How Satellite TV Works
By: Gary Davis - Kate Ivy
Gone are the days where you could spot a satellite dish six blocks away. Today's dish is drastically smaller, much more reliable and considerably less expensive than its enormous ancestor.
So, just how does Satellite TV work?
First, you need to understand how the antenna broadcasting system works. Traditional television broadcasting antennas use radio waves to transmit their programming. Each broadcasting station operates at a unique frequency that identifies the station to the FCC and allows your receiver to select a particular "channel". These radio waves are carried from the station's antenna to yours which, when tuned to the specific frequency picks up the waves for your television to interpret and project.
Unfortunately, radio waves can only travel so far when emitted from an antenna and are subject to distortion as objects get in between the two points of communication.
Enter the Satellite
A satellite is actually any object that orbits a larger object, such as the Earth. Our Moon is considered a satellite and, in theory, the Earth would be a satellite to the Sun. Man-made satellites follow this same premise. A man-made satellite is placed into position just over 20,000 miles above the Earth. It is programmed to orbit the Earth so that the satellite stays in sync with the Earth's rotation. This means that a satellite that is positioned over the United States will stay over the United States, despite the Earth's constant movement.
These man-made satellites are electronic boxes that contain a communication system, a power source and a navigational system. Many satellites use rechargeable batteries as their power source, feeding off the Sun's natural energy source via large solar panels. The communication system is designed to relay information back and forth through those same radio waves that the traditional broadcasting system uses but at 20,000 miles over the Earth, satellites have a much better range than a regular antenna and aren't as affected by trees, buildings and other objects that might obstruct a traditional antenna's path.
Satellite, Meet My TV
With its capabilities well established, it was only a matter of time before the media industry began pondering the satellite's potential in television.
Like traditional broadcasting antennas, satellite television works with radio waves as well but with a much broader range. The older, larger dishes transmitted analog signals that rarely required decoding. Today's smaller dish systems send digital signals, which produce a higher quality of sound and video. This digital signal is encoded into MPEG-2 format - the same format as your DVD's - and transmitted to your receiver box where it is decoded and translated into an analog signal that is then fed to your television. Why all the fuss? Digital produces enhanced video and audio that you just can't get from analog.
So how does it all work?
In order to receive satellite programming, you'll need a broadcast satellite provider. These providers have contracted with the various programming providers such as HBO, Showtime and of course, all your local channels. The programming providers send their programming to the satellite providers who in turn send it back out via satellite to your dish. It is then transmitted from the dish to your receiver box where it is decrypted and shown on your television.
Satellite television gives us the ability to have a seemingly endless supply of programming without bulky equipment or a multitude of unique connections. And because satellite technology is wireless, you have the freedom to move your entertainment system as much as you'd like.
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About The Author
Gary Davis is owner of Dish Network Satellite TV and has written numerous articles on the satellite television industry. Kate Ivy has written for a variety of publications and websites and is the owner of Ivygirl Media & Design.