tuner status and use that to set up your satellite dish for maximum reception.
LIST OF SOME RECEIVABLE SATELLITE RECEIVABLE IN AFRICA
Eutelsat W3A, 7 deg East: tps: 11192(V)3210, 10976(V) 3333, 12728(V)30000. (a.k.a MBC / malagasy / Rodriguez)
Astra 2b, 28.2 deg East T.p:12599(V) 3250, 12572(V)2854, 12617(V)9999 (otherwise known as MultiTv)
NSS7, 22 deg W tps: 10986(V)30000 (a.k.a canalsat)
Eutelsat 4/7, 36 deg East: tps: 12437(H)23437 (a.k.a dstv multichoice)
Intelsat 7/10 68.5 deg East: tps: 12722(H)26657, 12722(V)26657, 12682(H)26657, (a.k.a mytv africa)
Sirius 4, 4.8 deg East: T.P: 12605(V) 29950. For the full list, please read my article here.