Technology of satellite television
Direct broadcast via satellite
Television receive-only
Early history of satellite television
Beginning of the satellite TV industry
TVRO/C-band satellite era
1990s to present of satellite television
History of Freesat
Video on demand
Reception equipment of satellite television
Technical details of satellite television

Satellite dish

A satellite dish is a dish-shaped type of parabolic antenna designed to receive or transmit information by radio waves to or from a communication satellite. The term most commonly means a dish used by consumers to receive direct-broadcast satellite television from a direct broadcast satellite in geostationary orbit.

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 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.

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 motorised C-band dish of up to 3 m in diameter for reception of channels from different satellites. Overly small dishes can still cause problems, however, including rain fade and interference from adjacent satellites.

In a single receiver residential installation there is a single coaxial cable running from the receiver set-top box in the building to the LNB on the dish. The DC electric power for the LNB is provided through the same coaxial cable conductors that carry the signal to the receiver. In addition, control signals are also transmitted from the receiver to the LNB through the cable. The receiver uses different power supply voltages (13 / 18 V) to select antenna polarization, and pilot tones (22 kHz) to instruct the LNB to select one of the two frequency bands. In larger installations each band and polarization is given its own cable, so there are 4 cables from the LNB to a switching matrix, which allows the connection of multiple receivers in a star topology using the same signalling method as in a single receiver installation.

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.

The first satellite television dishes were built to receive signals on the C-band analog, and were very large. The front cover of the 1979 Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog featured the first home satellite TV stations on sale. The dishes were nearly 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter. The satellite dishes of the early 1980s were 10 to 16 feet (3.0 to 4.9 m) in diameter and made of fiberglass with an embedded layer of wire mesh or aluminum foil, or solid aluminum or steel.

In the early 1990s, four large American cable companies founded PrimeStar, a direct broadcasting company using medium power satellites. The relatively strong Ku band transmissions allowed the use of dishes as small as 90 cm for the first time. On 4 March 1996 EchoStar introduced Digital Sky Highway (Dish Network). This was the first widely used direct-broadcast satellite television system and allowed dishes as small as 20 inches to be used. This great decrease of dish size also allowed satellite dishes to be installed on vehicles. Dishes this size are still in use today. Television stations, however, still prefer to transmit their signals on the C-band analog with large dishes due to the fact that C-band signals are less prone to rain fade than Ku band signals.